How Much Does Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost?

Popcorn ceilings are dated—and some may contain harmful asbestos. Popcorn ceiling removal cost ranges from around $923 to $3,006, with the average homeowner paying $1,961 for professional removal.
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Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

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  • The typical range for popcorn ceiling removal costs is $923 to $3,006 with a national average of $1,961. 
  • Cost factors for this project include home size, ceiling height and type, labor, geographic location, project complexity, and ceiling resurfacing. 
  • Homeowners choose to remove popcorn ceilings because they trap dust, can become discolored, and may harbor asbestos. Some additional benefits of removing popcorn ceilings are better lighting, improved aesthetics, and increased home value. 
  • While removing popcorn ceilings is a relatively simple DIY, professionals can ensure the job is done to a high standard without making a mess or damaging the ceiling.

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 $923 to $3,006, depending on the number of rooms, square footage, and a few other factors. Most homeowners will pay about $1,961 for the project, according to Angi and HomeAdvisor

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Visual 1 - HomeAdvisor - Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost - March 2024

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.

“Acoustic popcorn ceilings were popular in residential construction from the 1950s to the 1980s due to their ability to hide imperfections and dampen sounds,” explains Korey Gregory, superintendent for ASAP Restoration, LLC, in Tempe, Arizona. “Many popcorn ceilings installed during this period contain asbestos, because manufacturers used it as an additive for fire resistance and structural integrity of the material.”

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.

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.

Home Size

A professional contractor will usually want to look at the project’s scope before giving the homeowner a quote. Some contractors will charge by the square foot for specific services, and removing a popcorn ceiling costs more for larger spaces. For example, the cost to scrape popcorn ceilings runs between $300 and $750 per 500 square feet of ceiling. Debris removal for the same area runs about $150 to $170. Afterward, the cost to paint ceiling panels can add another $1 to $3 per square foot.

Home Size 

Average Cost (Materials and Labor)

500 square feet

$300 to $750 

1-story house

$900 to $2,840

2-story house

$1,500 to $4,000

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.


The labor to remove a popcorn ceiling costs $15 to $40 per hour, though the exact cost can depend on the home’s location. Depending on the scope, many projects can take up to 20 hours or more. Debris removal, and finishing the ceiling with a new coat of paint, can add additional time to the project. 

“First and foremost, especially if asbestos is involved, the area must be taped and sheeted to prevent aerated particulates from traveling to other areas of the property,” explains Brandon Walker, a foreman at ASAP Restoration, LLC. “After taping and sealing up the area, then the popcorn must be sprayed to soak it for removal. After spraying, it can be easily peeled off with a scraper. If the popcorn has been painted over, then it will need to be scraped off dry which costs much more and involves much more dust, and much more labor to extract. This increase in labor and in potential exposure costs more than if it were clean and unpainted.”

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Geographic 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 $923 to $3,006, with most homeowners paying a national average of about $1,921 to have the project completed by a licensed professional.

Project Complexity

Removing a popcorn ceiling is relatively straightforward: The contractor sprays the ceiling with water or popcorn ceiling remover 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. Professional remediation could add up to $5 to $20 per square foot to the project if asbestos is present.

Ceiling Resurfacing

Some homeowners choose to replace popcorn ceilings with a smooth surface, which is relatively simple and cheap to complete at around $1.50 per square foot. If any other textures are desired, such as prime and paint, splatter, crow’s foot, orange peel, knockdown, or skip trowel, these can add $0.80 to $3 per square foot to the cost to get rid of the popcorn ceiling. 

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

Additional Costs and Considerations

Removing a popcorn ceiling costs more if the homeowner chooses to have ceilings replaced with new texture or paint. Much of the final tally depends on whether asbestos is present and if the contractor needs to repair related damage.

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. Having the contractor remove debris from 500 square feet costs about $150 to $170. A junk removal service can also carry away the debris for $60 to $600. If the job is big enough to warrant dumpster rental, fees are around $380 per week.

“Additional costs for removal involve dumping fees if the popcorn is hot for asbestos because normal landfills have restrictions on taking contaminated materials such as textured ceiling debris,” explains Walker.

Asbestos Testing and Removal

Professionals will likely test for asbestos before carrying out the removal, which costs between $250 and $850. 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 $5 to $20 per square foot. It’s worth noting that if the ceiling contains asbestos, it’s likely that other parts of the home also require asbestos removal. Asbestos siding removal costs are some of the priciest at $690 to $20,000. 

Ceiling Replacement

In some cases, it may make sense to remove and replace the entire ceiling, which can cost anywhere from $2 to $40 per square foot. Different kinds of ceilings have different costs; for example, a standard drywall ceiling costs $2 to $4 per square foot, but a coffered ceiling costs $10 to $40 per square foot. 

“Depending on how much damage has been done to the drywall underneath the popcorn, this might be a lot or a little to fix and thus a lot or a little to pay to have it touched up,” says Walker. “It also isn’t as simple as just painting the area where the popcorn was. The space that the popcorn occupied must also be textured or flattened to match the rest of the property and this can increase the costs as well depending on how much surface area needs remedying.”

Do I need to remove a popcorn ceiling?

The removal of a popcorn ceiling may not take top priority when it comes to home improvement projects as it doesn’t impact the layout or functionality of a home. However, there are some compelling reasons to consider replacing it, ranging from aesthetic preference to health concerns. 

Presence of Asbestos

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.

“There are specific time frames that are associated with increased asbestos use in manufactured products for the home, including popcorn texturing,” says Gregory. “Odds are strong that if a home has popcorn ceilings, that they are asbestos containing, and the proper containment and procedures should be followed for removal.”

If an existing popcorn texture contains asbestos, the removal process becomes more complicated and takes more time. This is because the professional must follow strict asbestos remediation procedures to protect the home’s residents.

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Excessive 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. It can be difficult to know how to clean popcorn ceilings. 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.

Unsightly 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.

Homeowner Preference

Popcorn ceilings can give a home a dated feel, and some homeowners may prefer to remove the texture to freshen up their home. According to Gregory, “This type of ceiling treatment was very popular in the 1970s and 80s and it has since become associated with that time period. Most people that want the popcorn removed want the home to look newer and fresher, and a great way to achieve that is to axe the textured ceilings.”

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

Benefits of Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Removing popcorn ceilings can have a surprising impact on a room’s transformation. In addition to bringing a room into the modern era, it can even improve the room’s lighting and increase home value. 

Better 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 to $3.50 per square foot for labor and materials.

Improved Aesthetics

Asbestos worries aside, a significant reason for removing a popcorn ceiling texture and replacing it is aesthetic: unfortunately, painting a popcorn ceiling isn’t enough. 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 $5,505. Most agree it’s worth getting rid of popcorn ceilings as they are a dated (and potentially dangerous) texture.

Increased Home Value

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. But the biggest reason for hiring a pro to remove popcorn ceiling texture is to help the house sell quicker.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

Learning how to remove popcorn ceiling 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—even if they have thoroughly researched how to get rid of a popcorn ceiling. In addition, in some communities, popcorn texture must be removed by a pro if asbestos is found in the ceiling.

However, the process of stripping a popcorn ceiling—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. Also, if there is any chance that the ceiling contains asbestos, it is imperative to let one of the best asbestos removal companies handle the job. 

“A professional will get it done quickly and without a massive disruption to your life,” explains Gregory. “A professional also guarantees their work so that you have the peace of mind that comes with a warranty. A professional will also make sure that it is done correctly because service businesses rely on word of mouth and their online reputation for most new business generation.”

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 around $100 to $500 in materials to take out popcorn ceiling texture and then prime and repaint. 

When it comes to who to hire to remove a popcorn ceiling, Walker recommends a finishing drywaller. “This is a specialty that takes years to perfect and because of that, homeowners looking to have it done professionally and correctly should hire talented drywallers,” he says. “A good drywaller will make it look like there was never any popcorn there to begin with, and any imperfections will be invisible when they are done. If you hire anyone else to do this job, the chances of having it done poorly skyrocket.”

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How to Save Money on Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

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 to remove popcorn ceilings.

  • Get multiple quotes. Costs can vary from pro to pro, so it’s a good idea to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best price. 
  • 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 cost between $10 and $35.
  • Take out the trash yourself. Debris removal can cost several hundred dollars, so disposing of it yourself can significantly cut down on the total project cost. 
  • 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.
  • Drywall over the ceiling. Rather than going to the effort of removing the popcorn ceiling, installing drywall over it can be much less costly, especially if the ceiling contains asbestos. This may also work for popcorn wall removal
Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

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.

  • What services are included in the quote? 
  • Is there a danger to my family from asbestos? 
  • How long have you been in business? 
  • Are you licensed for asbestos removal?
  • Are you insured?
  • How long will the project take?
  • How much does it cost to add new texturing to the ceiling? 
  • Does furniture removal cost extra?
  • Do you take measures to ensure my home and possessions are not damaged?
  • How many subcontractors will work on this project? 
  • How will you handle cleanup? 
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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 scraping the popcorn ceiling texture, sand the ceiling with sandpaper or one of the best drywall sanders to smooth it, fill seams and any gouges with drywall compound, sand again, and then paint or apply a knockdown texture.

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.

Q. Does removing a popcorn ceiling increase home value?

Removing popcorn ceilings does increase home value as well as making the home more attractive to potential buyers. 

Q. How many hours does it take to remove a popcorn ceiling?

Popcorn ceiling removal can take as long as 20 hours or more, depending on the size and accessibility of the ceiling. 

Q. Is popcorn ceiling removal tax deductible?

Popcorn ceiling removal is only tax deductible in the event that it can be called a business expense. Some examples would be if the space is a home office used to run a business, or if a landlord is having the removal done on their rental property. 

 Sources: HomeAdvisor, Angi, HomeGuide, Forbes, Fixr