Popcorn Ceiling Removal: DIY Methods And Total Cost

Some people do not pay attention to their ceiling. Homeowners should know about popcorn ceiling removal: DIY methods and total cost. Original popcorn ceiling contains asbestos and synthetic polymers. This was considered a modern look. 

Today, popcorn ceilings are made with Styrofoam or similar material. They are one of the least popular types of ceilings. However, most people that have them, want them removed asap. 

What Are Popcorn Ceilings?

Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Popcorn ceilings have been around since the 30s. From the 50s to the 70s, they were popular. Since the first popcorn ceilings were used with asbestos, they were banned in ‘77 and new popcorn ceilings didn’t have asbestos. 

After that, they became less and less popular. People believed they were perfect for hiding flaws and offered insulation for upper stories. This may have been true, but they found out the cons outweighed the pros

Why Remove Popcorn Ceilings? 

You may be wondering why people remove popcorn ceilings. Since the asbestos ban, people began removing them from their homes. Popcorn ceilings are few and far between. But why? Popcorn ceilings aren’t ugly or unappealing.

Here are the three main reasons people remove them. 


Popcorn ceilings are dated. They are out of style and will remind anyone of the 1970s. They don’t look modern and don’t work with other design styles.

If you want an older ceiling, plaster is a good choice. Plaster walls and ceilings last longer if taken care of and are like drywall. Find out more about plaster walls and ceilings compared to drywall here. 

Pesky Texture

Another reason to remove popcorn ceilings is because of the texture. Unlike smooth walls, popcorn ceilings are a hotbed for spiders, cobwebs, and dust. Not to mention, the top layer can peel or flake off and release harmful particles. 


This is the main reason to get rid of popcorn ceilings. If the ceilings were installed before 1980, there’s a chance that they contain asbestos. If this is the case, always have a professional test them before going the DIY route.

Never DIY asbestos walls or ceilings. Have a professional remove the popcorn ceiling if you fear there is asbestos in your home. They can rid your home of asbestos without causing you any harm in the future. 

How do you know if your home is affected by asbestos? You can tell by the appearance of pre-1970s construction. But in some cases, health conditions appear with little to no sign of cause. 

Signs Of Asbestos Exposure

Here is the list of symptoms of asbestos exposure. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor. Though they may or may not be caused by asbestos, they should not be left untreated. The respiratory symptoms are more common and more serious. 

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dry cough or wheezing.
  • Crackling sound when breathing.
  • Chest pain or tightness.
  • Pleural plaques.
  • Respiratory complications.
  • Pleural effusion (accumulation of fluid in the space. surrounding a lung).
  • Pleural thickening.
  • Asbestosis.
  • Abdominal swelling and distention.
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain.
  • Bowel obstruction.
  • Hernia.
  • Weight loss.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Clubbed fingers.

If you don’t have symptoms but an older popcorn ceiling, remove it. Popcorn ceilings installed before 1977 contain asbestos. You’ll need a pro asap. 

How To Remove A Popcorn Ceiling

How To Remove A Popcorn Ceiling

There are a few ways to remove popcorn ceilings. These are the three most effective ways without having to hire a professional contractor which will more than double the cost. 

Method 1: Most Efficient Method

This method takes time but leaves you with a smooth look. You won’t need to buy much for it and if you do, it won’t cost more than $50. It’s a great, efficient, and the most common way to remove popcorn ceilings. 

What You’ll Need

  • Sprayer, a garden, or paint sprayer.
  • Putty knife (and floor scraper if needed).
  • Dropcloth.
  • Catch tray or pan.
  • Ladder.
  • Sander or sandpaper.

Prepare The Area

Lay your drop cloth out that you won’t make a mess all over your floor. This is important if you have carpet because you won’t get rid of the particles and mud from your carpet if you don’t use a drop cloth. 

If your floors aren’t finished or you’ll replace them, leave the drop cloth out. Disposable dropcloths are cheap and make for easy cleanup. 

Spray The Ceiling

Popcorn ceilings are easier to remove when wet. Don’t let the water soak through the drywall beneath it. Use the sprayer on one area at a time so it doesn’t soak long. 

If the ceiling soaks for too long, it will get underneath which could cause cracks and mold. You can spray again if it’s not wet enough, just don’t let it sit. 

Start Scraping

There are two ways you can do this. For smaller areas, use the tray and putty knife to scrape off the wet ceiling. You can also use the putty knife for touch-up work and remove most of the ceiling with a floor scraper. 

Using a floor scraper is easier since you can get the work done faster, but not everyone can do this. Putty knives are cheaper if you have a small area, and they will work fine. 

Method 2: Easiest And Cheapest Method

This method is easier, but it leaves a rough texture that looks like stomped drywall. It won’t leave a smooth ceiling, but it can be done quick and cheap. If you want texture, then you’ll love how it looks. 

  • Popcorn ceiling removal tool.
  • Dropcloth.
  • Ladder.
  • Drywall Hand Sander with screens.
  • Mask.
  • Fan.

Prepare The Area

You won’t be wet the ceiling. Instead, you’ll be doing it try. Wear a mask, use a drop cloth, and point a fan so it blows out a window. Stay away from the room if you have asthma.

Using a mask is a good idea for remodeling work. However, it’s necessary when there will be dust or harmful particles in the air. If you do a lot of renovating, keep a box handy.

Scrape The Ceiling

This will be difficult, but you can scrape dry popcorn ceiling. You won’t get all off it but removing the top layer can make a difference. You can try more, and if so use the first method. 

Sand The Ceiling

After you remove the top layer, sand it with thick sandpaper or a sander. This will smooth the area. The result will look like stomped drywall. 

Method 3: Mess-Free Method

What Are Popcorn Ceilings

This method is more complicated to set up but easy once you get it right. If you don’t have a ShopVac, this may not be ideal as you’ll need to invest in one.

  • Duct Tape.
  • Drywall Taping Knife.
  • ShopVac.
  • Wide ShopVac Wet/Dry Nozzle.
  • Extension Tube.
  • Extra ShopVac Filter.
  • Ladder or Stilts.

Wet The Ceiling

Wetting the ceiling is recommended. It will ensure the ceiling scrapes right off. Since you’re using a ShopVac, the moisture won’t affect the machine. 

Create The Tool

Secure the extension and nozzle onto the ShopVac. Then, duct tape a knife under the nozzle that when held upside down, any debris will fall into the nozzle. The knife should hover above the vacuum opening. 

Start Vacuuming 

For this method, stilts will help you can move as you vacuum, and it will feel like vacuuming a floor. A ladder will work, but it will take longer. 

Cost Of Popcorn Ceiling Removal 

What Are Popcorn Ceilings

The initial cost of popcorn ceiling removal depends if you do it yourself. It also depends on the size of the room. Our examples will cost for a 20×20 ceiling. 

The cost is $1 to $2 per square foot. But this doesn’t include refinishing and painting. when you add everything up the cost can change. 

If all you’re paying for is materials, expect to pay less than you’d pay for a pro to remove popcorn ceiling. The average cost is $500.

This will include paint to repaint when you’re finished. But that’s small compared to hiring a pro. With them, you will pay for materials and labor. The workers charge $40 per hour, and you’re paying for whoever they bring with them. 

Expect to pay no less than $1,000. If you don’t have asbestos, doing it yourself is the better option. But to each their own, there’s nothing wrong with hiring a pro if you can afford it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Can you remove popcorn ceiling that has been painted with oil based paint?

Before you do anything, have your ceiling tested for asbestos. You could rip the ceiling off, do not scrape it. Replace it with drywall so it matches your connecting ceilings.

Cover the room in plastic and apply paint stripper. You can scrape the popcorn off. For difficult areas, use a heat gun. Open a window and have a box fan flowing outward.  

And don’t forget to wear eye protection.

Will Removing Popcorn Ceiling Add Value To My Home?

It depends on the size of the house. For smaller homes, you’ll need to determine if it would be worth it. If you’re trying to sell a large home, it is harder if you haven’t removed the popcorn.

What kind of shop vac attachment do I need to remove popcorn ceiling?

With duct tape, attach a six-inch spackling knife to the end of a shop-vac nozzle. After it’s secured, start removing the popcorn. To reduce dust, attach an exhaust hose so it blows debris outside a window.

How do you remove mold from popcorn ceiling?

If you notice yellow stains on your ceiling, then you have a leak. Water leads to mold. To remove it, you’ll need bleach or hydrogen peroxide to kill the mold.  

Combine water and bleach in a spray bottle. Keep your eyes and mouth covered when spraying the mold. Hydrogen peroxide is better because it evaporates after you remove the mold on your first pass.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Conclusion

With popcorn ceilings, you need to watch for mold. There are many DIY methods you can use to remove mold. Regardless of which method you choose, make sure you cover your eyes and mouth

You want to play it safe and do it right, so your best bet is to call a professional. If you ruin your ceiling, it wouldn’t be worth it.