How to Repair or Remove Your Popcorn Ceiling 

by Andrew Ahearne - December 6, 2021

Popcorn ceilings, also known as acoustic, vermiculite, stucco or cottage cheese ceilings, were all the rage in the mid 20th century. They were renowned for their unique bumpy texture and time-saving ease of application. However, once the 1980s had rolled around, popcorn ceilings quickly fell out of favour.

Why Did People Install Popcorn Ceilings?


While a popcorn texture on a ceiling wasn’t the prettiest to look at, it did do a great job absorbing sound from above. They also easily covered ceiling imperfections such as dirt, water stains, and cracks.

Popcorn ceilings were primed and sprayed on with a hopper gun using a variety of mixtures. Some mixtures contained polystyrene, were cardboard-based or made from the mineral known as vermiculite. Its bumpy appearance helped to create the sound-proofing effect.

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What Problems did a Vermiculite Ceiling Cause?


The primary concern with popcorn ceilings is that they are known as a haven for asbestos. In fact, it was not uncommon for popcorn ceilings to contain up to 10% asbestos, causing severe health concerns among household members. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is known to cause respiratory problems such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

If you’re renovating your home and removing your popcorn ceiling is on the agenda, you must take extreme caution. Let’s go through the necessary steps to banish popcorn ceilings containing asbestos:

Test Your Ceiling for Asbestos


Not every popcorn ceiling contains asbestos, but it is best to err on the side of caution and test your roof for this hazardous material. You’ll first want to get a professional to get your ceiling tested, as laboratory testing is the only way to determine its asbestos content for sure.

If you’re willing to DIY, you can purchase a test kit from a hardware store or online, whereafter you can send the results to a lab for confirmation. When doing DIY testing, always wear proper safety gear, including gloves, goggles, and a dust mask to protect yourself from the harmful asbestos fibres.

Popcorn ceilings testing positive for asbestos should not be removed by DIYers but rather by a professional asbestos abatement contractor. They will either cover your top with drywall or tongue-and-groove planks or scrape away the popcorn ceiling texture.

Steps On Removing a Popcorn Ceiling without Asbestos


Begin Prep


Before removal can begin, place plastic drop cloths on your floor and walls to protect them from the stucco ceiling’s debris.

Drop cloths are also necessary to protect your furniture and other belongings from any paint, plaster, or debris that may fall during the removal process. However, you can also relocate your furniture to another room while the popcorn ceiling is scraped off.

Remove Fixtures


After placing your drop cloths, carefully remove anything hanging from the ceiling, such as light fixtures and fans. Be sure to turn off your HVAC system and cover the vents with plastic to avoid any asbestos particles entering the air ducts.

Fixtures can hamper your workspace during the scraping process, making the job more difficult and time-consuming than it has to be. 

Spray Your Ceiling with Water in Small Sections


Now that you’re ready to start the removal process, begin by spraying the ceiling with a garden sprayer or wet pump in small sections. You can also mix white vinegar with water if the surface is covered with dirt and bacteria. However, be sure not to soak the surface, as this could damage the Sheetrock below the old ceiling.

Once you’ve sprayed your desired area, wait for 15 minutes or so for the water to soak in. It’s important to work in smaller sections, as spraying your entire ceiling at once will cause the water to dry up before you’re done scraping.

Scraping Time


Now comes the fun part: Scraping.

You’ll want to use a wide putty knife or drywall taping knife to remove the texture from your ceiling, being sure to collect falling debris in a plastic bucket. Alternatively, you can purchase a popcorn ceiling scraper from a home improvement store if you have one nearby. These scrapers have a plastic bag attached to them to collect the debris, making for easy cleanup.

When scraping, do so gently as not to damage the Sheetrock beneath. If the texture is stubborn and doesn’t want to come off, spray with water a second time and wait for it to soak in. Do not gouge your ceiling, as this could poke holes in the material which will require repairing later on.

Prepping Your Ceiling for a New Splash of Paint


paint and brushes

Now that your popcorn ceiling is gone, you may be wondering what to do with the exposed Sheetrock or plaster. If you’re not too keen on the exposed look, you can always paint it for a more finished appearance using a paint sprayer or roller.
If your ceiling has been damaged during the removal process, be sure to repair it before painting. You can use joint compound to cover up holes or dents and sand them for an even surface. After filing, you can prime the ceiling to make it ready for paint.


Cleaning Up

Once you’re finished scraping and painting, it’s time for the final cleanup. Collect all debris in your plastic sheeting and dispose of them accordingly. Use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment to remove any remaining dust or particles from the walls, and floor.

Wipe down all surfaces with a wet cloth to remove any lingering dirt and remember to turn your HVAC system back on and remove any plastic from vents.

Covering Your Popcorn Ceiling Instead of Removing


Scraping popcorn ceilings is messy, time-consuming, and there’s always a chance of damaging the Sheetrock below. Instead, you can install a layer of drywall to cover your popcorn ceiling. Drywall is a thin sheet of gypsum board used to cover walls and ceilings and a cheap alternative to most woods.

Other options to cover your popcorn ceiling include:

Faux Tin Tiles – These are metal tiles with a textured, embossed surface. They come in various colours and styles and can be installed with adhesive over your existing popcorn ceiling.

Wood Paneling – Wood panelling is a popular way to cover up an ugly ceiling. It comes in many different finishes and designs and can be installed with nails.

Cleaning and Repairing Your Popcorn Ceiling


Not everyone despises Cottage cheese ceilings today. To many, it’s a nostalgic part of their home. If you are one of these people, and your popcorn ceiling is in good condition, proper maintenance can be achieved by doing the following:

Vacuuming – Use your device’s brush attachment and gently vacuum your ceiling every few months to remove any dust or dirt. Going hard can cause its texture to crumble, so be gentle.

Cleaning – mix one quart of warm water with some dish soap and pour into a spray bottle. Spray ceiling stains and dab with a sponge. Let your ceiling dry overnight and if your stain remains, repeat the process.

Repairing and Patching – If you have a hole in your popcorn ceiling, use a putty knife to scrape off any loose material and fill the gap with a popcorn ceiling repair and patch kit. If you don’t have this, find a patch kit that matches the colour and texture of your ceiling. Ensure not to leave any air gaps and use a putty knife to smooth the surface.

Restore and Paint Your Ceiling with Newline Painting


Has your ceiling better days? Bring the life back into your ceilings with a fresh coat of paint! Newline Painting is an Australian-based company that provides interior and exterior services and more for your home.

Our painters are experts at restoring your walls/ceilings and achieving an easy-to-apply paint finish with minimal mess. We use drop sheets to paint and protect your floors and vacuum all dust from your walls and ceiling. All that’s left is for you to enjoy your new ceiling.

If you’re looking for a painting company that can restore and paint your ceiling to its former glory, contact Newline Painting today at 1300 044 206 or get an instant quote on our site!

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