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Painting Popcorn Ceilings

Painting ceilings is an unnatural act. Gravity is fighting you, unless you are on the extreme end of the height curve, your size is fighting you, and if you try to get by with cheap paint, it will fight you too. If those items are daunting, painting ‘popcorn’ ceilings is a whole  ‘nother level of nasty. However, there are times where it must be done.

Acoustic  Textured Ceilings aka Popcorn Ceilings were quite the thing for some time. They are still used because they are cheap to do. Basically popcorn texture is vermiculite, drywall mud and water based
white paint. Some folks never primed, but just sprayed it on extra
heavy.

The drywall is primed and the texture is sprayed on.  It collects dust and gets dull and dingy. Here is an example.
6a00d8345237e469e20120a5572aa4970c-800wi

It gets dull and dark over time. You can remove it, and skim coat it, which is almost as messy as
having a flood stop by, or you can paint it. This post is about painting it.

Your mission is to paint these ceilings. You will need a crap load of ‘ceiling’ paint. Flat is best. You will also need:

Painters Tape

Masking Tape

Wide Plastic sheeting

A 4” corner roller

A 9” ‘rough surface’ roller.(3/4” nap)

An extension pole

One gallon plastic Ziplock bags for keeping the roller moist in between episodes.

I am painting the ceilings with Behr Ultra White Interior Flat. I am
using it for two reasons. One, it is really, really White. Two. It is a
thick bodied paint allowing me to use a 3/4” nap roller to get it up
without painting the floor. Painting your ceiling white pays off in being able to use lower wattage lights for lighting your rooms.

Remove the furniture, because you need to bag the entire floor.  If you cannot remove the furniture, you will have to move it to cover the floor, move the stuff and cover the rest of the floor, and move it again to keep it out of your way while you are trying to get paint on the ceiling.  Trust me, you really want to remove the furniture.

You will need to get a roll of wide plastic sheeting for ‘bagging’ the floor and or the walls if you are leaving the walls alone. (If you are not doing the walls at the same time you are doing the
ceilings, you will need to bag the walls as well. You will need a
couple of friends to help you do the walls)The orange and blue stores sell it in big boxes. You will need blue painters tape and regular masking tape. 1 1/2 or 2” wide.

The first thing that you will need to do is to ‘bag’ the floor. Vacuum the floor, especially the corners so that the painters tape will stick well. Wall to Wall, cover it with Plastic. I recommend .7 to 1 mil thick plastic. It is thick enough to walk on and catch the crap that will fall.

First, tape the perimeter of the room with the painters tape, tucking it on the edge of the carpet. Painters tape is more expensive, but sticks to carpet very well and doesn’t leave glue residue like regular masking tape. Next, roll out your plastic and with the regular masking tape, tape the edges of the plastic to the painters tape you have laid down. The edges of your room should look like this. If you do not do the entire floor, paint and popcorn will find its way into the exposed areas, and cause to you to re-arrange your furniture strangely or add new carpeting to your list of things to buy.
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The rest of the room will look like this. These photos show you the stuff that will fall down while you are painting. Use masking tape for the seams because it is cheaper than painters tape.
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Wear a long sleeve shirt that you are not fond of when doing this or your arms will look like this.
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You will need two rollers and an extension pole. The pole will allow you to paint from the floor.  A regular 9” with a ‘rough surface’ roller, and a 4” ‘corner’ roller. The corner roller will give you a nice line for the big one later.

Here is your corner. See dull and dingy. You probably the top photo was just a bad photo.
6a00d8345237e469e20120a55b3459970c-800wi

Painting popcorn uses a lot of paint. This project was 1100 sq.ft. of ceiling and I used 18 gallons. Around 60 sq.ft. a gallon. Figure 50-60 sq. ft. per gallon. Buy it in 5 gal. buckets. You will need to load your roller and work carefully to cover the ceiling. You need enough pressure to get the paint on, covering and sealing the texture, yet not so hard that you pull the texture down, causing you more problems.

At the end however, it will look nice.
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12 comments to Painting Popcorn Ceilings

  • Kristy

    I only painted 1 room that had the popcorn ceiling; but the texture was so heavy that a roller wouldn’t work. I had to use a 3″ brush and do it by hand. It was miserable and took forever (because of the miserable factor); but it’s done now and looks good…or as good as a painted popcorn ceiling can look.

  • Jennifer

    I have almost completed painting all the ceillings in my 2100 squ ft home. The preivious owners smoked and the ceilings were NASTY. The house is too old to have the ceilings scraped (asbestos)so I had no choice. You are correct whenyou say it uses A LOT of paint. I found that useing a white primer such as KILZ works wonders. It covers wonderfully, is a flat white and it is cheaper than paint.
    I was lucky in that I didn’t have the popcorn come down as I painted. There is a fine line between covering the whole texture and putting too much on. The way you remove popcorn is to saturate it with water then scrape, so that being said guess what happens if you put too much paint on the popcorn…Yep, it falls off.
    Another suggestion is to use a better quality roller. Trust me it helps.
    Take frequent breaks, tag team it with a friend and save your neck.

  • Painting popcorn ceilings successfully can be a little tricky at times. I can see that you have done a real good job indeed.

  • Howie2092

    My father-in-law told me to use a foam roller like this one:

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0010MVZGA

    It has slits around and lengthwise that hold a lot of paint. The foam roller coats just as well as the 3/4″ nap, but tends to pull less material down from the ceiling.

    cheers,

  • Hi there. Just wanted to post a comment because I found your blog today and really got a lot out of your posts. As a learning DIY’er, I’ll be checking back. Keep up the good work!

  • Thanks for the lovely guidance here…love to do my own things.I even have a roller.

  • The ONLY way I’d EVER paint ‘popcorn’ is by Spraying! First with Kilz original, or Zinsser – The Only ‘True’ stain killers. [Don’t waste your time with anything less, especially after Smokers.] Then Top coat with whatever after lunch.

    Be sure to use some canvas drops or resin paper over the plastic to walk on or you’ll track paint and/or slip & fall on yer Can!

    I’m ‘just sayin’ … what I’ve learned after 30yrs or so doing it … but if you LIKE rolling & having thet drop all over you…GO for it! BTW, I don’t think I saw anyone mention that the texture can Come Off with your roller in BIG patches – that’ll Look ‘Real’ Good!

  • Good write-up but if you feel like you may not be receiving enough traffic to your site, I’m sure watching the video on increasing traffic would help you out a lot. Cheers, Rozanne Rex

  • Painting popcorn ceilings can be a messy and difficult process as you can see. I recommend you go to a professional.

  • annie

    It looks like most of you are painting their popcorn ceiling white. I always paint the fifth wall in shades of aqua. It’s so much nicer than the glare of true white. The popcorn ceiling is getting it next. Aqua popcorn!

  • Hi there, You’ve done an incredible job. I will definitely digg it and personally
    suggest to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this
    web site.

  • Painter Man

    If the popcorn is new and has never been painted like in most new homes then consider hiring a pro who will SPRAY the ceiling. Rolling with latex paint will in most cases take the popcorn off the ceiling onto your roller and you will completely ruin the texture of your ceiling. If you insist on not hiring a pro and rolling a new popcorn ceiling yourself then use an OIL BASED ceiling paint which is less viscous and less sticky and will not pull the popcorn off. You can easily tell if a popcorn ceiling has never been painted by brushing your hand gently across a small area. If you can brush some of the popcorn off then it hasn’t been painted if you can’t it has. If the ceiling has been previously painted then go ahead and use LATEX paint however if there has been smoking in the home then the nicotine oils can and will soak right through even 2 coats of LATEX paint. Prime first with a good quality primer and then apply 2 LATEX coats. This will cover the stains in most cases. Really badly browned nicotine stained ceilings may require 2 coats of primer and then 2 coats of LATEX paint maybe more depending on how bad the stains are. In the end painting popcorn ceilings is a messy job that is best left to the pros.

    Hope this helps and good luck.