How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling (and Then Fix the Damage You Caused)

Sarah's Big Idea
by Sarah's Big Idea
5 Days
Let's talk for a moment about the "texture that must not be named." You've all seen the tutorials on how to get rid of it. And guess what? Getting rid of it isn't hard. But getting rid of it without also damaging the drywall underneath...that's a whole different story.
Removing popcorn ceiling.
In case you haven't seen the tutorials on how to de-popcorn a ceiling, I'll do a quick recap:

1) Test it. It may have asbestos. If so, you have my condolences -- looks like you're stuck with it (unless you cover it with new drywall).

2) Use some sort of sprayer to get it wet. Really wet.

3) Let it sit and soak for a bit.

4) Use a putty knife (or if you're fancy, a plastic scraper made specifically for scraping popcorn off ceilings) to scrape off the popcorn.

If your drywall was primed before it was popcorned, removal is pretty easy. Messy and tedious, but easy.

If your drywall was NOT primed, however...
Damaged drywall from popcorn ceiling removal.
...bad things can happen.

In my case (because I'm just lucky, I guess), large chunks of paper peeled away with the popcorn. If this happens to you, here's the remedy:

1) Prime the drywall with RX-35, a primer that repairs and seals damaged drywall. It dries kind of tacky, so it helps keep the damaged paper from bubbling up during the next steps.

2) Skim coat the entire surface with some slightly-watered-down joint compound and a 12" taping knife.

3) Sand.

4) If necessary, repeat steps 2 and 3. Then prime, paint, and enjoy!
Drywall damage after removing popcorn ceiling
Repaired drywall, ready for priming.
It's a long and messy job, but it really isn't that challenging. It just takes patience. And a good respirator.

You can read the full story on my blog.
Sarah's Big Idea
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  2 questions
  • Carolyn Carolyn on Jul 15, 2016
    Where / how does one get something tested for asbestos? My home was built in 1958. Popcorn throughout. Would like to remove...but....

  • Marion Barker Marion Barker on Apr 09, 2019

    What if your popcorn ceiling has been painted? Just cover it?

Join the conversation
5 of 32 comments
  • Bonnie Morris Bonnie Morris on Apr 15, 2018

    House built in the early 70s. Of course, all ceilings are covered with that ugly popcorn coating! Working on the half bath and decided that I have had it with that ceiling. Got all the popcorn off yesterday so apparently not painted; but of course, I now have holes since it wasn't primed either! Tried patching with some drywall compound but think I need to prime it all before I go any further. Thank you for the comments on this.

    • See 2 previous
    • Lisa Lisa on Feb 14, 2020

      Bonnie....can you post a picture of how your beadboard turned out?

  • Bonnie Morris Bonnie Morris on Feb 15, 2020

    This is the beadboard from Lowes. Great overlap and very thin. Have to apply glue and brad nail to the studs. Because they are only 4 feet long, I am able to do it myself.