Blog
January 13, 2021

Tips on How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling

Tips on How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling
Painting Popcorn Ceiling

Popcorn ceilings, also referred to as acoustic ceilings or cottage cheese ceilings, are a telltale sign that your home was built any time around the 1950s. 

These ceilings are made from small particles mixed with paint and drywall, and they were a cheap and efficient method of finishing homes during this time period.

Although popcorn ceilings have become less popular over the years, they are still a part of many homes today. A quick and inexpensive way to upgrade your popcorn ceiling is by giving it a fresh coat of paint. We’ve compiled a step-by-step guide on the best way to paint over your popcorn ceiling below.

Can I Paint Popcorn Ceilings?

Absolutely. Many families with popcorn ceilings opt to paint them instead of replacing them altogether. Painting popcorn ceilings is a cheaper, cleaner alternative to replacement and can help you get more mileage out of your home’s original finishes.

You also may simply want to upgrade the color of your popcorn ceiling to modernize it and give it a fresh, new appearance. While painting your popcorn ceiling is completely possible, make sure to note that this is a different, more complicated process than painting a flat ceiling.

What Tools Do I Need?

Popcorn Ceiling Painting Tools

The first step is to ensure that you have the right materials on hand. Here are some tools to gather before you begin:

  • Primer 
  • Paint
  • Dust mask
  • Painter’s tape
  • Safety glasses
  • Drop cloths or plastic coverings
  • Paint roller with an extension pole
  • Paint tray
  • Paintbrush, particularly one that is angled
  • Vacuum

How Much Paint Do I Need?

One of the trickiest parts of this project is determining how many gallons of paint to purchase. Because there are so many tiny holes in popcorn ceilings, the paint easily soaks into these small spaces. This means you’ll likely need to buy more paint than you think.

As a general rule of thumb, one gallon of paint covers approximately 350-400 square feet, but you should factor in additional paint for the extra popcorn ceiling texture. The real surface area for this project will be approximately 15-25 percent greater.

How many coats you’re planning on painting will also factor into how much paint you need. If you plan on multiple coats (for example, if you need to cover darker paint color), you’ll likely need at least two full coats.

We recommend starting with at least two gallons of paint to cover your popcorn ceiling.

Do I Have to Use a Roller, Brush, or Sprayer?

The specific tool that you use to paint is dependent on your personal preference and the materials that you have on hand. Paint rollers, brushes, and sprayers are the three most common methods of painting a popcorn ceiling.

Roller

Roller for Popcorn Ceiling Painting

A roller is one of the most effective methods of covering a large area. Attaching a roller to an extender can help you reach your ceiling, but this method can be quite messy.

If you opt for a roller, make sure to diligently cover your walls, floors, and furniture with protective plastic beforehand. You can also use painter’s tape to secure the coverings to avoid causing any damage to your space.

Choose a high-quality roller; we prefer rollers made with lambswool or specialty synthetic coverings for the best results. Trust us when we say that the project will be significantly more manageable with the right materials!

Only use a light amount of pressure with your roller as too much force can cause the popcorn material to crumble and fall.

Paintbrush

Paintbrush for Popcorn Ceiling Painting

A paintbrush is another useful tool for painting your popcorn ceiling, and it is especially helpful for those hard-to-reach corners and angles. It’s best to give yourself at least 2-3 inches of a border along the edge, a process referred to professionally as “cutting in”.

Always wipe the paintbrush off on either side after dipping it into the bucket, as an overly saturated brush can result in damage to the popcorn.

Paint Sprayer

Paint Sprayer for Popcorn Ceiling Painting

If you have access to a paint sprayer, this may be a good option if you want to avoid the physical labor involved in traditional painting. Airless sprayers will allow you to get the task done at a consistent pace.

There are some downsides to using a paint sprayer, however. Be mindful that they go through paint significantly faster than using a roller, and if you don’t have a sprayer on hand, you’ll have to purchase or rent one. You’ll also need to be diligent in setting up protective coverings as airless sprayers can be incredibly messy.

Preparing Popcorn Ceilings for Painting

First and foremost, you’ll want to determine whether or not there is asbestos or lead paint in your popcorn ceiling. Generally speaking, homes built before 1977 are at a higher risk of having these dangerous materials in them.

Purchase an at-home test to determine whether or not your popcorn ceiling has asbestos or lead. If it tests positive, you’ll want to get the ceiling material professionally removed.

Popcorn Ceiling Cleaning

To start, you’ll want to wipe away the dust and debris that has accumulated on the popcorn ceiling to create a clean painting canvas for yourself. The stippled surface makes it easy for debris particles to accumulate, so this is an essential step before you start painting.

To do so, use a gentle feather duster or another similar tool that will help wipe away the dust without causing damage to the ceiling.

If there are specific stains or dark spots on the ceiling that you want to cover up, mix a solution of warm water and dish soap (or laundry detergent). Be sure to test a small area to ensure that your mixture won’t cause more harm than good, as popcorn ceilings don’t tolerate moisture well.

Popcorn Ceiling Repair

If there are patches or other larger, noticeable imperfections, use a joint compound and a taping knife to flatten the surface. Be mindful that matching the joint compound with the rest of your popcorn ceiling can be tricky.

In some cases, purchasing an aerosol can of popcorn texture is the easiest and most cost-efficient approach.

How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling

How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling

The time has come to apply a fresh coat of paint to your popcorn ceiling! Follow these steps for a successful project.

Step 1: Use Primer If Necessary

If you are using paint that doesn’t include primer, you’ll want to start by applying primer to the edges of your ceiling and around any light fixture openings. You can do so by using your angled paintbrush.

For larger areas of your ceiling, use a roller and paint in straight lines that overlap on the edges. Ideally, start in a corner and work in small sections until the entire ceiling is evenly covered with a layer of primer.

Step 2: Let the Primer Dry

Allow the primer to completely dry before determining if you need a single coat or if your ceiling needs another coat of primer. Make sure to let the primer fully dry before moving on to painting your ceiling.

Step 3: Apply Paint

Start by painting along the edges of your ceiling and around any objects or light fixtures, just as you did with your primer. From there, you can work on painting a base layer of paint on your ceiling.

You’ll want to use the same technique as you did with your primer, painting in straight lines that overlap on the edges.

Step 4: Let the Paint Dry

Before you determine whether you need another coat of paint, let the first layer completely dry. This will help you recognize any spots that could use more paint. Most ceilings require at least two coats of paint.

Step 5: Repeat as Necessary

If you can still see through to the base of the ceiling after the first round of paint, repeat the above steps as necessary. If your ceiling wasn’t painted, to begin with, you might need to use more paint to achieve the look you want.

Do It Yourself vs. Hiring a Skilled Contractor

Painting is a tedious, time-consuming task, especially on a popcorn ceiling. While it is entirely possible to paint your popcorn ceiling on your own, you’ll have to first invest in the right tools and equipment if you don’t have them on hand.

Consider the physical costs of painting your popcorn ceiling as well, as it is a physically tolling task that requires strength and stamina.

Of course, you can always opt to have a professional take care of this task instead, and this is precisely the type of service that we offer. At Oahu Pro Painters, our professional painters are specialized in both residential and commercial painting projects, always offering competitive pricing and flexible scheduling.

Take advantage of our complimentary estimates, and we’ll be happy to provide you with a quote.

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

Written By:
Karl Van Zadnt

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