How Much Does Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost?

Popcorn ceilings are dated—and some may contain harmful asbestos. Popcorn ceiling removal cost ranges from around $898 to $2,847, with the average homeowner paying $1,853 for professional removal.

By Glenda Taylor | Published Feb 25, 2022 10:51 AM

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

Photo: depositphotos.com

  • Typical Range: $898 to $2,847
  • National Average: $1,853

Popcorn ceilings were all the rage in the 1970s and 1980s—everyone wanted them. Many contained sparkly bits that accentuated the boho decor of the time, like animal print rugs, rattan furniture, and hanging macramé tables. However, the popcorn ceiling trend was relatively short-lived, having fallen out of favor by the 1990s due to some significant issues presented by the ceiling texture.

Today, popcorn ceilings are viewed as drab, dated, and undesirable. Popcorn ceiling removal cost—when tackled by a professional—ranges from around $898 to $2,847, depending on the number of rooms, square footage, and a few other factors. Most homeowners will pay about $1,853 for the project.

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What Is a Popcorn Ceiling?

Also called “acoustical ceilings” because the thick texture of the product absorbs sound waves, popcorn ceilings resemble large curds of cottage cheese. Builders applied the surface with a hopper and a spray gun, making it a quick fix for camouflaging ceiling panels.

When new and fresh, popcorn ceilings were attractive, and they gave the entire room a modern look. Best of all, the texture hid poor workmanship, such as an inability to hang drywall panels evenly or finish them with a smoothly taped surface. Before the advent of popcorn texture, builders needed someone on their crew who knew how to tape out ceiling panels skillfully to keep the seams between the panels from showing.

It took less than an hour to spray the popcorn texture on a standard ceiling compared to 3 or 4 days to apply the multiple coats of drywall compound required to produce a smooth ceiling. Builders saved money, and homeowners enjoyed a trendy finish—until it became a pain in the neck.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

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Reasons and Benefits to Get Rid of a Popcorn Ceiling

Aerosol cans of popcorn texture are still available from home improvement stores, and they can be used to touch up problems on existing popcorn ceilings. Still, many homeowners just want to know how to get rid of popcorn ceiling texture. They can expect to pay, on average, about $1,853 for popcorn ceiling removal services.

Asbestos Hazard

Popcorn ceilings installed before 1978 stand a good chance of containing asbestos fibers, which were used as binding agents and to provide a measure of fire resistance. After that year, asbestos was banned from most household materials, and newer popcorn ceilings contained tiny bits of polystyrene, better known as Styrofoam.

If an existing popcorn texture contains asbestos, the removal process becomes more complicated and takes more time. This could add as much as $2,750 to the cost to remove popcorn ceiling texture because the professional must follow strict asbestos remediation procedures to protect the home’s residents.

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Resale Value 

In today’s housing market, selling a home with dated popcorn ceilings can reduce its value and be a deterrent that keeps potential buyers from even making an offer. The amount sellers will recoup on having the texture removed depends on the overall quality of the home and other factors, such as location and the house’s age. In general, sellers can expect the home’s value to increase by about the same amount as the cost of removal, which ranges from $898 to $2,847, but the biggest reason for hiring a pro to remove popcorn ceiling texture is to help the house sell quicker.

Dust 

Within a few years after installing a popcorn ceiling, homeowners discovered all the little dips and bumps in the texture acted as magnets for dust. Some tried using a soft-bristle brush or broom to clean off the dust, but it was often ineffective—or worse, it dislodged some of the texture, which then fell to the floor. If the texture contained asbestos, this was especially troubling as bits of the toxin became airborne and increased the risk of inhalation.

Discoloration 

The valleys and peaks in popcorn texture tend to become discolored over time, more so in certain areas, such as above a cooking range or a wood-burning fireplace where grease or soot can accumulate. Additionally, water leaks from a roof or second-story window can saturate the popcorn texture, and then it turns an unsightly brown, marring the look of the entire ceiling.

If it doesn’t contain asbestos, the best way to remove popcorn ceiling texture is to scrape away the old texture, sand the ceiling smooth, and then apply a fresh coat of paint. A professional will charge between $1 and $3 per square foot to complete this project.

Lighting 

The large popcorn ceiling texture can create uneven lighting, casting shadows indiscriminately and making the ceiling look harsh. If popcorn ceiling removal costs are too high for the budget, consider switching to table lamps that cast a softer glow rather than depending on ceiling lights alone, which can aggravate the shadow problem. Some homeowners also find installing new drywall panels over the texture to be a suitable solution. This option runs about $1.50 per square foot for the labor to complete the project, and buying the panels runs extra.

Aesthetic 

Asbestos worries aside, a significant reason for removing a popcorn ceiling texture and replacing it is aesthetic: A smooth ceiling simply looks so much better and gives the whole home an updated feel. For small homes with non-asbestos textures, the cost can be very reasonable—as low as $300. On the flip side, for larger homes or homes where professional asbestos remediation is required, the cost can be as high as $5,000. Most agree it’s worth the cost to get rid of the dated (and potentially dangerous) texture.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

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Factors in Calculating Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

No two homes are identical, and likewise, no two popcorn ceiling removal projects are identical. Consider a few factors when contemplating the best way to remove popcorn ceiling texture and estimate the project’s cost. A contractor will factor in the size and height of the ceiling and consider the type of texture. The going rate of labor in the community will also impact the final price, as will any applicable fees to dispose of the waste.

Area

A professional contractor will usually want to look at the project’s scope before giving the homeowner a quote. The typical range in cost of $898 to $2,847 is just a starting point. Some contractors will charge by the square foot for specific services. For example, just scraping popcorn ceiling texture runs between $500 and $1,000 per 500 square feet of ceiling. Debris removal for the same area runs about $148 to $168. Afterward, the cost to paint ceiling panels can add another $440 to $1,055.

Ceiling Height and Type

Standard ceilings are 8 or 9 feet high, and the contractor can work off a short step ladder to reach the ceiling. However, as ceilings get higher, taller ladders are required, or scaffolding must be assembled, slowing the process. In general, the higher the ceiling, the longer it will take to remove the old popcorn texture, smooth, and then either retexture (with a modern surface like “knockdown”) or paint the ceiling.

Labor

The labor cost varies from community to community, but homeowners can expect to pay an average of $1 to $2 per square foot of ceiling to have popcorn texture removed. Debris removal could add another $0.30 to $0.35 per square foot, and finishing the ceiling with a new coat of paint can add another $0.80 to $2.15 per square foot.

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Location

The home’s location is another factor in the final cost of having a popcorn ceiling removed. Suppose many local contractors are offering the service. In that case, the price can drop because competition is fierce. But in an area where popcorn-removal services are in demand yet very few companies offer the service, the cost can be higher. Overall, the cost ranges from $898 to $2,847, with most homeowners paying a national average of about $1,853 to have the project completed by a licensed professional.

Job Complexities

Removing a popcorn ceiling is relatively straightforward: The contractor sprays the ceiling with water to loosen the texture and then scrapes it off using a wide, flat trowel. However, the project becomes more complex if the popcorn texture has been painted because the paint prevents the texture from absorbing the water. In this situation, the contractor may need to make cuts in the texture before spraying. The added time will increase labor charges, which average $1 to $2 per square foot for removal.

Professional remediation could add up to $2,750 to the project if asbestos is present.

Debris Disposal

Popcorn ceiling removal is a messy job that creates drippy, wet debris. The contractor will typically lay out a tarp to catch the old texture as it falls. When the removal is complete, the debris can be wrapped up in the tarp and carried out of the house. Depending on the fees a local waste management charges to dispose of the waste, the complete disposal charge could add $0.30 to $0.35 per square foot to the project’s cost.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

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Additional Costs and Considerations

The cost to have popcorn ceilings removed and replaced with new texture or paint can affect the project’s overall price. Much of the final tally depends on whether asbestos is present and if the contractor needs to repair related damage.

Asbestos Removal

Not all states require professional asbestos remediation, but the project becomes more complicated and more expensive for those that do. While the finishing costs won’t change, such as painting or applying new texture to the ceiling, the removal costs will increase. If the texture requires special removal procedures, expect to pay an additional $3 to $7 per square foot.

Additional Work

Few home improvement projects proceed from start to finish without any surprises. When it comes to removing popcorn ceilings, the old texture may be concealing a host of problems. These can include discovering the original drywall panels were never taped or finding leaks that must be repaired before the new ceiling can be finished. Either way, additional work means added charges.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional 

Removing popcorn texture is one of the more DIY-friendly home improvement projects, but it’s extremely messy, and many homeowners are not prepared for the scope of the mess. In addition, in some communities, popcorn texture must be removed by a pro if asbestos is found in the ceiling.

However, the process—if no asbestos is found—is well within the scope of many DIYers. Most of the work is overhead, so homeowners with upper body mobility issues may want to avoid this project. Working off a ladder also presents a hazard since it increases the risk of falls, and it may not be suitable for anyone who struggles with balance. While a DIYer might be able to remove popcorn ceiling texture from a standard 8-foot ceiling without too much trouble, if the ceiling is over 9 feet high or is vaulted, it increases the risk of falling.

It’s also imperative to use a controlled touch when skimming wet popcorn texture off the ceiling: the drywall beneath is easy to gouge with the corner of a trowel, which will require taping to smooth the damage. A DIYer can expect to shell out as little as $30 to $200 in materials to remove the texture and then prime and repaint.

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How to Save Money on Popcorn Ceiling Removal 

Some savings may still be available for those who aren’t interested in going the DIY route. The following tips can help reduce the cost of the overall project.

  • Remove furniture from the room(s) before the crew arrives. If the workers have to remove it, they’ll charge their typical hourly fee.
  • Have an asbestos test done in advance. Test kits are available from home improvement stores or online, and they start around $100 for the kit and the lab fee to process the results.
  • Consider painting the ceiling. After the removal is complete, DIYers can opt to paint the ceiling themselves, which would cost $1 to $3 per square foot if a professional painter performed the work.
Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

Photo: depositphotos.com

Questions to Ask About Popcorn Ceiling Removal 

While removing popcorn ceiling texture is common, homeowners will want to know what to expect. Asking a contractor the following questions will help better understand the project’s scope.

  • Will the damp texture that falls damage my house or possessions? It shouldn’t. The contractor will remove all furniture or cover it with a protective tarp.
  • Is there a danger to my family from asbestos? If the contractor follows good asbestos remediation techniques, there won’t be. However, an unknowing DIYer can inadvertently release asbestos fibers into the air, so hiring a pro for this step is vital.
  • Are you licensed for asbestos removal? Many states require certification or licensing to remove this harmful substance. Check with your state’s legislation before proceeding with this project if there’s any chance that your ceiling has asbestos
  • How long will the project take? This is up to the individual contractor and the scope of the project. It could take no more than a day to remove the texture, or it could take a few days if the ceilings are high or the house is large.
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FAQs

In almost all situations, removing a popcorn ceiling and replacing it with modern knockdown texture or paint will give the house a well-needed uplift and increase its value. Still, homeowners will likely have some questions about the process.

Q. Is removing a popcorn ceiling safe?

Yes, for the most part. However, if the popcorn texture contains asbestos, it’s not considered safe for a homeowner to remove it. A certified asbestos remediation contractor should perform the work.

Q. Why should I remove popcorn ceilings?

The biggest reason? They date a house and make it look drab and dingy. Popcorn ceilings also can potentially contain asbestos, which can be a major health hazard if inhaled.

Q. What do I do after removing a popcorn ceiling?

If you’re doing the project yourself, after removing the old texture, sand the ceiling to smooth it, fill seams and any gouges with drywall compound, sand again, and then paint or apply a knockdown texture.

Q. What is an average rate for popcorn ceiling removal?

The average rate ranges from $898 to $2,847, with most homeowners ending up paying about $1,853 for professional removal and finish.

Q. Do all popcorn ceilings have asbestos? 

No, but ones installed before 1978 stand a good chance of containing asbestos. In that year, the EPA banned asbestos, and after that, harmless polystyrene beads took the place of asbestos in popcorn ceilings.

Saying goodbye to popcorn ceiling texture?
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