Removing Popcorn Ceilings – In Chris’ Corner

Removing Popcorn Ceilings – In Chris’ Corner

Article by Chris G. for

We all want to make our homes our own which usually means making changes to suit our own taste. This can be an expensive and time consuming proposition. My wife and I have made great efforts to make our house our own while trying to save money and build equity. We do this by shopping for good deals, performing the labor ourselves, and making changes not just to suit our own taste, but also to consider what we think a future owner might like.

According to some guy at a bank somewhere, people tend to stay in a house for about 5 years. That was certainly the case for us when we bought our first house. Fortunately, the changes we made were desirable to the next buyer. Now that we’re remodeling our third home, we want to keep our frugal philosophies in practice.

Our house was built in 1979, and while the outside has a timeless look, the inside shows it’s age. One thing we wanted to change were the old acoustic ceilings. You’ve probably heard these ceilings referred to as textured, popcorn, and cottage cheese. (Yum! I bet Donna’s got a recipe for that.)
My concern was that I would spend hours scraping and sanding the ceiling smooth only to uncover an uneven surface with tape joints and nail spots showing up in the light and shadow. I think that’s why they texture in the first place. Though it may have served a purpose, that crumbled feta really makes the house look dated.
Now , if you have ever worked on drywall over your head, you already know it’s not fun. Your shoulders tire out quickly, and it seems no matter what you do, the dust and debris lands on your face and gets in your eyes.

Tangent… I’m a guy who hates wearing dust masks because my face sweats, I’m breathing my own hot air, and they put creases in my cheeks. I found a way around this. I bought a box of Michael Jackson style surgical masks. These slip over my ears and don’t apply so much pressure. Plus I feel like one of those cool guys on a doctor show… Dr. McHandy.
In order to efficiently remove the texture I purchased a flooring scrapper from the local home center.
It is constructed of a steel handle welded to a bracket with a thin replaceable blade attached. Now the blade is not sharp, nor is it very thick. It cost me twenty bucks.
I started  in the closet to practice and quickly learned that while it was possible to scrape the ceiling all the way flat, it took so much time and effort. I could tell it would leave me with high and low spots that would require more time and much more effort. Than I had my “ah ha” moment. What if I only scraped  lightly? This way I was only knocking off the “clumps” and leaving the “craters”. We would still have texture, the effort would be considerably less and the time would be cut significantly. The entire room only took about 25 minutes to scrape and no sanding was required.
More careful attention was needed on the edges to keep the wall to ceiling transition smooth and there were a couple of places I had scraped too hard and left a grove. I remedied this by mixing a little drywall compound with water to thin it and blotted it on with a sponge.
Next I primed the ceiling. This took some time and a lot of primer since the surface was now so porous. After that set up, I painted.

Painting ceilings can be tricky in the way of coverage. I like to use cheap paint on ceilings but usually a step up from “ceiling” paint. A wall paint is good, but of an inexpensive grade and always flat white. I like to move in sections and use light to see the shine of the wet paint so I don’t miss spots. I’ve seen paint that rolls on pink and dries white but haven’t used it. I just try to paint thoroughly so I can get it done in one coat.  My roller might cross over the same spot 6 to 10 times and I only roll out an area about 3′ by 3′  before reloading the roller with paint.

When you get to the edges and corners, brush those in and don’t worry about getting ceiling paint on the walls. I actually make sure I get about 1/2″ down the wall. This way when I come back with the wall paint I can use my edge tool that has roller guides to paint a straight line. If it doesn’t get all the way to the top that’s ok because it looks great with a little white stripe at the very top edge. It looks much better than wall paint on the ceiling and takes much less time than taping. (I hate taping and I don’t do it.) The edge tool can also be used around doors and windows as long as the molding is thick enough for the plastic rollers to roll against.
What we were left with on the ceiling was a nice “orange peel” texture that continues to hide imperfections and looks much more modern. What a time saver! We’re very happy with the results.
photo(1)This is a close up picture.  From a distance, the texture is barely noticeable and looks great.

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One thought on “Removing Popcorn Ceilings – In Chris’ Corner

  1. Perri Pender

    Well Dr McHandy, nice job! It turned out great! I am not a very hands on do it yourself person, but you made this sound easy. The finished look is perfect. I will share a little secret too, now that the ceilings are done, paint the ceilings 2 shades lighter than your walls, it makes a warmer rm, and also makes it feel larger. This makes the room just melt together. No more white ceilings for me! BUT you can’t do that on “popcorn” ceilings. A decorator shared that trick with me, and she is so right! Thanks for the info, good blog post:)

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