Bob Vila Radio: Removing Popcorn Ceilings

Once popular, popcorn ceilings have fallen out of favor with many homeowners. Read on to learn how you can get rid of these textured applications yourself.

By Roseann Foley Henry | Updated May 29, 2014 10:46 AM

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So-called “popcorn ceilings” became popular back in the 1950s and 60s, because they hid imperfections in ceiling surfaces and added some soundproofing between floors. Unfortunately, they often contained asbestos fibers, which not only helped them fall out of fashion but also made them tricky to remove.


Listen to BOB VILA ON REMOVING POPCORN CEILINGS or read the text below:

Popcorn Ceilings


The potential for asbestos makes it critical that you have your popcorn ceiling tested before you even think about removing it. If your ceiling tests positive, this is not a DIY project. Call in the pros to remove the material safely.

If you’re lucky enough to have an asbestos-free popcorn ceiling, you can take it down yourself. It’s not difficult work, although it can be messy. Remove all furnishings from the room and cover the floor with plastic. Cover doorways with plastic sheeting as well to cut down on dust throughout your house.

Using a spray bottle, spray a five-square-foot section with water. The goal is to saturate the popcorn layer without damaging the ceiling underneath. Wait 15 minutes for the water to penetrate, then start scraping. Keep working in small sections, so that only one area of the ceiling at a time is wet. Continue until the entire ceiling is scraped, then allow to dry overnight.

To finish the job, you’ll need to sand the ceiling, fill in any gouges with drywall compound, and finally prime the ceiling for the paint that will be eventually applied. It’s a tough job, but the results are really worth the effort.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.