Breaking the Popcorn Ceiling

living room before removing popcorn ceilingNew year, new you, new ceiling. Now that the holidays are over and the chaos of decorating and entertaining has come to an end, it’s time to get back to real life and start decluttering your life for a fresh start. And honestly, nothing needs a decluttering more than your popcorn ceiling.

You might call it stucco or cottage cheese ceiling, but you know what I mean. It’s that weird lumpy texture that’s on so many ceilings built between the 50s and 80s. It’s not attractive, dates the house in a bad way, and spiders are abnormally attracted to it.

Taking down the popcorn and upgrading to smooth ceilings will look better and increase your resale value. It’s also a really easy process in most cases that could be finished in as little as a weekend. So how do you go about it?

Proceed with Caution

popcorn ceilingThe first thing you need to know is that there might be asbestos in there. If you want to take it down, you need to get it tested first. I won’t advise on DIY testing, since that’s super dangerous, but it is possible. Honestly though, just call your state’s EPA contact and they’ll hook you up with a professional to come to check your ceilings. Usually, you can expect to get results back in about a week.

If you have asbestos, you have some options. You can leave it alone since asbestos is only harmful if the ceiling is disturbed enough to release it into the air. You can have it pulled down, which will probably require you to move out for a bit (usually 3 days to a week depending on the size of the area) so the house can be tented and properly cleared. Or you can put drywall over the whole ceiling which will smooth it out and keep the asbestos thoroughly contained.

I do NOT recommend DIYing anything that may expose you to asbestos. Please hire someone who is certified to deal with it.

If your test results come back negative and there’s no asbestos detected, you can move on to the next thing.

How to Remove It

Now, this isn’t particularly difficult, but it is a huge mess. If you don’t have hours to devote to it, you’re better off hiring a professional to come in (because this will be a quick job for a seasoned pro).

popcorn ceilingIf you’re determined to do this on your own, start by moving out all the furniture and protecting your floors. The prep is pretty similar to painting a ceiling, but instead of just putting down drip cloth, you’re gonna create a huge bag around the room. You’ll need to spread a huge sheet of plastic tarp over the floor and use painters tape to fix it about a foot up on the walls. When you pull down the popcorn, it all gets caught in the tarp so you can just toss the whole sack in a dumpster.

You’ll also want a dust mask and some goggles. Even if you don’t have asbestos, you still don’t want to inhale any drywall or spiders.

To actually take the popcorn down, you’ll want to mix water and vinegar in a spray bottle (like what Windex comes in), spray a small section of the ceiling at a time, then just scrape it off with a trowel or a putty knife. You might also have some luck with a wet paint roller – it’ll apply the water with a nice even pressure that loosens the popcorn if it doesn’t peel it off completely. This is a good option if you don’t want to be on a ladder for several hours at a time.

If you have a wallpaper to protect or want to avoid any chance of water damage on the ceiling, you can scrape it off-dry, but it’s gonna take a lot more time.

The thing I want to emphasize is that this is a time-consuming, laborious process to do right. Be prepared before you decide to go the DIY route.

What to Do with Your New Ceiling

ceiling after popcorn removalYou did it (or you paid someone to do it)! The popcorn is vanquished! But now you have an ugly exposed ceiling. So what’s next?

This is the part where professional drywallers are indispensable. There’s truly a fine art to getting a clean finish on a ceiling. First, you want the whole thing sanded down. It’s probably really uneven, which might be one reason why the popcorn was put up, to begin with.  Then you can put a fresh coat of smooth drywall over it. You can then paint it however you like. That said, if your popcorn ceiling is already painted, it might be close to impossible to scrape off. In that case, you can skip ahead and just have new drywall put over it.

Maybe you want something fancier? Put planks over the ceiling which you can paint or stain at any point. Or opt for some decorative ceiling tiles. Whatever you choose is going to be much nicer than the mess you started with.

As long as you’re up there, this is also a great time to look at new light fixtures. Just something to think about if you’ve been considering switching to recessed lights.

bowl of popcorn

Let us know
if you’re looking at creating a popcorn ceiling, and we’ll set up an appointment for a free consultation to figure out the best solution for you.

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