How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling

If you saw my last my last post you know I wanted to remove the popcorn ceilings from several rooms in my house.  As many of you suggested (and guessed) I decided to try a little DIY on the laundry room first to see just what all went in to this nasty project.   I read almost every blog and home tip site out there on how to do it, so here is my take on the whole process, what I learned along the way and what I’ll do different next time around. popcorn ceiling

**Asbestos is VERY dangerous and not to be messed with.  If your home was built before 1978 there is a HIGH chance your popcorn ceiling contains asbestos.  You should always have your ceiling properly tested for asbestos before attempting to remove it any way**

First, lets start with a before shot.. Before popcorn

Sorry, no clean up, this is how my laundry room actually looked when I took these pics so this is what you’re getting.  I swear it didn’t look THIS bad in person…or maybe it did??

And here is what it looks like now…ahhhhh so much better!

removing popcorn ceilings


I first made a trip to Home Depot and picked up some supplies, others I already had on hand.

how to remove popcorn ceilings

1. Plastic tarps
2. Metal drywall knife
3. Squirt bottle
4. goggles
5. Mask
6. Duct tape

Prepping the Room:

removing popcorn ceilings

This really is the most important step in my opinion as this will play a huge roll in how easy this process is.  Scrapping this stuff off is a mess and if you end up needing to do a lot of sanding and re-texturing (as you’ll hear about later)  You’ll really want every single inch of space covered. I started from the ceilings and draped my tarps over everything and then taped each one of the seams together as to not leave any cracks for debris/dust to sneak through.   DIY popcorn ceiling removal

THIS TAKES FOREVER if done right, but is worth it in every way possible.  You’ll also want to make sure your power is off, and you’ve removed any fans, ceiling lights or a/c vents.

Wetting and Scraping:

Using a squirt bottle spray the popcorn until its is wet and wait a couple of minutes for it to soak in and then wet it again. removing popcorn ceilings

If you do enough the first go-round it doesn’t seem to come off as good.  I was nervous about getting the right amount of water on the popcorn as you don’t want to damage the drywall, but I read that when you get it just wet enough, the popcorn will come off like butter.  It was coming off…but nothing like butter.  So I sprayed a little more…this sweet spot is really worth figuring out because once the ceiling has enough water…it really does just slide right off like butter and its not worth the pain of fighting it otherwise. removing popcorn ceilings

Prepare for an absolute mess and let it dry overnight before sanding:

Nuff Said!

popcorn scraping

Painted Popcorn and What’s Hidden Underneath:

If you’re anything l like me, the rooms in your house have been painted over and over and over.  When popcorn has been painted it doesn’t not come off with any kind of ease, as was the case of the edges of my ceiling.  Everywhere the ceilings met the walls the popcorn was not budging.  I used a razor and a flathead screwdriver  to scrape off a lot of this followed up with lots and lots of sanding

(sorry no pics of me sweating and cursing as I tried to scrape these corners)

Furthermore popcorn ceilings were so popular in the 70′s and 80′s because they were cheap and they hid poor drywall jobs.  I didn’t find out until AFTER I had been scraping mine off that my ceiling contained two large patch jobs in the drywall.  I had originally considered leaving my ceilings smooth but this was not an option after I noticed these two areas.

Sand, Sand and sand:

I wish I had taken my own advice on this one.  I did a good bit of sanding with a drywall sander I had purchased when we sanded down our textured walls in our master, but I should have done more.  My thought was that since I was texturing, all the imperfections in the drywall would be covered. removing popcorn ceilings

 WRONG!!  Even if you plan to texture it is imperative to smooth down the drywall as much as possible.  This is a lesson learned as you can see areas where I didn’t take the time to really smooth down the drywall on this bad patch job.  I had to do this area all over.

more sanding necessary


I had read different options for texturing, and decided since it was a small space to use the can texturing to do a knockdown texture on the ceilings.  I was afraid I’d be overwhelmed at using a hopper gun/ compressor to blow on the texture so I used this stuff which gives the options for orange peel/knockdwon. how to apply knockdown at home

I followed the directions to a tee and used the white tube (it comes with along black one if you want orange peel)  to apply the texture.  I  waived it over the ceiling about 8″ away and let it set for about 2 mins before knocking it down.  It was a mess and it blew all over the place, and all over me (good news is it is water-soluble so it wipes right off everything including the walls).  Using a wet knock-down knife I purchased (it has a spongy end that holds in a littler water making it easier to work with), I drug my knife across the ceiling to knock it down.  While its not a professional job, I say this stuff does the job pretty good and I’m happy with the finished product.

my knockdown However, I blew threw 2 cans of it and could have used even more.  At $12.92/can I’ll likely borrow my step-father’s hopper gun next time now that I’m more comfortable with the whole process.

Clean up:

By this point, my laundry room was a complete disaster as was my hall where I had tracked all kinds of debris. tracking in sand

I kept the tarps up to protect my walls when I did the texturing so I was dying to take all the tarps down and clean this space up.  Overall clean up was pretty easy, although there were areas were I did not tape my seams enough and stuff did seep through. cleaning up

Fortunately this room was tile, but it does make me nervous removing this stuff in a room with carpet (i.e. my master bedroom)


Regardless if you re-texture or not you’re going to want to prime and paint your ceilings after you’re done.  I used whatever I had around the house, it wasn’t specific ‘ceiling paint’.  I went ahead and painted the inside of the laundry shoot and replace had the hubby replace the old light which makes a big difference in the overall before/after pictures.

DIY popcorn ceiling removal

I’m quite happen with the turn-out of the project, but it was a lot of work.  The scraping of the popcorn wasn’t so bad, yes messy as could be, but doable.  I was more worn out by all the surprises I ran into.  It was a very time consuming job, but very rewarding as it looks SO much better and it feels good to know I was the one responsible.

I learned a lot on this job and happy I started in our laundry room as  it was a good room to practice on.  However, while I’m confident to take on other rooms in our house, I’m still a little weary about taking on our master as its full of heavy furniture and new carpet, I’m still deciding what to do.

In the meantime, we’ve decided our laundry room could use a little TLC so my focus will be on that room until I decide what do about our master.

Have you ever taken on removing popcorn ceilings? Ever thought about doing it yourself?  If you have any questions I didn’t address in this, please feel free to email me.



45 thoughts on “How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling

  1. Garden, Home and Party

    Great job. You did such a nice job of the knockdown part (which I never knew that is what it is called). We had all of our popcorn taken off by a few different workers that were willing to do it. We didn’t have it done all at once. I felt it made such a huge difference (just my personal preference). Like childbirth, you may want to wait a bit before tackling your master bedroom!

  2. Jennifer

    Looks great! Like you said, I think the light changes the look of the room a lot. Thanks for the tutorial—I learned a lot from it! Jeez, I wish home builders never used popcorn ceilings though…Looking forward to seeing how the laundry room progresses. Iono why, but I have a soft spot for laundry rooms! Ours is our son’s closet so not too much to do in there :P

  3. vel

    Truly admire your tenacity for tackling such a difficult project Christine! I have the same ceiling all over my house ( though no plans of changing it – yet), but now you got me thinking! :-)

  4. JoAnn @ SweetPepperRose

    It looks great, even though it was time consuming. I so with I could do this. Our popcorn ceilings are 15 yrs old and although our master bath looks great, it’s the Living Room that has dingy-ed, esp over the fireplace area. I so wanted to put up tongue and groove in the master bath but just can’t do it right now. Kudos to you on doing such a good job!

  5. Bonnie

    We found a great product to make this easier. We tried vinegar and water, fabric softener and water, straight fabric softener and then I remembered I had a product called basic H made by Shaklee. It worked like a charm. I had to find a seller in my area and luckily was able to pick up a second bottle so we could finish our project. The person I originally purchased it from was no longer selling it. The product tag line was “it makes water wetter” or something like that. I think I might try my steamer along with the basic H if I ever need to remove popcorn ceilings again.

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