Popcorn Ceiling Removal

The Ultimate Guide to Popcorn Ceiling Removal: Insights from a Drywall Expert


As a seasoned drywall professional, I’ve seen many home trends come and go, and popcorn ceilings are one such trend that has certainly overstayed its welcome. Popular from the 1950s through the 1980s, these textured ceilings were originally designed for sound absorption and to conceal less than perfect ceiling finishes. However, they’ve fallen out of favor due to their outdated look and potential health risks, including trapping dust, allergens, and in some cases, containing asbestos (a carcinogen acording to the EPA). This guide is crafted from my years of experience to help you, the homeowner, understand everything involved in removing popcorn ceilings, discussing both the aesthetic and practical benefits, as well as detailing the process and what your popcorn ceiling removal costs might be.

What is a Popcorn Ceiling?

A popcorn ceiling, also known as an acoustic ceiling, features a bumpy texture that resembles wet popcorn, cottage cheese, or even stucco. It’s created by spraying a mix of water, white paper pulp, and styrofoam onto the ceiling. While this was a stylish choice decades ago, its drawbacks today far outweigh its benefits. Smooth ceilings are now the standard.

Why Remove a Popcorn Ceiling?

There are several compelling reasons to remove popcorn ceilings:

  • Aesthetics: They can make rooms feel dated; removing them refreshes and modernizes your space, contributing to a significant home improvement.

  • Health Risks: These ceilings can harbor allergens like dust and mold, impacting air quality. Older installations might contain asbestos, posing serious health risks.

  • Increased Home Value: Many homebuyers view popcorn ceilings as a negative, so removing them can boost your property’s market appeal.

  • Easier Maintenance: Flat ceilings are simply easier to clean and maintain.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Process

Removing a popcorn ceiling is more intricate than it appears and knowing how to remove popcorn ceiling texture is crucial. Here’s how I approach the removal process:

  • Scraping Method:
  • Prepare the Room: Clear out furniture, remove ceiling fans and light fixtures, and cover everything with plastic sheeting or other drop cloths. Ensure all power is off.
  • Test for Asbestos: Homes built before 1980 might have asbestos. Use an asbestos test kit to check; if positive, you’ll need a professional asbestos removal team. Obviously, this is not a DIY project.
  • Wet the Ceiling: To avoid dry scraping, which creates a mess, moisten small sections of the entire ceiling to soften the popcorn ceiling texture. This makes it easier to scrape off.
  • Scrape: Use a scraper, like a putty knife, to carefully remove the texture, using painter’s tape to protect any adjoining surfaces.
  • Repair and Smooth: Patch any gouges or damage with joint compound, then smooth with a drywall knife. A skim coat may be necessary for a flawless finish.
  • Prime and Paint: Apply a coat of primer followed by your chosen coat of paint, using a sprayer for best results.

Covering Method:

  • Prepare the Room: Start by clearing the room and covering the floor with plastic sheeting.
  • Install Furring Strips: Attach these strips to your existing ceiling at 16-inch intervals.
  • Attach Drywall or Paneling: Secure new drywall or paneling over the furring strips, effectively creating a new ceiling.
  • Tape and Mud: Seamlessly blend the new drywall with joint tape and compound, then sand.
  • Prime and Paint: Complete the look with a primer and your chosen paint.

Cost of Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Costs can vary, typically ranging from $1 to $2 per square foot for scraping and $2 to $5 for covering. Asbestos abatement can significantly increase these costs, depending on local regulations and the extent of contamination.

DIY Popcorn Ceiling Removal

For those considering a DIY approach, remember this project is labor-intensive and messy. Prioritize safety with proper protective gear including a dust mask and eye protection, and plan extensively to accommodate for surprises like hidden mold or water damage.

Clean Up

After removing or covering the popcorn ceiling texture, ensure a thorough clean up to remove any residual dust and debris, which is crucial to maintaining a healthy living environment.

Alternatives to Popcorn Ceiling Removal

If removal isn’t feasible, consider these alternatives:

  • Painting: This can reduce the texture’s prominence.

  • Texture Change: Apply a lighter texture like knockdown or orange peel.

  • Decorative Elements: Use crown molding or ceiling medallions to distract from the ceiling.


Removing a popcorn ceiling can significantly enhance your home’s aesthetic, air quality, and value. Whether you choose a professional path or tackle it yourself, understanding the removal process and options will equip you to make the best decision for your home remodel.

Ready to update your space? Contact a professional like myself for personalized advice and reliable service in transforming your home.



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