How do I Remove a Popcorn Ceiling?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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While the popcorn ceiling was a popular option with some home and office designs during the latter part of the 20th century, many people are choosing to update with a different ceiling design. Unfortunately, removing popcorn ceilings can be a very labor-intensive and messy job. If you want to remove a popcorn ceiling in your home, there are a few simple steps that will minimize both the mess and the amount of time it takes to finish the job.

As with many types of home repair jobs, it is necessary to prepare the space before you attempt to remove a popcorn ceiling. This involves clearing the room of any furnishings as well as temporarily taking down any overhead fixtures, such as a ceiling fan. Also remember to turn off the power to the room, since water will be one of the tools you use to remove popcorn ceilings. Killing the power to the space will prevent you and any assistants from possibly getting a nasty shock as you work. Don’t forget to cover any exposed wiring with plastic and tape, so the wires will not get wet during the removal process.


With the room cleared and the power supply shut down, the next step in removing a popcorn ceiling is to cover the walls and floor in the space. Cheap sheets of plastic, such as those used for disposable drop cloths, will work very well. Secure the sheets with painter's tape along the molding where the ceiling and walls meet. Also use tape to bind sheets placed on the floor with the bottoms of the sheets used to cover the walls. Using the plastic sheeting will keep any clean-up later on to a minimum and thus save a lot of time with the project.

When you remove popcorn ceilings, don’t forget to pick up a roll of rosin paper. The paper will absorb a lot of the water, which will further make cleanup a lot easier. Spread the rosin paper across the floor before you begin the actual task of saturating the ceiling. As a bonus, the rosin paper will keep the floor surface from getting slick, and also minimize the possibility of tracking debris into other rooms.

Just before you begin to remove a popcorn ceiling, make sure to put on safety glasses and a mask. The glasses will prevent debris from falling into your eyes, while the mask will prevent any particles from the loosened ceiling materials from making their way into your lungs. This is especially important, since many of the older popcorn ceilings were constructed with asbestos.

With everything in place, you can begin to wet the ceiling. Use a simple garden hose with a sprayer attachment, taking care to saturate a small section at a time. Once the section is thoroughly saturated, use a joint knife to cut the section away. Most of the section will fall to the floor, and you can use the knife to scrape away any remaining residue. Repeat this process until the entire ceiling is removed.

Once the ceiling is completely down, simply detach the plastic sheeting from the walls, and fold the sheeting and rosin paper into a tight bundle. In one simple step, you will be able to remove just about all the debris and any excess water from the space. With the debris out of the way, you can finish the final steps in your task to remove a popcorn ceiling and prepare the room for the installation of a new ceiling.

If you use care while you remove a popcorn ceiling, there will be little cosmetic repair needed. Should an area close to a wall become too saturated, it may be necessary to replace a section of paper joint tape. However, since the plastic sheeting and rosin paper easily catch most of the debris, there is likely to be very little to clean up, providing you with ample time to deal with any minor repairs that may be needed.


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