How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling: A Step-by-Step Guide

Popcorn ceilings, also known as stipple or acoustic ceilings, were a popular design choice in the mid-20th century due to their ability to hide imperfections and provide sound insulation. However, they have since fallen out of favor, with many homeowners seeking to replace them with smoother, more modern finishes. Removing a popcorn ceiling can significantly update the look of a room, making it feel more contemporary and spacious. While the process can be messy and time-consuming, with the right preparation and tools, you can achieve a professional-looking result. Also, learn about ceiling stucco removal  techniques.

Here’s a detailed guide on how to remove a popcorn ceiling:

1. Preparation

Materials Needed:

  • Plastic sheeting or drop cloths
  • Painter’s tape
  • Ladder
  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask or respirator
  • Scraper (6-inch or larger)
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Putty knife
  • Joint compound
  • Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)
  • Primer and paint


  1. Clear the Room: Remove all furniture and fixtures from the room. Cover the floors and any remaining objects with plastic sheeting or drop cloths. Use painter’s tape to secure the plastic sheeting to the walls.
  2. Turn Off Electricity: Turn off the electricity to the room to avoid any accidents, especially if you’ll be working around light fixtures.
  3. Wear Safety Gear: Put on safety goggles and a dust mask or respirator to protect yourself from dust and debris.

2. Testing for Asbestos

Before you begin, it’s crucial to test for asbestos, especially if your home was built before the 1980s. Asbestos can be hazardous when inhaled.

  1. Collect a Sample: Carefully collect a small sample of the ceiling texture and send it to a lab for testing. Follow the lab’s instructions precisely.
  2. Wait for Results: If the test comes back positive for asbestos, do not proceed with removal. Hire a professional asbestos abatement contractor to handle it safely.

3. Removing the Popcorn Ceiling

  1. Wet the Ceiling: Fill a spray bottle with water and lightly mist a small section of the ceiling. Let it soak for 15-20 minutes. Wetting helps to soften the texture, making it easier to scrape off. Do not oversaturate as this can damage the drywall underneath.
  2. Scrape the Ceiling: Using a wide scraper, gently scrape off the softened texture. Hold the scraper at an angle and be cautious not to gouge the drywall. Work in small sections to ensure the water remains effective.
  3. Repeat the Process: Continue spraying and scraping until the entire ceiling is free of texture.

4. Repair and Smooth the Ceiling

  1. Inspect the Ceiling: Once the texture is removed, inspect the ceiling for any damage. Small dents or gouges can occur during the scraping process.
  2. Apply Joint Compound: Use a putty knife to apply a thin layer of joint compound to any damaged areas. Allow it to dry completely.
  3. Sand the Ceiling: Once the joint compound is dry, sand the ceiling using medium-grit sandpaper, followed by fine-grit sandpaper for a smooth finish. Be sure to wear your dust mask or respirator during this process.
  4. Clean Up: Remove any dust and debris from the sanding process. A vacuum with a HEPA filter can help manage the dust.

5. Prime and Paint

  1. Prime the Ceiling: Apply a coat of primer to seal the drywall and prepare it for painting. Use a roller for even coverage.
  2. Paint the Ceiling: Once the primer is dry, apply at least two coats of paint. Use a flat or matte finish to minimize any imperfections in the ceiling surface.

6. Finishing Touches

  1. Reinstall Fixtures: Once the paint is dry, reinstall light fixtures and any other items you removed from the ceiling.
  2. Remove Protective Coverings: Carefully remove the plastic sheeting or drop cloths from the floors and walls.

Tips for a Successful Removal:

  • Work in Sections: Tackle the ceiling in small sections to ensure the water doesn’t dry before you have a chance to scrape.
  • Keep the Area Ventilated: Open windows and doors to help ventilate the room and reduce dust buildup.
  • Be Patient: Popcorn ceiling removal can be time-consuming and messy. Take your time to ensure a smooth and clean finish.

By following these steps, you can effectively remove a popcorn ceiling and create a smoother, more modern look for your living room. This process, though labor-intensive, can significantly enhance the natural aesthetic of your space, allowing other design elements to shine. To learn more click here: