What are the Best Tips for Popcorn Ceiling Removal?

Erin J. Hill

Popcorn ceiling removal generally involves scraping and sanding the area with either traditional or electrical equipment and re-applying mud or another compound to either re-texture the surface or make it appear flat. Sometimes a paint remover or thinner will also be needed if the popcorn texture has been painted over. Special care should be taken because the age of many popcorn ceilings is questionable and they may contain harmful materials such as lead or asbestos.

Gloves and hard hats should be worn when performing popcorn ceiling removal.
Gloves and hard hats should be worn when performing popcorn ceiling removal.

Before engaging in popcorn ceiling removal, it is important to wear the proper safety equipment. Goggles should always be worn to protect the eyes from flying dust and debris; if asbestos is suspected, a mask or respirator may also be used. Gloves and a hard hat are also useful supplies for heavy duty jobs, such as when the ceiling is going to be removed entirely.

A dust mask should be worn during popcorn ceiling removal.
A dust mask should be worn during popcorn ceiling removal.

Sanding or scraping away the texture is the most common method of popcorn ceiling removal. It is often best to wet the area using a specialized solvent or sometimes plain water to prevent dust particles from getting out of hand. This is especially important if asbestos was used in the popcorn texture, which was common in the 1970s when this style of design was most popular. It should not be assumed, however, that a newer ceiling does not have asbestos and special precautions should still be taken.

Ceilings that are covered with paint on top of the texture may require the use of paint thinner or remover, followed by the use of a heavy duty sander. Since these ceilings cannot be dampened as efficiently as unpainted ones, masks should always be worn to prevent inhalation of dust particles. Once the texture is removed, additional drywall mud or another compound can be applied and textured to the desired appearance.

In very rare cases, the entire ceiling may be removed and replaced with new drywall. This is most common when damage to the structural integrity is also present or during a full remodel of an older home. The most important thing to remember during this process is to avoid dust exposure as much as possible.

Additional options for popcorn ceiling removal may include painting over an older ceiling or using drywall compound to cover up the popcorn texture. This may limit style options but is often quicker and less expensive than sanding the texture off beforehand. This will also help to prevent dust from entering the air and possibly contaminating it with lead paint debris or asbestos, both of which have been linked to a host of health problems.

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