Popcorn ceilings aren't everyone's cup of tea. Getting rid of them seems like a large undertaking, but it's really not that bad. In a span of two days, even a beginner can change a ceiling from textured to flat. All you need are a few items such as a garden sprayer, scrapers, spackle, sandpaper, and protection. And some hours of spare time, of course.
Removing a popcorn ceiling can cost less than $50. So if you have a free weekend and confidence in yourself, let's master this DIY skill!
The first step of your DIY removal needs to be about safety. Depending on the era of installation, a ceiling could contain lead or asbestos. At-home test kits are available for both, so use them to see what your ceiling potentially holds.
When testing, be vigilant and wear gloves and a mask. If your ceiling was done in the 1980s or earlier, then it's likely to contain harmful materials. If any of your tests show positive results, you'll need to take precautions throughout the entire job, starting with protective gear.
Removing a popcorn ceiling might not be too hard, but it's definitely dirty work. The entire room will be affected by debris, so take the time to properly protect the area. Remove all decor and lightweight items. Get someone to help you move heavy furniture, but if you're on your own, don't risk injury or damage: securely cover all items with plastic sheeting and tape instead.
Do the same with your walls, making sure to tape the edges as close to the ceiling as possible without covering any portions you'll be removing. Blanket the floor with plastic as well. Your goal should be to have no area of the room exposed except the ceiling, while still being able to make your way around the room, of course.
Don't wait till you're in the middle of your job to grab what you need. Have your scrapers, sandpaper, stepladder, protective gear, and everything else ready to go. This will save you time in the long-run, and it'll keep your home cleaner since you won't be tracking debris everywhere searching for an item.
The last thing you should do before beginning is fill your garden sprayer with warm water.
Pump your garden sprayer to build pressure. Test a small area by spraying it and letting the ceiling absorb the water. Wait around 15 minutes, and it should be ready to go. If the ceiling was painted, the process could take longer and require several applications.
As a helpful tip, adding a cup of fabric softener to every half-gallon of warm water will help to soften the ceiling.
Once your test area is adequately softened, scrape away the texture. At first, a wide scraper works best. Push it gently till you feel it hitting into the plaster or drywall. Hold the scraper at a low angle, coaxing it forward. It should easily glide, removing the material without much effort.
The texture of what's coming off should be almost soupy or look like cottage cheese. When your results fit this description, you're in good shape. If you have to apply a bit of force, or the material seems dry, you need more water and additional soaking time.
When all the kinks are ironed out and your trial section is successfully stripped, it's time to move on to the rest of the ceiling. Follow the same format, concentrating on small areas as you go along. If you wet the entire ceiling at once, most parts will dry before you get to them, wasting valuable time, effort, and resources.
For corners and edges, go with a narrow scraper, proceeding in the same manner. This part will require more precision, so take your time.
Start to finish, the scraping process only takes around four hours for the average room. Drying is what consumes most of the project's time. Give the ceiling at least 24 hours to air out. Increase the ventilation of the room to speed up the process. If you don't allow the room and ceiling to dry properly, the rest of the job won't be successful.
Don't be alarmed if you gouge or scratch your ceiling when scraping. Such things are bound to happen, even to professionals. Repairs for this type of DIY are a routine part of the job.
Clean off your scrapers and the affected areas. Spackle any holes or uneven sections. Once the areas dry, use fine-grit sandpaper to even out the surface.
Between the scraping, patching, and sanding, your ceiling is going to look a bit battle hardened. The next step is to wipe it entirely clean, making sure to get all the dust off: even a little will ruin your paint job.
When you're confident your ceiling's ready, use your preferred methods to primer and paint. After the process is complete, inspect all areas. Once you're satisfied, it's time to clean up the mess, take down the plastic, and put your room back together.
Removing a popcorn ceiling entails a lot of waste. If it's not hazardous, you're permitted to throw it away just as you would any other trash. Contractor bags are more durable than regular garbage bags and will withstand the weight of saturated materials.
If you have waste containing asbestos or lead, you can't include it with your normal curbside trash. This requires a permit for disposal and has to be done separately.