The Joy of Popcorn Ceiling Removal
July 7, 2014
It’s always necessary to do the ugly, messy work before you can get to the pretty. We hate it, but we know it’s true. Before you can add the furnishings and window treatments and pillows and accents you’ve got to establish a clean foundation to build upon and doing so is never ever as fun as styling and arranging, but it must be done.
Enter the battle with sprayed acoustic texture otherwise known as the dreaded popcorn ceiling from the 70s and 80s. It’s everywhere in the house we bought and it must be removed. The process is messy if you do it yourself, somewhat costly if you don’t, but necessary for me in a modern home and one that adds value if you ask my broker/appraiser husband.
We started the process in a bedroom, one that possesses the chicest combination: old tan carpet, yellowed outlet covers, peach metal mini blinds, brass mirrored closet doors, and popcorn ceilings. Really, it’s just so hard to part with it all.
This bedroom was a great place to start for one has not had the pleasure, joy, thrill, delight, excitement, and satisfaction of scraping a popcorn ceiling.
A fact you must know: prior to 1979, popcorn ceilings contained asbestos but it was banned in 1978 so if you have/own/purchase a home from that era grab a test kit at your local home improvement store to diagnose yours. If your popcorn ceiling contains asbestos, leave this job to a professional lest you want to be poisoned. I don’t think you do.
However if your home was built in the late 80s as this one was (1989) you should be safe. I’m here to tell you the process is cheap and simple, albeit extremely messy.
Supplies you’ll need: a very long garden hose to drag into the house; an attached spray nozzle with different mister settings; plastic sheeting to cover the floor/walls/windows; painter’s tape; plastic putty knives; joint compound; 180 grit sanding wedge; ladder; a respirator & safety goggles, and above all, tenacity.
I did a lot of The Reading Of The Tutorials online before I went shopping at Home Depot. Many of them said much of the same thing which gave me great confidence and off to HD I went with my shopping list. I felt equipped and prepared for the job ahead. It began like so.
First, remove any ceiling light fixtures, and make sure wires are capped with wire nuts. I’m replacing this fan with a more contemporary one later this month, this is the desert, so ceiling fans are welcome here. Also remove vent cover.
Next, tape off any area you don’t want to get hit with moisture because you’re about to go crazy with a garden hose inside your house. Note that tape isn’t going to hold for long, my plastic sheeting + painter’s tape combo eventually came down and settled on the floor but cautious spraying does prolong its life.
Next enlist husband/DIY partner with pumped up gung-ho zest for project to spray the ceiling with the garden hose and mister nozzle.
This can be a one person project – after 15 minutes Matt left to work on other things and I tackled the remainder of the ceiling myself – mist then scrape, mist then scrape.
Some people recommend different processes, misting two times, waiting 10 minutes, misting three times waiting 15 minutes etc. but mostly it requires misting an area a few times several minutes apart then scraping the texture off the ceiling. Look at this experience as a substitute for going to the gym, it involves a great arm workout plus a little leg work climbing up and down a ladder.
We tried a metal scraping tool but that seemed to do more damage to the underlying sheetrock so we used the plastic versions and they worked just fine.
Be sure to wear those goggles and a respirator… safety first friends.
Expect a pool of tasty goodness to collect below on the floor.
I used the edge of the plastic tool to slice away the popcorn texture where it met the wall.
You may encounter issues on the ceiling once you’ve scraped, peeling paper, random imperfections but that’s nothing a little joint compound can’t fix. Use the same plastic tool to apply it, wait for it to dry then sand it down with a 180 grit sanding wedge.
Blurry pic but whatev. One cannot be expected to photograph perfectly with the left hand when one is right handed. Universal truth.
Here is the ceiling all scraped, patched, sanded and ready for primer plus paint. Add a new fan above and new flooring below and then the pretty can begin.
I hate that air conditioning vent in the middle of the ceiling with a passion. I have to investigate the complicatedness of moving a smaller vent closer to the closet and away from the light fixture.
I didn’t take the final shot at the end of me covered in the popcorn goo but just imagine all of this coating every part of your hair, clothing, and body. Matt swears I’ve never looked lovelier.
It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. Messy? Yes, totally expect that. But if you fancy being coated in moist white texture and love the idea of a popcorn free flat ceiling I recommend this exercise in home improvement. Just roll it all up, discard, and forget it was ever there.
Total time to remove the popcorn ceiling in this 12 x 13’ bedroom including misting, scraping, compounding, and sanding was about 2 ½ hours not including the primer/paint necessary that remains so add another 45 minutes for the total project.
In other unrelated news, the reconstruction of the pool begins next week in our absence which we’re excited about because right now in the Ugly And Unsafe contest this pool is miles ahead. Also Gross if that’s a category.
We’re tackling this pool renovation in two phases, part one is removal of this broken crumbling glass block wall that separates the pool from the spa. We’re having our contractor create a thicker wall between the two with plaster and tile and then give it an acid wash and chlorine bath so when we return in two weeks we can at least cool off in the pool between projects without worry of losing a limb.
Part Two will be replacing all that burgundy tile with glass or Mediterranean tile (undecided at the moment), but the new tile installation won’t happen until fall, we decided it makes more sense to pretty it up in the off season.
More updates coming soon… .