All About Removing Your Popcorn Ceilings

Popcorn ceilings in bedroom

Do you have popcorn ceilings you want to kiss goodbye? You know – those rough-textured ceilings that don’t resemble popcorn so much as upchuck slapped on the surface and then spray-painted white? Why did anyone ever think that was appealing?

All I can say is that it was the 70s. Shag carpet and disco were also all-the-rage. The texture hides imperfections and helps with sound deadening. Plus, everyone else was doing it, so why not?

Now, as a homeowner, you are stuck living with the dated look or trying to fit smooth ceilings into a budget, so you have a better chance of selling your house down the road!

Popcorn ceiling

What’s Bad About Popcorn Ceilings?

If you don’t mind the look of a popcorn ceiling, or you are going for a retro vibe, there is nothing wrong about leaving your ceiling as-is. Two things to beware of:

  1. You may have trouble selling your house down the road with the ceilings like that. To most people, it looks like a hassle they don’t want to deal with.
  2. Depending on how old those ceilings are, they may contain asbestos. As we now know, asbestos can cause cancer if you breathe it in. In fact, if your ceilings do contain asbestos, you will probably have no other option but to remediate them somehow.

Asbestos Removal

You can get a popcorn ceiling tested by wetting one part, removing some of the compound, and sending it into a lab. If you find asbestos, you have one of several options, depending on what’s legal:

  • Remove the ceiling and re-texture or make it smooth. An asbestos contractor has to do this work, and it can be expensive.
  • Cover the texture with an asbestos-rated sealant and paint it.
  • Encapsulate and cover with a ΒΌ” thick layer of drywall. Using this option, it will be wavy and will not look right unless it has a thick layer of texture on top.

Contractor Or DIY?

Some contractors charge more to remove popcorn ceilings because they dislike doing it so much. That should indicate to you how quick and easy the job should be to do yourself! (Hint: not quick or easy)

In either case, the ease of replacing the popcorn texture will depend upon several factors:

  • Whether it contains asbestos (which we’ve already covered) – more likely if it predates 1990.
  • Whether the ceiling is made of plaster – which will have to be soaked before it can be scraped – or gypsum and vermiculite – which can be scraped off very easily.
  • Which type of finished surface you are replacing it with. A different texture, slapcoat, paneling, or knockdown finish are all much easier to complete. However, if you want a completely smooth finish, it will increase the labor significantly.
  • Whether you have flooring, such as expensive carpeting, you need to protect.

To hire a contractor to remove the popcorn texture and recoat can cost up to $3.50 per square foot, depending upon factors above.

Asbestos removal into the bargain ends up not being a bargain at all. Figure about three times that price!

The materials required to remove the popcorn texture yourself aren’t expensive. You need a scraper, joint compound, sandpaper, and lots and lots of tarps, and head coverings.

It is not the tools that make this job “expensive,” it’s how tedious, time-consuming and back-breaking it can be.

It’s also colossally messy. You will have to move all of your furniture, tarp off the rooms you’re working on, and prepare to be cleaning joint compound out of your hair for days on end.

Bringing it Home

As with any house project you can reasonably do yourself, you have to ask yourself if you really have the time to spend.

If there’s asbestos on your popcorn ceilings, you have no choice but to let the professionals take care of it for you.

If you have any questions about popcorn ceiling removal, please don’t hesitate to ask us! We’re always happy to help.

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