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January 14, 2021

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling in 8 Steps

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling in 8 Steps

Let’s face It - the popcorn ceiling trend is long over. 

While a popcorn ceiling texture was a staple in homes in the 1950s and 60s, this dated style choice is one many homeowners are looking to remove, but it’s no easy feat. How hard is it to get rid of the popcorn ceiling? We hate to say it, but it’s not the most simple upgrade. Getting rid of popcorn ceiling textures takes time, but it’s a job many painting professionals have experience with.

Our team at Oahu Pro Painters knows how it's done, from a safe and seamless removal process to smoothing ceilings after removing a popcorn ceiling and repainting for an updated, timeless finish. With this simple, straightforward interior house painting process,, we can take your ceilings from outdated and boring to new and improved in no time.

If your home was built in the 1950s or 1960s, there’s a good chance that there is a popcorn ceiling in at least one room in your home. Popcorn ceilings were heavily utilized during this time because they easily hide imperfections in the ceiling, and they were a time-efficient method to finish building homes.

Just as the name implies, popcorn ceilings boast a textured appearance that also earned them the name “cottage cheese ceilings.” Not only do these ceilings immediately date your space, but they are easily damaged and particularly difficult to keep clean. The smallest run-in with your popcorn ceiling may result in messy crumblings or dust that ends up on your furniture or floors.

The good part about popcorn ceiling removal is that it is a simple, straightforward process that can quickly and dramatically change your space for the better.

popcorn ceiling texture

Why Were Textured Ceilings So Popular?

Popcorn ceilings grew in popularity in the mid-1900s, and the texture was commonly found in homes built and renovated during that time. But what made the popcorn ceiling texture such a hit? Ultimately, it’s a master concealer and helps avoid the precision it takes to install drywall evenly.

But really, why popcorn ceilings? Here are a few reasons your home may feature this old design staple.

  • They were easier to apply. With a popcorn ceiling spray, popcorn ceilings could quickly be applied to walls, avoiding any concern about creating a perfectly even surface.
  • Popcorn ceilings hide imperfections. With a bumpy, uneven texture, this ceiling choice is perfect for hiding all the imperfections in your walls.
  • This ceiling is said to help absorb noise, helping create a quieter, more private home.
  • It’s a cost-efficient solution that nearly anyone could apply, unlike more expensive and technique-oriented options, like drywall repair.

There are a lot of perks to a popcorn ceiling texture, and while it is no longer on-trend, it isn’t completely void of purpose.

Why Should You Remove Your Popcorn Ceiling?

1. It Dates Your Space

One of the main reasons you should consider removing your popcorn ceiling is that it’s outdated. It can be challenging to achieve the ideal aesthetic in your home with the constant appearance of popcorn ceilings throughout.

Removing your popcorn ceiling will instantly refresh and modernize your space, giving you a clean canvas to design exactly as you please.

2. It May Be Harmful to Your Health

Some popcorn ceilings were made with asbestos, a mineral fiber found in soil and rock. If your home was built before 1980, you should test to determine whether asbestos is present in your popcorn ceiling. Breathing in asbestos can cause serious long-term health effects.

You may be wondering how to test your popcorn ceiling for asbestos. You can purchase an at-home asbestos test kit to determine if you can remove the popcorn ceiling on your own or if you need to hire a professional.

In addition to asbestos, some popcorn ceilings may be coated with lead paint. Lead paint was banned in 1978, but a simple lead paint test will help you determine whether or not you should be mindful of this potential chemical as well.

If asbestos or lead is found in your popcorn ceiling, the safest route is to hire a professional team to remove it. Although this is the most expensive option, it is worth the investment to know that you are putting your health first.

It’s important to note that not every company is properly equipped to handle asbestos as they don’t have the proper insurance to do so. Oahu Pro Painters recommends working with a company to remove asbestos safely and properly.

3. It Can Lessen Your Home’s Value

One of the most common questions we receive is “does removing popcorn ceiling increase home value?” Because popcorn ceilings are so outdated and avoided in modern remodels and designs, homes with popcorn ceilings may be less valuable or be challenging to sell in the future. Removing it and replacing it with a modern, safer option will help increase your home’s value and attract a wider buyer pool.

Replacing your popcorn ceiling is a relatively cheap investment with an enormous payoff.

4. It’s Difficult to Maintain

Popcorn ceilings are difficult to maintain, as the smallest nick or bump can cause pieces of it to crumble off. Plus, all of its grooves and textures make it difficult to keep clean.

5. It Creates Poor Lighting

Popcorn ceilings have so many bumps and grooves on them that catch the light, resulting in bumpy shadows. This can darken the room and create unpleasant lighting, precisely the opposite of what you want to achieve in a relaxing space.

6. To Fix Damage to the Ceiling

A big reason to look into how to take off the popcorn ceiling is to fix the damage that may lay beneath. As we’ve said before, popcorn ceiling texture was often used to hide imperfections in walls and ceilings, but what caused these imperfections? There may be damage to your ceiling, like holes, scrapes, dents, marks, or water damage that will be important to fix to maintain a strong structure.

popcorn ceiling lighting

Tools You Need to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

It’s important to note that even if your popcorn ceiling doesn’t contain asbestos, it is highly recommended that you wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent dust particles from causing damage to your health.

In addition to PPE, you’ll need the following equipment to remove your popcorn ceiling:

  • Protective furniture covering to prevent particles from falling on it and causing damage
  • Putty knife, and we recommend one that is at least 6 inches wide
  • Large spray bottle filled with water
  • Painter’s tape
  • Safety glasses
  • Shoe covers
  • Respirator
  • Gloves
  • Drywall sanding sponge
  • Paint roller
  • Drywall compound

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling

Want to know how to get rid of a popcorn ceiling? Follow the steps below:

Step 1: Test for Asbestos and Lead Paint

When tackling the best way to get rid of popcorn ceiling textures, you must start by testing for asbestos and lead paint. Unfortunately, when popcorn ceilings were popular, asbestos was an ingredient that was still commonly used. For this reason, you’ll want to have a professional test your ceilings for lead and asbestos, as this can be dangerous if you end up inhaling popcorn ceiling dust in the removal process.

If your ceilings do test positive for these ingredients, a licensed professional in asbestos abatement must remove the texture or cover the ceiling in fresh drywall. This will help avoid the harmful dust from popcorn ceiling from affecting your health.

Step 2: Turn Electricity Off and Remove Light Fittings

Once you’ve tested your ceiling for lead and asbestos and gotten the all-clear, the next step in getting rid of popcorn ceiling is to turn off the electricity and remove the light fittings. Check with a circuit tester to ensure the electricity is off, so your walls are prepped for safe removal.

Step 3: Prepare the Room

Collect the following supplies to prepare:

  • Plastic coverings for the floor and furniture
  • Painter’s tape
  • Tools to remove light fixtures
  • Spray sock
  • Shoe covers
  • Respirator
  • Protective glasses or goggles to keep dust and particles out of your eyes

Before you get to work, you’ll want to use plastic coverings to cover your furniture and rugs to prevent any residue or dust particles from accumulating on your nice furniture and cause damage.

You should also cover your walls in this plastic material to prevent them from getting damaged. Secure any plastic coverings with painter’s tape to fully encapsulate the item or area that you want to protect.

Preparing the room also means that you should remove any light fixtures that will be in your way. Finally, put some protective tarps on the ground to collect the debris. Although it’s tempting to dive right into the removal process, preparation is an essential step in producing quality results.

furniture covered with plastic sheets

Step 4: Put on Your Protective Equipment

Don’t overlook this step! Putting on the right protective equipment can make or break the outcome of your project and it will keep you safe throughout the duration of the process. Start with the respirator, as it will help ensure that the air you’re inhaling is safe and free of damaging particles.

A spray sock will help protect your face and your hair, and your protective goggles will keep your eyes free of dust. Make sure that your safety goggles are secured to your face on all sides to keep dust particles out of your eyes.

Finally, throw some shoe covers on over your shoes to avoid tracking the mess around your house.

dust masks, goggles and protective gloves

Step 5: Remove the Popcorn Ceiling

The best way to remove a popcorn ceiling is by spraying it with water. Follow the below best practices for the best results. 

1. Thoroughly soak your ceiling with your spray bottle and let the water sit for 10-15 minutes. The soaking water will help the popcorn material to fall off easily.

2. After enough time has passed, take your putty knife and scrape the ceiling in long, even strokes to remove the popcorn material. If your ceiling has been soaking long enough, this process should be fast and easy.

3. Work in small areas at a time, not missing any of the leftover white residues. All of it has to be removed to yield quality paint results!

removing popcorn ceiling with putty knife

Step 6: Smooth It Out

While you are removing the popcorn material, your putty knife may have left behind some marks. Use your drywall sanding sponge to smooth out any rough patches on the ceiling. If you aren’t an experienced sander, make sure to sand against the scratch, or you’ll make it worse.

sanding sponge in dusty hands

Step 7: Add a Primer

Are you wondering “do I need to prime the ceiling after removing popcorn,” the answer is yes! Primers are essential in covering the surface and preparing it for a fresh coat of paint. 

Take the primer of your choice and add a coat to your ceiling. Be aware that doing so will likely bring to light some deeper grooves in the ceiling that need to be filled before painting.

Use your drywall compound to fill and smooth any deep grooves or dents. Finish these areas with another layer of primer.

adding a coat of primer before painting

Step 8: Painting Popcorn Ceiling

Finally, the part you’ve all been waiting for in the how-to smooth out popcorn ceiling guide - the paint! To refresh your walls with a modern, timeless color, paint your ceilings with a smooth, even coat of paint that will accentuate your newly refreshed walls.

painting a ceiling with a roller

That's it. Removing your popcorn ceiling is as simple as that!

Tips for Avoiding Damage When Removing Popcorn Ceilings

When it comes to smooth out popcorn ceiling textures, one of our biggest concerns is avoiding damage to your ceilings. Since this is a stubborn surface and one that needs special attention, your walls are often at risk of scratching or leaving behind damage that will need additional work. To avoid this in the removal process, we share a few tips to help you along the way.

Soak the Ceiling

The best way to get rid of popcorn ceiling textures is to start soaking the ceiling. To do this, spray the top with warm water until it’s completely soaked to help the surface come off easier. Since this is a more stubborn material, you may have to wash your ceilings a few times for the water to absorb fully.

Use the Right Tools

We cannot stress this enough - using the right tools can make a world of difference when it comes to getting rid of popcorn ceiling. Good tools will help provide a smooth surface and easier removal, and for this, we recommend items like a 12-inch putty knife and specific tools for popcorn ceiling removals to aid in the process.

Don’t Rush

While you may be keen on speeding up the process, removing popcorn ceilings is no easy feat, and the tedious, slow removal is essential for clean results. Use long, slow strokes in the same direction to clear the ceilings of texture and avoid damaging your ceilings with scratches or nicks.

Don’t Force It

If you’re finding that your popcorn ceiling is especially stubborn and the tough removal process is causing damage to your walls, pause for a second to reevaluate. You may need to soak your surface again or move to a different section and revisit the more challenging area later. With patience, you can remove the texture for a smooth surface without adding damage.

How Much Does It Cost to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling?

The cost to get rid of popcorn ceiling depends on numerous factors. From the size of the space to your location and the type of ceiling, the final fee is subject to various circumstances.

Here are some cost comparisons to help you better understand the price you may face.

Provider Avg Cost to Remove Popcorn Ceiling Cost Range Average Cost per Square Foot Average Cost per Hour
Home Advisor $1,850 $899-$2,844 $1-$2 $15-$40
HomeGuide $1,850 $1,010-$2,260 $1-$2 $25-$40
Angi $1,850 $900-$2,840 $1-$2 $15-$40

Major Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost Factors to Consider

As we said before,different factors come into play when figuring out the cost to get rid of popcorn ceiling textures. A few significant price considerations are the size of your project, the labor involved, and the materials needed. Still, a couple of other elements can contribute to the final cost, too.

To help you estimate the cost of removing your popcorn ceiling texture, here are several factors to consider.

Labor

One of the key elements of the final cost to remove your popcorn ceilings is labor. Labor costs vary but usually range between $15 to $60 per hour. Essentially, this depends on how easily your popcorn ceilings are coming off and how much effort the professionals have to put in to get smooth results. If it’s not removing smoothly or is causing scraping to the walls, it will require more time to remove.

With many steps involved in getting rid of the popcorn ceiling, and a heightened need to do it right to achieve optimal results, it takes time and thus hikes up labor costs.

Ceiling Paint

Another key factor in your costs is ceiling paint price. The materials involved in painting can cost a pretty penny, with paint costing around $20 to $60 per gallon. So, if you have a 12 foot by 12-foot room, you can anticipate paying anywhere from $150 to $350 for paint alone.

Additionally, ceilings will sometimes need a second coat of paint, increasing paint prices by 50%. However, smaller rooms will inherently cost less.

Additionally, if you’re just painting over a popcorn ceiling, your prices will be much lower, although it won’t offer as high-end of a finish.

Texture

want to add texture to your ceilings? This is not a cheap process.

Usually costing between $500 and $1,250, textures and designs on the ceiling can majorly impact price. There are some popular textures, like a knockdown ceiling that offers a more simple design that adds up if the room is large. That being said, this is a great way to conceal flaws, similar to how popcorn ceilings were used in the past.

Debris Disposal

Another aspect that can impact cost is debris disposal. After removing the popcorn ceiling, there’s likely to be a lot of debris that can have hazardous materials and ingredients. While this may fit in regular trash bags, opting for a professional to clean it up maybe your best bet. However, this can cost between $150 and $170 for about 500 square feet of debris and even more if asbestos or lead paint is involved.

FAQ

What is the cost to remove a popcorn ceiling in Aiea, HI?

The average cost of removing popcorn ceilings in Aiea, Hawaii is $354-$729 depending on specifics. If the popcorn ceiling doesn’t have asbestos, homeowners can hire professional drywall contractors for this task and they will finish the project by using multiple layers of drywall mud.

What does it cost to have a popcorn ceiling removed in Kaneohe, HI?

Popcorn ceiling removal costs in Kaneohe are similar to other areas of the island with slight variations. The 2021 average price that homeowners paid for removal was between $354 and $731 for the project. These particular quotes included factors such as material costs, average labor costs, average equipment costs, and all cleanup fees.

How much does it cost to remove a popcorn ceiling in Pearl City, HI?

The 2021 average that Pearl City homeowners paid for popcorn ceiling removal was anywhere between $358 and $738.

How Long Does It Take to Remove Popcorn Ceiling?

The amount of time it takes to remove a popcorn ceiling texture depends on how large your space is and how much experience you have removing this unique texture. Need a better idea of what we are talking about? Simple scraping and resurfacing methods can take around 20 hours for ceilings that are 500 square feet. Now that’s not necessarily a task you can tackle in one day.

While getting rid of popcorn ceiling textures is no easy task, the further you move through the process, the easier it becomes. Like anything, this project has a learning curve, and once you get the hang of the best way to get rid of popcorn ceiling, the faster you will move. However, being careful and not rushing is essential to avoid damaging your ceilings or any furniture and decor that remains in the room.

Additionally, it’s important to consider what materials you need and how much time it will take you to gather them if you don’t have them all on hand. Thankfully, if you opt for a professional service to handle the job, you can avoid any of this inconvenience for the safe removal of your popcorn texture.

Our Professionals Have You Covered

With the right tools and knowledge, removing your popcorn ceiling on your own is entirely doable. However, you’ll need to be prepared to put in the money and sweat equity to do so. What you thought would be an easy or painless task can quickly take on a life of its own.

Instead of stressing out about so many moving and unknown parts of your project, why not let a licensed professional take care of it instead? At Oahu Pro Painters, not only can we take care of your painting needs, but we are also happy to remove your popcorn ceiling and upgrade it to a more modern finish.

Our team will diligently work to remove your old popcorn ceiling and finish your newly smooth surface with a fresh coat of paint.

We’d love to hear more about your project! Contact us today!

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling in 8 Steps
Written By:
Karl Van Zadnt

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