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July 2010
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Removing Painted Popcorn Ceilings

Popcorn Ceilings are really so over. They were another ‘innovation’ by builders to cut the cost of construction. Calling them Acoustic Ceilings was more of a marketing ploy rather than any serious sound deadening benefit.  Vermiculite and some sort of water based paint, they were fast and cheap. Tape, cover coat, and spray. No sanding No priming, just spray thick and move on to the next house.

Builders loved this shit, and real estate agents cried ‘elegance’.  A few years down the road, they turned gray from dust or an ivory yellow depending on how much you smoked.  Spiders loved them for all the anchor points for their webs. Sweeping them to get rid of the webs created more mess and loosened up what was left so you had a light snowfall over time. Painting them is an option, but is expensive. Since there is no primer, what ever paint you used, you would need twice as much, and the only useful color was white.

If you are ‘lucky’ enough to have popcorn that has been painted, removal is not as hard as you might think. Here is a ceiling that fits the bill.

Yes it is a garage ceiling.The ‘Elegance’ is just oozing out. Originally this garage was cinder block and firewall drywall. Behind the ladder is the storage unit I built from the recycled materials left over from the Storage Project.

Since this is an unfinished  garage we will not be covering the floors for the first part. Details on Red Rosin Paper are here.

The first order of business is to bag the walls. Cover them with poly. I am using.7 mil 12′ wide poly and  blue painters tape.

Blue Painters tape does not leave residue like regular masking tape and comes off cleanly. The 12′ length insures that the plastic will reach the floor around cabinets and other things next to the walls. If you bag the room there is a whole lot less cleanup. Bag the entire room.

Here I overlapped the plastic over the doorway into the house. This allows access for stuff in the garage while this project is happening.

Scraping the ceiling works best with a 6 or 8” drywall mud knife at around a 30 degree angle. Push the knife away from you in a steady motion to remove the maximum amount of material as you go. Less sanding later. You can use a wider knife but you will get tired real quick. Take your time as if there are any nail pops your knife will catch on them. Here is a partway shot.

This house was taped using ‘tools’. these are expensive mechanical tools usually reserved for large commercial projects. There are two indicators. One is the same width on the seam and butt joints. The other is the straight lines over the nail holes.

You will have small gouges in the drywall that will be fixed with mud after you clean up the mess.

Next up will be filling the gouges, sanding and taping the joints.

3 comments to Removing Painted Popcorn Ceilings

  • lisa

    This is awesome and helpful – thanks! I just moved into a 1913 house. It came complete with “elegant” 80s painted popcorn ceilings and complementary ceiling fans. What a design nightmare. Taking it all down is my first project.

  • melanie

    You didnt really explain how to do anything

  • Sally

    What did you spray it with? Painted popcorn ceilings do NOT come down like that by just scraping!