DIY: How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

If you’ve been searching on how to remove a popcorn ceiling in your house, then chances are that you belong to the set of textured ceiling homeowners. The popcorn ceiling design was quite the rage in the 80s, and the reason is quite obvious: they were cheap to install. And so, with little money, homeowners could get a nice-looking ceiling, however with textured grits, just like popcorn.

Fast forward a few years later, and quite frankly, everybody is tired of the textured look (what can I say? We humans are fickle). The in-thing now, and I suspect it would be so for a very long time, is smooth ceilings. 

Which brings us to the purpose of today’s post: your ceiling has the popcorn-textured look, and you want it gone. To have a smooth ceiling, you’ve got to take off the old textured one. Doing so is very easy; so easy you can be done in less than an hour.

However, some things could make this DIY project a bit complicated. “Complicated??” Yup. Complicated, as in you-won’t-even-be-able-to-remove-it-without-professional-help complicated. 

  • Asbestos, the joy-killer

Yes, I said it. Asbestos may be quite useful in the building industry, but it has been proven to be quite dangerous to human health especially when particles of it are floating in the atmosphere. By law, only professionals are allowed to remove asbestos. No DIY involved. So, you’ve got to check if your popcorn ceiling contains asbestos.

How do I check for asbestos? There are two ways: The first option is to purchase a testing kit from a local hardware store. If the result is positive, then you should seek the help of professionals. To be really sure, you can go with the second option of scraping a sample into a plastic bag and sending it to an approved testing site. You might have to hire professional testers to help out with the scraping (for health reasons). Then wait for the testing results.

  • Painted popcorn ceilings

So you’ve checked and confirmed that you have zero asbestos in your popcorn ceiling. All well and good. However, things won’t go so easy if the ceiling is painted. Not to go into the physics of it all, but paint actually acts as a water barrier and would effectively prevent you from removing the ceiling. So, you would have to spend extra time and effort to first get rid of the paint using necessary chemicals, before moving on to the ceiling itself.

Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for: a step-by-step guide on how to remove that unwanted popcorn ceiling. First things first, what do you need?

  • drop cloth and plastic sheets
  • dust mask
  • coveralls
  • eye goggles
  • spray bottle and water
  • dishwashing soap (optional)
  • drywall scraper
  • drywall knife
  • sanding pad and damp cloth
  • a paint roller and extension

Step 1: Protect your floors, furniture, electrical fittings…..and yourself

This is very important and that’s why the drop cloth is needed. Basically, you’ve got to cover everything coverable. I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t want specks of ‘popcorn’ and drywall flecks on my prized settee. Plus, the covering makes cleanup way easier.

But like I usually say, nothing is more important than a human life. Put on a respirator or dust mask to protect your lungs, some eye protection and then coveralls or work clothes. It’s gonna be a messy business.

Credit: DIY Network (

Step 2: Spray ahoy!

I’m sorry if I sound too enthusiastic, but this project is so much fun, really. Fill up your spray bottle or sprayer with warm water. You can add a bit of dishwashing soap if you like. Now spray a small section (about 5 -10 square feet) with a moderate amount of water. Too much water could affect the drywall beneath the popcorn ceiling. So, don’t get carried away! 

Credit: DIY Network (

Step 3: Go do something else

“Huh?” Yup, except you like staring at your boring ceiling for 20 minutes. The water needs to saturate the ceiling for that amount of time. So play with your phone, check on the kids, or check out our other interesting posts. Anything, really.

Step 4: Now you scrape

After the 20-minutes wait, use a scraper or any other tool with a wide blade and gently scrape off the textured ceiling. Do be careful (the drywall, remember? It’s quite sensitive). Repeat steps 2 – 4 until the whole popcorn look is gone.

Credit: DIY Network (

Step 5: Repair, Refinish, Repaint

Sadly, no matter how careful you scrape, there would still be slight damages to the drywall, and those you’ve got to fix, pronto! Use the knife to apply drywall compound to those areas. Let them dry, possibly overnight. Then sand, and paint with the color of your choice.

Credit: Today’s Homeowner (

And that’s it! Simple, easy, fun and messy. Yeah, don’t forget about the cleanup. Now, that wouldn’t be as much fun. I’ll leave you to it then!

5 thoughts on “DIY: How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

    1. Thanks for your feedback! That’s the beauty of DIY isn’t it? We all have projects that appeal to us. We can choose to make our homes exactly as we want. By the way, I browsed to your blog today..I really like it! Cheers, Deborah

      Liked by 1 person

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