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I know that since I've started house hunting, I've noticed that these ceilings are just about everywhere. When I see them, I cringe and wonder, should a popcorn ceiling be a deal-breaker?

I finally have my answer: no! I just discovered that removing a popcorn ceiling is probably one of the easiest (albeit messiest) home improvement projects that you can do in just one day.

My parents recently decided to renovate their large family room (30' x 15') and their first step was to remove that yucky popcorn treatment. I asked them if I could document their process. After witnessing the relative simplicity of it, I'm now utterly unphased when I spy a popcorn ceiling in a potential real estate investment.

Skill Level

You can definitely accomplish this on your own, but if you can work with a partner, it will make things much easier. On a scale from 1-5, this task is a 1 for easy, but a 5 for messy! Wear old clothing and shoes, and prepare to spend most of the day getting dirty.

Time Investment
Because it's so messy, it's best to get it all done in one shot. Reserve an entire day to remove a popcorn ceiling in an average sized room, and get started early. Try to complete most of the removal in natural daylight so you don't have to work so close to hot, bright overhead lighting.
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Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

We all know that, but at one time, they were all the rage. The were used as a stylish accent or to cover up unsightly irregularities or discoloration in ceilings. Here's what to do to restore your own ceiling to its smooth origins:

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

Spray bottle (at least 1 for each person) filled with water
Plastic drop cloths (1 to 1.5 mil) and plastic sheeting (3 mil)
5"-6" putty knife
At least 6 to 8 clean rags
Blue painter's tape
Step stool or small ladder

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

Safety goggles
Face mask
Heavy duty trash bags
Protective gloves (optional)
A friend who really likes you (optional)
Patience (required)

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

And cover any furniture you have left in the room with the plastic drop cloths. Cover as much of the floor as possible in plastic sheeting, which is thicker and can withstand the weight of the discarded popcorn and the constant foot traffic. It is also more durable and will better protect your flooring, facilitating clean-up.

Use the blue painter's tape to hang plastic drop cloths over any walls, closet doors, or openings to other rooms.

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

For example, remove recessed lighting (pot lights), chandeliers, vents and ceiling fans.
I recommend starting at one end of the room and working your way down. This keeps the mess behind you as you move forward.

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

About 2 to 3 feet square. Spray liberally, but try not to let it drip. And don't saturate the popcorn or you risk soak the ceiling behind it. You can perform the scraping dry, but it takes longer. Dry popcorn is harder to remove, and creates much more dust and debris in the air.

TIP: You should work with a partner if you can because they can prep the next area while you are scraping,

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

Once it's adequately soaked, you should be able scrape your putty knife in even motions along the ceiling with little struggle. The popcorn treatment should come right off like oatmeal, falling onto the plastic sheeting below. This is why we suggest safety goggles -- you don't want that stuff in your eyes!

If the popcorn doesn't seem to be coming off easily, spray the surface with water again. Now, take the putty knife and go over the same area one more time to make sure all of the popcorn treatment is gone.

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

Then, take another clean rag and wipe off your putty knife.

TIP: Throw a towel over each shoulder and use one for the ceiling and the other for the knife. Change your rags often, as they will get dirty pretty quickly.

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

If you are working with another person, try to have them spray another area while you are still working on the first area and things will move more quickly. (Your partner can also fill up your water bottle if needed. Or, you can both work together to get twice as much done and finish sooner.) If you decide to work alone, be sure to fill and use multiple spray bottles or bring along a pitcher of extra water so that you don't have to track the dirt and dust all over your house when its time to refill.

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

You'll really appreciate the time you took to prepare properly once it's time to clean up. When you've finished scraping the ceiling, walk around and double check that you've gotten all of the popcorn off. Be sure to take the plastic off of the walls first and keep the floors covered until the last minute. Roll up the plastic sheeting with the debris on it and place it in heavy duty trash bags. Wet popcorn ceiling material is very heavy, so don't overfill your trash bags.

Now that the popcorn treatment has been removed from your ceiling, you can admire the blank canvas you have to work with.

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling


If you decide to paint your ceiling after removing the popcorn, do a light sanding first; some sticky residue from the popcorn is bound to remain. If the ceiling is downright unsightly, do some repairs and apply a few coats of ceiling paint to cover it all up.





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