January 14, 2021

How to Remove Your Old Popcorn Ceiling - The 2021 Step-By-Step Guide

How to Remove Your Old Popcorn Ceiling - The 2021 Step-By-Step Guide

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 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One of the main reasons you should consider removing your popcorn ceiling is that it’s outdated.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.

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.

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: 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 2: 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 3: 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 4: 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 5: 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 6: Paint

Choose your ideal ceiling paint cover and give your new ceiling a fresh coat of paint. Removing your popcorn ceiling is as simple as that!

painting a ceiling with a roller

How Much Does It Cost to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling?

On average, families spend $1,765 to remove a popcorn ceiling, with a typical range of popcorn ceiling removal cost $899-$2,747 for complete removal.

On average, families in the United States spend $1,765 to remove a popcorn ceiling, with a typical range of popcorn ceiling removal costs $899-$2,747 for complete removal. However, popcorn ceiling removal in Hawaii, specifically in Honolulu, is projected to have an average cost in 2021 of $360 and $743.

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. 

Many factors determine the price of removal, including the ceiling’s size, how high the ceiling is, how thick the popcorn material is, painting and texturing costs, and the cost of repairing any drywall damages. You should also factor in how much you’ll spend on purchasing the right materials to complete the task if you don’t already own everything.

Because removing a popcorn ceiling is such a labor-intensive process, it is sometimes best to leave this process up to a licensed professional.

How Long Does It Take to Remove Popcorn Ceiling?

How long it takes to remove your popcorn ceiling depends on your previous knowledge and how large of a space it is. To give you an idea of how much time you will spend, traditional scraping and resurfacing methods require 20 hours for a ceiling that is 500 square feet.

Like any other type of household project, there is a learning curve that can add to how long it will take you. You should also factor in time spent preparing your space, properly covering it to ensure you don’t ruin your furniture, flooring, or other decorations.

If you don’t have all of the materials on hand to complete the project, be sure to factor in the time you’ll spend going to the store as well. Ideally, you will have at least one other person working with you on the project to avoid burnout or overworking yourself.

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! Schedule a free estimate with our team today.

Sign up for a free estimate online today, or call us at 808-468-5604

How to Remove Your Old Popcorn Ceiling - The 2021 Step-By-Step Guide
Written By:
Karl Van Zadnt

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