DIY Projects · Flip #4 · Uncategorized

Removing Popcorn Ceilings

I cringe when I walk into a house that has popcorn ceilings. How did that ever get popular? But alas, so many homes across America are plagued with popcorn ceilings, and it’s our duty to eradicate it one house at a time! Okay, maybe that’s just my mission!

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Flip 1 and Flip 4 both had popcorn ceilings. Nothing dates a house faster (well, maybe that salmon paint color in the master bedroom).

Removing popcorn ceilings doesn’t have to be a project you hire out, but it is messy. So very, very messy. Removing popcorn is always the very first project I tackle in a house so that the mess can be over with!

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When I first started removing popcorn at Flip 1, I had no clue what I was doing. I used a putty knife (barely 1″ wide) and dry scraped the popcorn of a 1600+ sq. ft house. It was hell. But I learned a few things through that. Like removing wet popcorn is easier than dry. So my best investment is a $15 garden sprayer. [Note: If you’ve used your garden sprayer for chemicals, do NOT use it for removing popcorn]

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I started by filling the sprayer with water and then spraying the ceiling. You want it to be wet enough that the popcorn actually changes to a darker color. I spray a rather large section at one time, so that I don’t have to stop and keep re-spraying. Don’t freak out about the ceiling looking wet and changing colors, it’ll dry!

Once the popcorn is really wet, I use a drywall paddle as a scraper. Since it’s a much wider tool, you can scrape more popcorn at once. Once the popcorn is wet, using the paddle, it will literally just fly off the ceiling with minimal effort from the scraper.

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I can tackle a bedroom in about an hour. I never do an entire house in one setting. I’ll do a room, stop, and take a break or quit for the day. The downside to this is that my neck would start aching from looking up and my wrist was complaining about the scraping.

My method of dealing with the mess is to leave the carpet while I’m scraping the ceilings. The popcorn creates a huge mess, and I use the carpet as “tarps” to collect it all! When I’m done, I roll up the carpet in sections and trap the popcorn.

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Once the popcorn dries, it’s pretty easy to clean up. Since the hallway had no flooring when I bought Flip 4, I let the popcorn dry and then swept into piles for clean up.

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Once the popcorn is removed and the ceiling dries, there’s a smooth drywall ready for texture. Some people just paint the drywall, but I never think that looks good. Applying some kind of texture to the ceiling gives it a more polished look, I think. If there are any straggly popcorn pieces, you can use a ceiling hand sander to get rid of them.

It took a few days to scrape all the popcorn, and, after that, I was not about to tackle adding new texture! My awesome painter came in and added new texture and paint.

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I will say, tackling this project in a vacant house is much easier than living in it while you’re tackling this very messy project which is exactly what I did in Flip 1! It took me a lot longer to accomplish it back then, and I lived in those very dusty conditions. I swear, I don’t know how I survived! So I highly recommend not living in the house while you tackle this project!

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7 thoughts on “Removing Popcorn Ceilings

  1. When you say “adding texture” exactly what do you mean? I thought the point of removing the popcorn was to get a smooth ceiling. Just curious….

    1. You are correct- it removes the very bumpy texture. But it then leaves just bare drywall which if new texture isn’t added will show seams, imperfections, etc. So a very subtle texture is added (knockdown, orange peel, etc). My last photo in the post shows what the knockdown texture looks like when applied.

  2. I am thinking of removing our popcorn ceilings in our house while we live in it. Could you get your painter to do a tutorial of how he adds texture??? Maybe even show the whole process???

    1. He has a professional hopper that sprays it. Since he’s already done, I couldn’t get him to show the process. That’s a job, though, I would highly suggest hiring out rather than attempting DIY.

  3. WOW, the results were fantastic, my buddy jest did one with a power pole sander for drywall, came out nice too, then he skim coated it with mud, and did knock down texture, the water spray is a great idea, especially if you dont know if it contains asbestos or not, in the 70’s to early 80’s some popcorn contained asbestos, just a word of caution. Nice JOB!!!!

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