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popcorn ceiling

How to Remove Popcorn Ceilings

May 09, 2020 by Liz Brumer

So you've finally made the decision to get rid of the outdated popcorn ceilings in your home, but now you're wondering how exactly to go about it. Although many homeowners contemplating the removal of popcorn ceilings are doing so from an aesthetics viewpoint, popcorn ceilings can also be a pain to keep clean and may even contain asbestos. This article will cover everything you need to know about how to remove popcorn ceilings from start to finish.

Testing and hiring a professional

Before moving forward with your popcorn ceiling removal, it's important that you get the "popcorn" tested for asbestos. While it's not a toxic material when in place, if it's broken up during the removal process, it can enter your lungs and cause serious health issues. There are home test kits you can order to see whether there is any asbestos present, or you can hire a specialist to come in and perform the test for you for a fee.

If your home does test positive for asbestos, you'll need to have professionals remove and dispose of the toxic material. It costs an average of $2 per square foot to remove a non-asbestos popcorn ceiling and an average of $5 per square foot if asbestos is present.

Preparation and materials

A lot of homeowners choose to take a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to removing popcorn ceilings simply because it saves on cost and can be done relatively easily. If you want to do it yourself, set aside one or two days per room to complete this project from start to finish, and have the following materials on hand:

  1. Mask or respirator.
  2. Protective eyewear.
  3. Ceiling scraper with extendable painter's pole.
  4. Putty knife -- the wider the better.
  5. Ladder.
  6. Drop cloths and/or plastic sheeting.
  7. Tape to secure plastic and protect fixtures.

Dry scrape

First, you'll want to cover the floors, furniture, and fixtures with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. Once the rooms are prepped, it's time to start scraping. Put on your protective eyewear and mask and make sure to turn off the air conditioning so dust doesn't get into your ventilation system.

Use the ceiling scraper with an extendable painter's pole to gently scrape the popcorn off your ceiling. Use smooth, level scraping motions so you don't dig into the drywall beneath. Be careful around the tape at the seams of the drywall or it will have to be replaced later. For the edges or around permanent fixtures, use a putty knife so you can access all the hard-to-reach places. Continue until the entire ceiling is smooth.

Wet scrape

If the popcorn is not easily coming off, you may need to do a wet scrape. This is done by spraying small sections of the ceiling with warm water and dish soap to help loosen the popcorn material from the ceiling. This makes popcorn removal much easier but takes more time and could damage the ceiling if done improperly.

Make sure you don't soak the popcorn for too long, as it could potentially damage the drywall underneath. Do a light spray, giving it 15 to 30 minutes to soak in, then test a section for ease of removal. Only apply more water if needed. Follow the same process as the dry scrape once the popcorn is moist and reasonably easy to remove.

Keep in mind that you may have to do minor drywall touch-up work once the popcorn ceilings are removed. After all, popcorn ceilings were created as a cheap and easy way to hide ceiling imperfections. You'll also need to prime and paint the ceiling afterward.

While removing popcorn ceilings can be a bit time-consuming, it's a relatively low-cost renovation that can give your home a clean, fresh, and more modern look.

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