Yes, Popcorn Ceilings Are Unattractive, But Here’s How You Can Remove Them Yourself

lighterside-staff-authorBy Lighter Side Staff  |  Read More

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Popcorn ceilings must be one of the most useless inventions in the history of housing. It collects dust, is easily chipped off, and really doesn’t add much visual appeal. One has to wonder why anyone invented such a thing, or why it was ever the standard in so many homes.

Brittany Bailey of Pretty Handy Girl decided she had enough of that eyesore and cleaned up her own ceiling. She created this tutorial from her experience for the rest of us who are ready for a ceiling that makes sense. Best of all, she shows how to make cleanup easy.

IMPORTANT NOTE FROM BRITTANY: “If you live in a house that was built around 1978, take several small samples of your ceiling and test it for asbestos before you begin. Even though the cutoff date for asbestos in popcorn texture was 1978, the inventory could still be bought from store shelves well into the 1980’s. Do yourself and your family a favor, If you have asbestos popcorn contact a professional who is trained in asbestos removal to handle the job. If you want to learn more, you can read more about our experience with asbestos remediation.”


First thing’s first. Get the materials you need to accomplish the task:

  • Thin disposable drop cloths
  • Painter’s tape
  • Garden style sprayer (much better than a squirt bottle)
  • Full goggle eye protection (hard to finish a job if you can’t see)
  • Dust mask (harder to finish if you can’t breathe)
  • Spackle knife
  • Joint compound (or spackle)
  • Big sponge (car wash sponge is a good size)
  • Sandpaper (180 grit or higher)
  • Hand sanding block
  • Optional: floor scraper

Remove your ceiling lights and fixtures.

Place the wire nuts back on the exposed wires and cover the fixture box with a plastic and tape. Be sure to TURN THE LIGHTS OFF before doing this!

Another very important step is to tarp off the entire room, or else you’ll be spending the next year and a half cleaning up what comes off of the ceiling.

With the tarps, it’s a simple procedure to bag and toss the remnants. Be sure to tape the plastic off at the tippy top of the walls.

With your safety equipment on, use the garden sprayer to thoroughly cover every bit of the ceiling with water.

Wait 15 minutes and spray again. Wait another 10-15 minutes for the second soaking to settle in. Note: Be sure to make each coating a complete, yet light soaking. If the drywall paper is too wet, it will rip later on.

Test the popcorn with the spackle knife. If it’s ready, it will give away easily. If not, spray a third time.

If need be, you can use a floor scraper to make things easier. This is especially helpful for larger rooms.

When appropriately soaked, the popcorn slides off easily, and looks something like this.

Via Pretty Handy Girl

Aren’t you glad you tarped up right about now?

Via Pretty Handy Girl

After the popcorn is gone, use a damp sponge to finish off the remnants. Be careful not to rip the drywall paper.

Via Pretty Handy Girl

Fill any holes or imperfections by spackling on joint compound. Get that ceiling as smooth as you can.

Here’s the sequence that Brittany Bailey laid out:

  1. Dip spackle knife into joint compound.
  2. Spread the compound over imperfections in the drywall.
  3. Continue spreading the joint compound over the drywall in the same direction until the entire “line” has been covered.
  4. Wipe off excess joint compound back into the bucket.
  5. Gently drag the spackling knife along the joint compound perpendicular to the direction that it was applied.
  6. Resist dragging the knife over a 2nd time.

Holes and dents in the joint compound are no good and you will need to spread more onto the ceiling. It’s okay if you have some raised sections, they will sand down later.”

Via Pretty Handy Girl

Once the spackle has dried, smooth it out with some sanding action.

Via Pretty Handy Girl

After sanding things down, wipe the area with a damp sponge.

Via Pretty Handy Girl

You can now use a paint roller (extended handles are nice) to prime the ceiling.

Via Pretty Handy Girl

Cover the ceiling completely with the primer.

Via Pretty Handy Girl

Once the primer has dried, sand it down lightly to smooth it out.

Via Pretty Handy Girl

Use a damp sponge to remove the remaining sanding dust.

Via Pretty Handy Girl

Finish up that ceiling with a thorough paint job.

Finally, detach the tarp from the walls, wrap it together and take it out to the trash. It may be heavy, but it sure beats the alternative. Enjoy your new ceiling!

Via Pretty Handy Girl