joseph hessert Joseph Hessert Guest Author: Founding editor of ARDOR Literary Magazine

Popcorn Ceilings – Were they Ever Cool?

A popcorn ceiling isn’t something that has been considered ‘cool’ in a long time. These ceilings might have been the best option for finishing a ceiling during the 60’s or 70’s but modern homeowners can’t wait to remove these outdated features.

When you sit back and look at an expansive popcorn ceiling the job can seem overwhelming or downright impossible but have faith – the process isn’t as complicated as it seems.  With that said, you need to make sure that you do things the right way to avoid damaging your ceiling and to avoid potentially serious health concerns.

Have the Ceiling Tested for Asbestos

Popcorn ceilings, especially older ones, can contain harmful asbestos.  This might not be something that many people consider but it is a major issue and if you’re considering removing a popcorn ceiling you should consult a professional and have your ceiling tested.  If the ceiling tests positive for asbestos, then you should take extra safety precautions and hire a professional to remove the ceiling.  No DIY project is worth the risk of mesothelioma and a DIY removal of a popcorn ceiling with asbestos can put your loved ones at risk if done improperly.  If your ceilings are asbestos free – save some money and get ready to do it yourself.

First Step – Prepare Your Room

Before you do anything else, you should ensure that the room is ready to work in.  If you don’t spend time prepping your room for popcorn ceiling removal you’re going to be sorry later as you spend hours searching for a way to clean tiny particles of paint and ceiling from every individual nook and cranny in your living space.  Remove all of the furniture from the room and cover the floor with a drop cloth or a plastic mat.  You might feel that these steps are unnecessary, but taking the time to prep the room will shorten the entire process by hours.

Remove the Actual Popcorn Ceiling

The absolute easiest way to remove popcorn ceiling is to spray water on small square sections of the ceiling, one at a time, and allow the water to soak into the ceiling.  Popcorn texture ceilings are one of those materials that are very porous and will absorb the water in less time than you are expecting.  Once saturated, removing the ceiling is fairly easy.

Take a few minutes to allow the popcorn texture ceiling to absorb the water and soften up.  Once it has soaked in, the ceiling will be soft and pliable and you will be able to scrape it off with a ceiling texture scraper or a drywall knife.  Be careful just to remove the popcorn finish and not to scratch or dig into the drywall underneath.

Work in small square sections to get the project done as quickly as possible.  The popcorn texture should peel off easily and it won’t take long to get the entire ceiling scraped off.  A suggestion that you might find useful is to attach a garbage bag to your scraper in order to catch most of the falling debris.  This will save you a lot of clean-up time later on.  Continue to scrape off all of the texture until you are left with just the underlying drywall.

When you have finished scraping everything off of the ceiling it’s time to take a break and let the ceiling dry.  Even if the ceiling feels completely dry, you should still give it a couple hours because you don’t want to have lingering moisture in an area that you’re about to paint over.  A little patience goes a long way and will produce a much better finish on your new ceiling.

Repair the Ceiling

Now that you’ve scraped off all of the popcorn texture, you will be left with a rather rough looking ceiling.  Before you do anything else, it is important that you sand the entire ceiling, eliminating anything that might change or disrupt the texture of the new ceiling.

After you have finished sanding, you can now take the opportunity to apply a coat of drywall mud to improve your ceiling’s finish.  This step isn’t always necessary, but many times builders spraying popcorn ceilings would save some time and money by not mudding the drywall (since it was getting sprayed anyway).  Evaluate your ceiling and determine if you need to mud. One thing to remember though – is that popcorn ceiling texture is essentially a decorative finish and will not hide every imperfection. I hope this article has been some help.

Prepare the Finish

After you have done all this, it is a good idea to add a smooth finish to your ceiling.  Applying a skim coat and sanding it down will make your ceiling look great and it doesn’t take very long.  Wait for the skim coat to dry and you are just about ready to put the finishing touches on your new ceiling.

Decide on the Texture

Although you did just remove a popcorn texture from your ceiling, there are many other styles that you could try out instead.  Most people opt for leaving their new ceiling perfectly smooth.

Paint the Ceiling

Applying a fresh coat of paint to your ceiling is the final step to make your new, smooth ceiling look complete.  When you paint your ceiling, you should start off with a primer to mask any inconsistencies in color from the work you just completed.  This will also make the color of your new paint pop out, keeping your ceiling looking fresh for many years to come.  If you decide to use a primer, you should always be careful, allowing plenty of time for it to dry so that it will not peel, bubble, or drip later on when you have finished painting.  It is important to be patient as painting over wet primer will mean re-sanding and starting the process over again.

After you have done all these steps and completed your ceiling job, you will be left with a fresh new ceiling and a modern look that refreshes what was once a dated popcorn ceiling.  As with any home improvement project, hard work, patience, and dedication pay off and the sore muscles are a small price to pay for the updated look of your new, modern ceilings.

Ceilings can often be the hardest DIY projects as they require awkward positioning and an eye for detail, but they are usually the most satisfying ones because of how good the room will look after you finish the project.