$25 Popcorn Ceiling Removal – Part 1

Ready to remove your gross popcorn ceiling? To get decades of dust and grime you’ve been staring at OUT of your house?

Turns out, this project is so cheap and easy! Well, at least, it’s very cheap and not complicated. I’ll put it that way, ha.

When we remodeled our bathroom in December 2020, I wanted to add this project to our list. We were in over our heads already so we put it off. Bummer. But our new, tall shower has been directing steam right onto the ceiling and causing the texturing to crack and fall off.

The perfect excuse to learn how to remove the popcorn texture and repaint it, right? I cannot wait to have a clean looking ceiling in our already remodeled bathroom.

This project is manageable whether you’re renovating a new house before moving in, or if you’ve already been living in your home for a while.

I did this all by myself, but if you can wrangle up help, it will go even faster.

Best part? You probably have all the tools you need already. What! Grab a friend, and plan a weekend to tackle this project. You got this.

Here’s what I learned..

What You Need

How To

1. Empty the room

Remove as much furniture and decor as you can. This will make it easier to move the ladder around to reach every corner and crevice without worrying about knocking something over.

2. Hang the plastic sheeting

Hang the plastic sheeting on every wall, overlapping the seams so that there’s no chance for dust or debris to fall through. Add a layer (or two) of plastic sheeting to the floor. Make sure the sheeting from the walls is on top of the sheeting on the floor. Tape the seams as needed. If you’re doing this during a remodel/demo, you could skip hanging the sheeting on the walls.

Tip: If you’re remodeling a room, do this project right after demo! It is much easier when the room is a mess already.

Choose how high up you want the plastic sheeting to go. If you put it right in the corner between the ceiling and the wall, the tape might get wet and fall. I have really tall ceilings and chose to leave about a foot between the ceiling and the plastic sheeting. The dust, dirt, and texture falling off can stick the walls, so just be aware that you may need to clean the areas that are exposed.

Use a single line of tape all the way around the room to attach the plastic sheeting. This will really seal in all the dust and debris.

Make sure the tape is strong enough to hold the plastic sheeting up, as dust and debris will weigh it down and pull on the plastic sheeting a bit. I used this tape on my first attempt, and it did not hold up. This second option did the trick.

3. Suit up – Goggles, Dust Mask, Maybe a Hat

I woke up to swollen eyes and a tight throat because I let 30 years of dust rain down on me the first time I removed the popcorn texture. Don’t be dumb like I was. Wear goggles or protective glasses, and please please use a dust mask so you don’t breath in drywall dust, dirt dust, and whatever else is in there too. Yikes.

Tip: Get your ceiling tested for asbestos if your home was built in the 1980’s or earlier. Use a home test kit like this. If it comes back positive, hire a pro to come remove it or cover it up with shiplap, tongue and groove, or bead-board instead. This is a more costly option but it’s much safer.

4. Spray the Texture

Work in small sections. Spray a 4′ x 4′ area with a spray bottle or garden pump. I suggest doing a moderate to light spray, so you don’t damage the drywall underneath. No joke, I used a $0.99 spray bottle from Target, and it worked great!

Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. If you try scraping it right away, it will create a lot more dust and leave behind lots of texture that you’ll have to sand off later. Wait it out. It will make your life easier.

5. Scrape Away, Baby!

Once the texture is soft, use your putty knife or removal tool at a straight, horizontal angle and start scraping. Try not to gouge the drywall underneath as best you can. Scrapes and dings in the drywall are inevitable, but do your best to keep it smooth. Imperfections will need to be filled in later.

Give all the corners a little extra love. You may need to score them with a razor blade to create a clean line between the ceiling and the wall paint/texture. My ceiling had been painted about 1″ all the way around which made it harder to remove at the edge.

That’s it!

Did you expect more? Me too. I thought this project would be way more complicated. I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.

You’re done with phase 1! All the popcorn ceiling is down, and you’re ready to prep for paint. Take a big sigh of relief because the hardest part is over.

Watch for my next post on how to prep your ceiling for paint. You’re almost done, friend.

(Hint: You’ll want to leave up the plastic sheeting for at least one more step.)

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