Over the past few months we have slowly done our own DIY removal of our outdated popcorn ceilings, and today I’m sharing our how to remove popcorn ceilings DIY step-by-step guide!
Happy September, y’all! Today we are diving into the super exciting and wonderful world of. . . popcorn textured ceilings. This is not the stuff of glamorous blog posts, but it IS the stuff of saving money on really expensive projects that you can totally do yourself if you put the time and effort into it. Onward!
If you recall from our walkthrough tour of our new home, when we moved in there was popcorn texture covering all the second floor and basement ceilings. Not our favorite look, but we figured it could be removed eventually. Fast forward several months and that 80’s look just had to go, so we started looking into having it removed. It turns out it is very expensive to have popcorn texture removed from ceilings (but I’m guessing probably not very expensive to have it sprayed up there in the first place 😀 ). That led us to the decision to take it down ourselves. Yay, homeowner feels!
Well it is quite a task to do this on your own, so I will say this: be prepared for the job to take longer than you think, for it to be harder than you anticipated, and to really test the communication skills in your marriage 😀 Now: on to the tutorial!
Quick note before you begin: Take a close look at your ceilings and figure out if they have been painted over the popcorn texture or not. If they have not, proceed as below. If they have been, you can still try to remove them using this technique but be warned that it is much harder to do so as the water needs to soak through the layer of paint as well as the popcorn, which is much more difficult.
Tools You Will Need
- Metal joint knife (we used 10″ size)
- Mud pan (we use a size that is slightly larger than the scraper, so 13″ in this case)
- Something to spray water with (a large spray bottle would work, but we used this hand pump sprayer that allows you to carry more water and has better spraying power)
- Lots of plastic or cloth tarps (I prefer these cloth ones to the plastic, they are easier to maneuver)
- Ventilator masks (I use this one typically while pregnant for any house projects that might have paint, dust or other particles, because it has P100 approval from NIOSH, which means it filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles)
- Garbage bags
- Step ladder or full-sized ladder
- “Painting clothes” 😀 (don’t wear anything nice; just wear the junky outfit you keep around for DIY painting projects!)
- Vacuum (this one is our favorite!)
- Damp rags
Step 1: Cover and prep your work area.
Move all the easy stuff (decor, clothes, etc) to another area, and as much furniture as you can move out of the room, move it! Then tarp everything else that is left including the floor. Wet popcorn ceiling residue is a huge pain to vacuum off carpet as we discovered, and I would imagine it’s a pain to clean off of other anti fatigue mats and floors as well, therefore I recommend covering as much as possible to minimize your clean up afterwards.
As it is likely that the popcorn texture was sprayed on your ceilings before things like light fixtures and smoke detectors went up, I recommend removing those items where possible so you can be sure to scrap everything underneath. We did this as we plan on replacing all the light fixtures in our second floor after finishing the ceilings.
Step 2: Gather all your materials and suit up!
Get everything you need from the list above together and collect it before you start working. The popcorn ceiling residue likes to get everywhere, so you’ll want to try to finish your work with as few breaks as possible. It’s no fun trekking this stuff through the rest of your clean house!
Step 3: Generously spray down the ceilings with water.
The first step is to wet the popcorn, which is what gives it a moist consistency that can more easily be scraped off. I use the term “easily” loosely as this is still difficult! After a lot of trial and error, it seems like spraying each area at least three times (waiting a few minutes in between) seems to do the trick. We would start by spraying a large area (even a whole room) and then go back to one corner to start working. Spray that corner again and let it soak in for a couple of minutes, then start scraping. It worked best for us if one person is the “scraper” (i.e. the hubs as he is much stronger than I am 😀 ), and one person is the “sprayer”. I would spray more as he was working in that area, then move on while it soaked in to spray the area he would be working in next.
Step 4: Use scraper and bucket to remove popcorn.
This is the hard step: Start in one corner of the room. Take your scraper and hold it at about a 45 degree angle against the ceiling, then push it along, trying to bring down as much of the popcorn as possible, while holding your bucket right underneath. This takes some practice to get coordinated at it, but the closer you can hold the bucket to the scraper, the more popcorn will fall into it and the less you’ll have to clean up later. Empty your bucket frequently into a garbage bag (doubled up – this stuff is heavy!) as the wet popcorn can get heavy quickly.
Around the edges, we found it helpful to use a damp rag to help wipe off the excess popcorn, including whatever fell onto the walls itself.
Step 5: Clean up!
Clean up is also very time-consuming. I’d recommend wiping down any excess water on your walls with a dry, clean rag, and wiping off any popcorn texture that got onto surfaces like door handles, light switches, electrical outlets, and baseboards. Then, carefully fold up your tarps from the outside in and take them outside for a good cleaning.
You will likely need to vacuum afterwards as well. Be patient – it took 2-3 vacuumings of each room to get alllll the popcorn out of there. It really likes to get stuck in the carpet! Once you’re done cleaning, you are ready to either finish mudding and sanding the ceilings yourself or hire someone to do that finishing work. (This is where we bowed out and had a professional finish them off, and now we are scheduled to have them painted in just a couple of weeks! Can’t wait!)
Here is the finished product (post-mudding and sanding, pre-painting):
Only five steps makes it sound pretty easy, but step 4 takes the longest, followed closely by step 5! We worked on just a couple rooms at a time because this process was so labor-intensive and really tested our marriage and communication skills (PSA: we are still married 😀 ). Therefore, it took us several months of finding random weekend afternoons to do the entire second floor of our house – but it was worth it!
Let me know in the comments below: is this a home DIY project you would undertake or have you undertaken it before?