How to Remove Popcorn Ceilings

Amber Foster
by Amber Foster
11 Materials
3 Hours
Time to get rid of those dirty, dingy, outdated popcorn ceilings!
Let's say good-bye to those popcorn ceilings! The first step before you begin make sure you have your ceiling texture tested for asbestos. Asbestos is harmful when exposure occurs
Next, you want to be sure to cover EVERYTHING with plastic.  Don't skimp on this step or you will be sorry later.  Imagine your toddler children having a mud fight in whatever room your in.  That's whats about to happen, so prepare accordingly. Remove or tape off any fixtures.  Turn off power if a power fixture is present, because you will be spraying water all over the ceiling.
Third, take a pump sprayer and spray down a small section of the ceiling with hot water.  Let in soak in a minute or so, then spray it again.  You then can begin using a metal or plastic scraper to start scraping away the popcorn.  Be sure to wear eye protection.  It will get in your eyes if you don't.
After you have wet and scraped each section of the ceiling go back over it wiping it down clean with a wet rag or a mop.  You want to be sure and remove as much of the remaining dust as possible.  Paint won't stick to dust.
Now, you may notice a few imperfections in the ceiling.  You can use sheet rock repair to smooth these out with a little scraper tool.  You can sand when dry if necessary, but I have yet to find that necessary.
Allow the ceiling to dry completely.  It usually dries pretty quickly, maybe 30 minutes time and then you are ready to start priming.  Priming is absolutely necessary.  The paint itself will not adhere well directly to the sheet rock.  If you aren't going to also be painting the walls you may want to tape them off or go around with a brush first.  I will be repainting these walls so I'm just rolling it on.
Allow your primer to dry completely and then you are ready to apply the ceiling paint.  Roll it on and you are done.  Except for cleaning up your mess.  That's always the worst part!
I know it's hard to see a huge transformation of the texture from pictures, but if you have this stuff in your house now, you know what a difference it makes to have it gone! lol

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Here is a video of the full process from start to finish.
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Amber Foster
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Frequently asked questions
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3 of 9 questions
  • Amy Bayne Amy Bayne on Aug 15, 2018

    Will watering the popcorn still work if there are layers of paint on it?

  • Mary Distel Mary Distel on Aug 16, 2019

    Will this work in a mobile home?

  • Anna Anna on Aug 16, 2019

    Does anyone besides me actually like popcorn ceilings. I have a very traditional home, and feel that it would take away the character if I took down the popcorn. Although I will admit that I don't like it when it is sprayed on very heavy.

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4 of 46 comments
  • Liz Liz on Aug 16, 2019

    I would be concern that the pump sprayer would soak the sheet rock and lead to a potential mold problem. I've seen pop corn ceilings that were covered with bead board and they were beautiful! Much easier on your shoulders and neck! A friend painted her pop corn ceilings with 3 coats of white paint in an egg shell finish. She said it's much better than flat paint. The 3 coats of eggshell paint seemed to "lock down" the popcorn ceiling and it doesn't flake off at all. Another tip is to buy a bag of "grit" at a paint store. You stir this into any paint and it covers imperfections on walls and ceilings. Gives a nice "sand" surface. Check for the exact name of this product.

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    • Olive harte Olive harte on Jun 05, 2020

      That is a good idea added sand to paint. You can buy textured paint and even buy velvet finish paint on to your wall. But be carful what you put on if you change interiors a lot . As remember you must then take it off. I bought a pot of outdoor wall cement finish paint once and did not use it. I wanted to refresh my living and hall space so I used it on chance. I liked it it had a textured finish But a painter friend remarked WHO EVER DID THAT JOB DIDNT KNOW MUCH ABOUT PAINTING. Craft painters have very strict rules in comparison to us DIY People.

  • Christina Christina on Aug 16, 2020

    I had popcorn ceilings from the 70-80’s and thought I’d have to do this wetting down but good thing I first decided to climb a latter with a scraper to see just how difficult it would be. To my surprise the stuff just came off with the scraper as easy as can be. However, before I touched it I’d spent a sample to mail in lab to test for asbestos. Once I knew it was safe I just covered the floor with plastic and in a couple of hours a 12 x 12 ceiling was smooth.