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3 Tips on How To Remove Popcorn Ceilings

by | May 29, 2022

Removing popcorn ceilings sucks. But living with an ugly popcorn ceiling for most homeowners sucks even more.

Whether you’re looking for popcorn ceiling removal costs or DIY removing popcorn texture from ceilings, we cover 3 tips to help you make the best choice.

We’ll also run through what to do about asbestos ceilings. Not to mention, when to cover popcorn textures with drywall or wood paneling.

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling

Improovy’s team of home improvement experts has successfully removed popcorn textured ceilings for hundreds of homeowners. Accordingly, we’ve seen every type of popcorn ceiling removal or stucco repair project.

From how to remove popcorn ceilings to removal costs and prices, our decades of experience will help you make the safest and wisest decision.

Have a stucco house and want to know how best to maintain it? Learn about how to maintain a stucco home exterior in our new guide for homeowners.

Asbestos Popcorn Ceilings

The best starting point when deciding how to remove popcorn ceilings is determining whether asbestos is present. If your popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, you should hire a certified asbestos abatement contractor. Another option is covering the ceilings with drywall or wood paneling.

Unless you are a certified contractor, removing popcorn ceilings with asbestos is not a DIY project to take on yourself.

For context, Asbestos popcorn ceilings are a style of dimpled drywall texture popular from 1945 to the early 1990s. Most popcorn ceilings applied in older homes prior to 1990 contain asbestos. This dangerous material was found to cause mesothelioma cancer when disturbed. Even sanding, painting, patching, or scraping an asbestos ceiling creates dust that’s harmful if inhaled.

asbestos popcorn ceilings

By the same token, this banned building material is still found in houses built before 1980. For older houses with cracks in popcorn ceilings, it’s extremely dangerous if asbestos particles are inhaled. In this case, call a professional immediately and get your family out of the home!

The best way to determine if your ceilings contain asbestos is to have them tested by an EPA-certified contractor in your state. Please visit the EPA website to learn how to protect your family from asbestos carcinogen exposure.

If there’s no chance of asbestos, keep reading to learn which 3 popcorn ceiling removal options are best.

1. Popcorn Ceiling Removal Costs (Hire A Pro)

According to painting experts, popcorn ceiling removal costs range from $1,923 to $3,876 with an average price of $2,899 to hire a professional. The average sqft cost to remove popcorn ceilings ranges from $5 to $9 per square foot.

This includes all labor, preparation work, and materials to do the job right. No question, the intense amount of labor required will make up the majority of the cost you’ll pay. If asbestos is present, budget for a range of $50 to $150 per square foot for a certified contractor to properly remove it.

Find out how to measure the square feet of a wall or ceiling properly in our latest guide. 

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Costs

Indeed, the easiest way to save money when hiring a painter to remove your popcorn ceilings is to move all of the furniture out of the room. That way, you’ll save on the time spent moving couches or tables in a room. Not to mention, the extra labor spent covering items with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. Plus you’ll save on the labor required to mask off the floors with plastic or paper secured by painter’s tape. Bonus points if you remove ceiling fans and light fixtures prior.

Not surprisingly, the removal process will be extremely messy work. Moreover, this is the case for both large or small areas of popcorn or ugly cottage cheese ceiling removal. Take our advice above and you’ll save big on labor hours. 

Did you know that Improovy’s professional painting teams now service the Dallas-Fort-Worth area? Learn more by visiting our Plano and Dallas homepage to get your free interior or exterior painting quote today!

2. DIY Removing Popcorn Ceilings

DIY popcorn removal is a major project for most homeowners. To remove popcorn ceiling texture yourself, it will take 2-4 days of intense labor for a small bedroom or 4-8 days for larger spaces.

Indeed, larger rooms like a living room or kitchen with vaulted ceilings will take longer. Not to mention, you’ll need to purchase a scraper, sander, putty knife, joint compound, drop cloths, joint tape, and drywall mud from a nearby Home Depot or hardware store. For tall ceilings, you’ll need to buy or rent a ladder as well.

DIY Removing Popcorn Ceilings

Likewise, you need a few coats of paint and primer to ensure a smooth ceiling finish when you’re done. The total cost of materials to remove a popcorn ceiling yourself ranges from $274 to $1,382. As you can imagine, this all depends on the square footage of your room and ceiling height.

For more extensive popcorn ceiling removal jobs, you may need to purchase or rent a professional airless sprayer to coat the surface. Don’t forget about eye protection, dust masks, and all of the plastic and tape wasted prepping your home interior.

In case you’re still up for removing popcorn ceilings yourself, take the following steps to get the job done.

Steps to Remove Popcorn Ceilings (DIY)

Here is a step-by-step process to DIY remove your popcorn ceilings. Again, if you have an older home and there is a chance of asbestos, please seek an EPA-certified contractor to remove it safely.

Before you begin scraping the ceilings, remove all light fixtures and ceiling fans attached to the ceiling. It’s also advised to access your breaker box to turn off all electric sources in the room prior to that.

  1. Purchase supplies and safety equipment from Home Depot or a nearby Lowes hardware store.
  2. Cover all furniture and floors in the workspace or room with plastic, drop cloths, or masking paper.
  3. Scrape off knockdown popcorn texture using warm water in a spray bottle and a scraper tool. Try dry scraping at first and then wet scrape if needed.
  4. Skim coat with a drywall trowel to ensure a smooth surface without gouges. Apply orange peel or texture as desired.
  5. Sand the surface and apply additional skim coats as needed for a smooth ceiling.
  6. Apply a stain-blocking ceiling primer and two coats of interior paint.
remove popcorn ceiling yourself

After a smooth surface is achieved and properly primed and painted, you can now install crown molding if you’d like. Crown molding also helps to hide any inconsistent skim coating in the corners of the ceiling. You may also need to re-install and damaged drywall corner bead or tape.

If you are still wary about all of the work to be done above, we don’t blame you. Luckily, there’s a third option for homeowners that want to get rid of their old popcorn ceilings.

3. Cover Popcorn Ceilings with Drywall or Wood

The third option you have is covering your popcorn ceilings with new drywall or wood paneling. From a cost and time standpoint, this job likely requires hiring professional dry wall contractors or painters that do carpentry.

The average cost to hire a professional to cover popcorn ceilings with new drywall ranges from $10 to $20 per sqft or $2,849 total.

However, if you have a tiny room with small sections of popcorn ceiling this is a job you can DIY fairly easily. That is, if you are handy with a hammer, know how to use a drywall knife, or have applied a coat of paint or two in your day.

new drywall covering popcorn ceilings

Pros and Cons of Covering Popcorn

One benefit to covering popcorn texture versus removing it is not having to deal with the mess or risk of asbestos dust in older homes. Another benefit includes more acoustic ceilings, in case your walls and floors are paper thin.

A drawback of covering popcorn ceilings is that the new drywall or wood paneling may shrink your space or make it look smaller. You can counteract this effect by using a flat white paint color and lighter wall colors to open up the space.

before after photo of popcorn ceiling removal

All in all, covering those ugly popcorn ceilings might just be the perfect choice for you as a homeowner. Of course, this all depends on your situation. For more information, check out our most frequently asked questions below.

More Home Improvement Advice

Check out the related articles below for more home improvement advice you’ll need to maintain your residence like a pro!

Popcorn Ceiling FAQs

The following are the most frequently asked questions by homeowners when it comes to popcorn ceiling removal. Don’t hesitate to contact an Improovy house painting expert in case you are looking for a great painter to offer some advice.

  • Is it cheaper to remove popcorn ceilings or cover them?

    On average, it is $876 to $1,730 cheaper to cover popcorn ceilings versus having to remove them. For those with homes built before 1990 and dealing with asbestos knockdown ceilings, you can save thousands by covering them up. When covering popcorn asbestos ceilings, avoid disturbing the ceilings as this may release harmful dust. Furthermore, we recommend wearing a respirator and eye protection whenever dealing with popcorn texture in your house.

  • Will removing popcorn ceilings increase a home’s value?

    Removing popcorn ceilings will most certainly increase your home’s value. No one likes popcorn ceilings today as the style’s popularity faded out decades ago. Taking the effort to remove them makes your home more appealing for new homeowners. Removing them before listing your house online is a great idea. Plus your real estate photos will look ten times better without the hideous popcorn ceilings.

  • Do painters remove popcorn ceilings?

    Most professional painters near you are also skilled in removing popcorn ceilings. Their painters will likely follow the same procedures as a drywall contractor. A bonus is that you won’t have to hire a painter to finish your ceilings after the drywall is installed.

  • Is removing popcorn ceilings messy?

    One of the messiest home improvement projects on earth is removing popcorn ceilings. That's why we recommend either hiring a professional or removing all furniture from the room prior. Preferably, both. Likewise, you will have to cover all of the floors with paper or drop sheets. That, in addition to creating a dust trap to ensure all the debris doesn't coat the rest of the house. You may even have to cover vents and turn off your A/C. This limits dust circulation through the rest of our home. If there is any chance of asbestos being present, call a certified abatement contractor in your state.