How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling: The Ultimate DIY Guide for a Smooth Finish


If you’re a homeowner or DIY enthusiast, chances are you’ve encountered popcorn ceiling, also known as cottage cheese ceiling or stucco ceiling. This common texture was popular in the mid-20th century as a cost-effective way to hide imperfections and add acoustic properties to a room. However, many homeowners today find it unattractive and difficult to clean. Not to mention, some popcorn ceiling may contain asbestos and pose a health risk when disturbed. That’s why it’s important to know how to safely and effectively remove popcorn ceiling. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process, step-by-step.

Easy DIY Guide to removing Popcorn Ceiling: Step-by-Step Instructions for a Simple and Safe Removal Process

To remove popcorn ceiling, you’ll need the following tools and materials:

  • Eye protection goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheeting to protect flooring and furniture
  • Spray bottle or garden sprayer filled with warm water
  • Paint scraper or drywall knife
  • Sanding sponge or sandpaper
  • Joint compound or drywall mud
  • Paint and paint roller or sprayer (optional)

Once you have your supplies, follow these steps:

  1. Prep the area: Remove all furniture and decor from the room and cover flooring with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. Turn off the power to any ceiling fixtures and cover them with plastic or tape to avoid water damage. Use a ladder to secure a plastic sheet to the walls, creating a barrier against unsightly scraping splatter.
  2. Wet the ceiling: Use your spray bottle or garden sprayer to wet a small section of the ceiling. It should be damp but not dripping. Let the water soak in for 10-15 minutes before moving to the next section. This will help loosen the popcorn texture and make it easier to remove.
  3. Scrape off the popcorn texture: Starting with the wet section, use your paint scraper or drywall knife to gently scrape off the popcorn texture. Work in small sections, just a few square feet at a time, and be careful not to damage the drywall underneath. Use a sanding sponge or sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots or remaining texture. Repeat the wetting and scraping process until the entire ceiling is smooth.
  4. Apply joint compound or drywall mud: Once the ceiling is smooth, use a trowel to apply a thin layer of joint compound or drywall mud to cover any imperfections or seams. Allow the compound to dry for 24-48 hours before sanding it smooth. Remove any dust with a damp cloth before painting.
  5. Paint (optional): Now that your ceiling is smooth and repaired, it’s time to paint. Choose a paint with a flat or matte finish to avoid emphasizing surface imperfections. Apply two coats of paint using a roller or sprayer and let dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before moving furniture back in.

Safety Tips:

  • Wear eye protection goggles and a dust mask to avoid inhaling particles or water droplets.
  • Turn off the power to any ceiling fixtures and cover them with plastic or tape to avoid water damage.
  • Avoid using a ladder if possible to prevent accidents.
  • Avoid work on the ceiling in hot temperatures or extreme humidity because those will affect the consistency of the product you are working with.
  • Work in small sections at a time to avoid fatigue and to keep the area neatly organized.

Say Goodbye to Popcorn Ceiling: Top Tips and Tools for Safe and Efficient Removal

Aside from the basic tools you need to scrape popcorn ceiling, several other tools can make the process faster and safer.

Protective Gear

It’s important to protect yourself while working with textured ceilings. Investing in protective gear such as a Tyvek suit, gloves, and a respirator will keep you safe from harmful particles and chemicals that can be present in old textured plaster. A hat will protect your hair while working overhead, and wearing slip-resistant shoes may help prevent falls.

Wetting Agents and Tools

Wetting agents soften and break down the texture of the ceiling, making it easier to scrape off. You can either use a simple solution of warm water and vinegar or a store-bought commercial product. A garden sprayer or a pump sprayer is handy for distributing the solution evenly. A textured ceiling scraper or a joint knife with a wide blade helps remove the texture without gouging the drywall.

How to safely dispose of the popcorn texture

Popcorn texture was commonly made with asbestos before the 1980s. If you suspect your ceiling contains asbestos, have it tested before removal and follow all safety guidelines for its capture and disposal. If it’s safe to handle, simply place the accumulated texture into large garbage bags and dispose of them in the garbage. Avoid putting too much in each bag, so they don’t become too heavy to handle.

The Ultimate Guide to Removing Popcorn Ceiling: Tricks, Techniques, and Safety Recommendations

If your ceiling is old, has water damage, or has been painted over, popcorn removal can be more challenging. Here are a few tips:

Wet the Ceiling with Care

If your ceiling is water-damaged or has been painted over, wetting the popcorn can damage it further. In this case, it’s best to use a specialized ceiling texture scraper tool to scrape the surface carefully and slowly. If your ceiling is well damaged it’s better to get in touch with professionals to handle it.

Address Underlying Issues First

If you discover that your popcorn ceiling hides a host of underlying issues such as cracks, holes, or other imperfections, address them before moving to the ceiling. Once you’ve solved the underlying issue, taking down the popcorn texture will become much easier.

Saving Money and Tackling Your Popcorn Ceiling Removal Project

You may think hiring a professional is the best option for removing your popcorn ceiling, but it can be an expensive option, with an average cost of at least a few hundred and even thousands of dollars in larger projects. Doing it yourself is definitely cheaper and you’ll have control over the entire process.

One common mistake homeowners make is overspending on materials. In general, try to avoid top-dollar equipment and tools unless you plan to remove popcorn ceiling frequently. However, you don’t want to skimp on safety gear or sub-par material.

One major upside of removing popcorn ceiling yourself is the sense of satisfaction once you have successfully removed the texture. You’ll have complete control and will save yourself the time and effort of having to work with a third-party.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal: A Comprehensive Guide to Prep, Removal, and Painting

Now that the texture is gone, it’s time to prepare the surface properly for painting. Follow these tips for a seamless finish:

Inspect for Imperfections

After scraping off the popcorn, your ceiling will look rough. Check for any visible imperfections, such as gouges and holes, and address them with joint compound or drywall mud. X-rays are recommended to check for underlying issues such as wires and plumbing holes.

Sand the Surface

After applying joint compound, sand it lightly to remove any protrusions or rough edges until the surface is completely smooth. Use a sanding sponge, starting with a coarse grit and progressing to a fine one.

Choose the Right Paint

The final step is painting, to have a brilliant finish. Choose a high-quality primer specifically formulated to fill imperfections. It’s important to use a paint with a flat or matte finish to hide any remaining blemishes and give the ceiling a seamless look.

Common Mistakes to Avoid During the Painting Process

  • Applying Too Much Paint: applying thick coats of paint can crack and cause issues down the line, so but thin and even applications are important.
  • Painting in High Humidity: High humidity can ruin paint quality, so avoid painting during this kind of weather.
  • Not Painting Enough Coats: Two coats of paint is the recommended amount for perfecting your newly remodeled ceiling.

5 Effective Ways to Remove Popcorn Ceiling: From Wetting and Scraping to Texturing and Covering

There are a variety of different ways you can remove popcorn ceiling from your home. The following are five of the most effective methods:

Wetting and Scraping

This is the most common method and the one we’ve covered in detail in this article. It’s most effective for small areas or spaces with moderate popcorn texture. For larger areas, it’s slow and time-consuming.


This method is useful for small areas with stubborn popcorn texture. However, it can generate excessive dust, which can be harmful to your health if ingested or inhaled. The use of protective gear and proper ventilation will minimize the risks.

Texturing Over It

Applying a new texture on top of the old one can be a creative way to avoid the removal process. This method can be more time-consuming and does not solve any underlying issues or change the shape of your ceiling, making it an incomplete solution.

Drywall Over It

If the popcorn texture is stubborn, your only option may be to install new drywall over it. This method carries the risk of lowering the ceiling’s height, making the room appear narrower. It’s also not the cheapest option.

Hire a Professional

If your popcorn ceiling removal project involves height and considerable surface areas, you may need help from a professional. This is a safer option, but also a costlier one.


Popcorn ceiling removal can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these easy and essential steps to safely and effectively transform your room into a fresh and joyful space. Remember to always prioritize safety and choose a removal method based on your skill level and budget. Whether you’re motivated by aesthetics, safety concerns, or looking for ways to save money, removing popcorn ceilings is worth the effort.

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