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Remove Popcom Ceilings in 1 Day!

How-To - The 5-Step Process of Popcorn Ceiling Removal

First things first, we realize that you not only want to eliminate that ugly popcorn stuff, but that you want to end up with a beautiful ceiling when you finish. Most people think that they can save money and possibly even time if they scrape their ceilings themselves and then hire someone to come in and finish off the painting. So we’re going to be giving you pointers on the first phase of your project – just scraping the popcorn off your ceiling.

There are five stages to the popcorn ceiling removal & retexture process. We will begin by showing you which materials you will need and then we will show you step-by-step - what to do.


The “short” materials list. Only the highest-grade eco-safe materials will do the job.

Plastic sheeting – You’re going to need plastic sheeting to cover your furniture, walls, and floors…and don’t buy that thin stuff. It will rip and tear as the popcorn falls onto it. You’re going to need enough to go from the ceiling clear along the walls, and down to the floor. It would be best if you double line it, so make sure that you buy enough.

Heavy-duty masking tape – You don’t want to buy cheap stuff that won’t hold up. Take our advice: AVOID the blue tape. It won’t even hold the plastic up, much less the popcorn when it falls!

Weed sprayer – You can get this at Home Depot or Lowes. You just need some kind of spray apparatus that you can fill with water to wet the ceiling.

Scraper – Almost any scraper will work fine. Don’t - DO NOT - buy the scraper with the bag on it. It’s a waste of money.

Mask – You won’t want to be breathing in the stuff you’ll be scraping off your ceilings.

6-inch and 12 inch drywall knives – You’ll need these when you start your repairs. I promise you there will be problems you’ll need to fix. First, the ones that the original contractor made (hence he put up a popcorn ceiling to cover his mistakes). Secondly, the nicks and gouges you put in the ceiling while you were scraping.

All-purpose joint compound – A 48-pound box should be enough. Make sure it’s an all-purpose joint compound and not a topping mud, or patching mud.

Big garbage bags – When you’re finished scraping the popcorn, you’ll roll up the plastic on itself and stick it in large garbage bags to get it out of your house! We recommend a 6 mil thick large bag.


Now that you have everything you need, you’re ready to start the process.

Take everything off the walls and ceilings. That’s right everything. Pictures must come off the walls. Ceiling fans, track lighting, and vent covers all need to come down. Take all plants, animals, and children out of the room.

We recommend putting quilts or blankets over your fine furniture, and then you can start putting the plastic up.
Start taping the plastic sheeting right at the ceiling line and drape it all the way to the floor. Always overlap each subsequent panel of plastic, and then go back and tape over the seams of each panel of plastic. Line any pathways/hallways between the room you’re working on and rooms you will need access to with plastic sheeting.

Think about access to your bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. If any of that popcorn ceiling sludge (which will collect on your legs and shoes) gets on the floor, you’ll be spending many hours trying to get it off... and possibly end up with a professional carpet cleaning bill.


It's time to wet, scrape and get dirty

Fill the weed sprayer with water (right out of your kitchen sink), and start spraying your ceiling. If you’re doing this by yourself, realize that you will probably need to spray down the whole ceiling twice before you even begin to scrape, and then again spray the area you are immediately working on.

You want the ceiling to be wet, not just moist or slightly dampened, so go crazy with that weed sprayer. Seeing how it only shoots small amounts of water at a time, it is going to take about 20 minutes to get enough water on the ceiling to be effective.

Now that the ceiling is wet, put on your mask, grab your scraper and scrape away. As you are scraping it should be more of a push action then a pulling action. Don’t forget to go along the wall joints! Use perpendicular strokes to the wall. Make sure all edges are completely clean and free of all popcorn material.

Hold the scraper at a 22-35 degree angle. That should give you the right amount of pressure to scrape the popcorn off without gouging the sheetrock to bits!

It could take you anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours to scrape all the popcorn off one ceiling, including all the edge detail. Vaulted ceilings take considerably longer. Now on to the next room.


Repairing all the nicks and gouges

With all the popcorn off the ceiling, you can now evaluate if there are any cracks or badly taped areas that need to be repaired. Also check for gouges that you just put in the ceiling as a result of your scraping. Water leaks and sheetrock bows between joints also need to be repaired.

This is when you’re going to pull out your 12-inch drywall knife and the 20 minute Quick Dry Smooth Set.

Make appropriate repairs.


Retexturing and Repainting

More than likely you will want to hire a professional company to retexture and finish. Please don’t get too discouraged when you find out that all that work you just did doesn’t save you any money on the rest of the remaining work. Professionals will end up putting new plastic everywhere. You will find out that some of your repairs will have to be redone. Normally there will be valleys and ridges that you didn’t even notice which prior to retexture will need to be floated out to get the ceiling right. If you go ahead and retexture without taking this valuable step, dips and shadows will accentuate these flaws, causing them to stand out like a sore thumb in your brand new retextured ceilings.

Not Good!

The most popular texture is skip trowel. There will be little tool marks that will need to be sanded out. Additionally, the edges will need to be feathered to make a smooth transition to your walls. It is extremely important to now put up a quality primer sealer. We recommend Zinsser Bullseye 123™. Most handymen and painters skip this step. Don’t let them. The sealer blocks stains, odors and mildew from leaching through your new texture. It will also give you a good base for your top coat. We recommend you roll and not spray these coats. Most home owners choose a flat sheen which is softer, more inviting and will not accentuate flaws like a semi-gloss will.


Clean-up all the wet and messy popcorn material

Now that you’re finished with the removal, you can untape the plastic from the ceiling and roll to the inside to keep all the sludge inside the plastic. The plastic serves two purposes: to keep your floor and furniture clean, and to make the cleanup and disposal stages easier. Make sure that you roll the plastic up in a way that keeps all the popcorn inside!

Once you have all the plastic rolled up, insert it into a garbage bag. Please realize that your little, flimsy kitchen bags aren’t going to do the trick. You’ll want something substantial and sturdy to hold all this. We recommend 6 mil thick large bags.

Understand that you’re typically going to have anywhere from 200-500 pounds worth of slimy sludge. So make sure that you get a couple of strong buddies to haul this stuff out of your house and dispose of it.

Oh, and don’t forget to call the city before you take it to your curbside to make sure that they’ll even collect it. Some cities won’t take it and you will need to hire a private disposal company to come and get it.

We'd like to say that your job is finished at this point, but unfortunately - we can't.

Now you have to do the whole thing again in your other rooms.

This article is not to scare you, it’s just the info you need to know what goes on on each job site.

Give us a call and leave all this fun stuff to us or Request a quote.