How to remove “popcorn” ceiling

When we first looked at the house we now live in, we looked up at the ceiling and were a little taken aback by the sparkles.  There are little flakes of glitter embedded in that popcorn-looking texture coating that can be blown onto ceilings to hide flaws.  And this stuff was in the living room, dining room, stairwell, upstairs hallway, and two of the upstairs bedrooms.  Happily, it was not in the master bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen, or the basement.

Well, we don’t like the “popcorn” ceiling effect, nor are we fond of the sparkles.  So as we re-shape the rooms of the house (not literally re-shaping) to our liking, the ceiling texture is going.

Last summer my diligent and strong husband scraped the “popcorn” coating off the room that used to be our pink-painted guest bedroom, painted the ceiling white and the walls yellow, made the floor nicer, and then I moved all my office stuff into it.  Then we took all of his computer and game and stereo and TV equipment and paraphernalia from “the blue room” and moved it to the finished basement.

So this summer I am transforming “the blue room” into a new guest bedroom.

Step one: remove all the furniture.  Check.

Step two: put a tarp on the floor to catch most of the stuff I’ll be removing from the ceiling.  Check.

Step three: dress sensibly for the work at hand:  goggles, face mask to keep out particulates (no fumes or asbestos here, so a particulate mask is fine), hat, work shirt, bandanna so my hair is not really gross afterward.  Check.

Step four: start scraping.
ummm….OK, this was arduous, awkward, painful, and exhausting.  I managed to work for about 45 minutes, almost finishing the part where the ceiling is bent against the roof.  You can’t tell from the photo below, but in the right-hand corner I did not scrape all the way down to the underlying surface.  There is still a layer of plaster-like stuff that I just could not muster the energy to do.  I showered and fell asleep.  My arms were soooo tired!

Day 2:
Step five: go to Home Depot for a better scraper than my little flexible spatula.  This was the best move I made in this whole process.  I found a tool specifically made for scraping “popcorn” texture off ceilings.  It has a handle you can attach a pole to, and you can attach a bag to collect the scrapings.  On the box, the manufacturer recommended also buying a solution to spray on the ceiling before scraping, to make it easier.

Unfortunately, no solution was available for sale.  I asked one of the helpful Home Depot employees, and he said if it isn’t there, we don’t have any.  He also said his nephew just sprayed water on a “popcorn” ceiling before scraping it, while he personally had simply covered one up with eighth-inch wallboard.  Well, I am not about to try installing wallboard on a ceiling, so I bought the big scraper, an additional (stiffer) small scraper for the edges and a wire brush for intractable bits, and came home to scrape.

Here’s my stuff: on the far right is my little flexible scraper that I wasn’t having fun with on day one.

Step six: get the ceiling wet.  Check.
For this, I used a pressure-sprayer that I had originally gotten for garden use.  It’s useful for cleaning bugs and spiderwebs out of my potted plants before bringing them in for the winter.  And it is also useful for spraying water on a “popcorn” ceiling.  It worked great!

Step seven: install bag and pole on big scraper, and scrape.  Check.
The fun part of this is that even with the bag on, there is still a way for goopy plaster ceiling texture to fall on your head.  Or goggles.  Or arms.  Which it did.  Plus, that bag gets pretty heavy pretty quickly, so this is easier than day one, but still not a piece of cake.  And, due to the ceiling not being a planar surface and the saturation of the texture material being variable, there is still the necessity of getting up close and personal with the little scrapers.

Step eight: Get on the ladder, scrape by hand, get off the ladder and move it over half a meter, then repeat.  Check.
Steps seven and eight got repeated several times, as I didn’t know how much of the ceiling was reasonable to soak at once.  When there was about a quarter of the room still to go, I called it quits for the day.  I was messy (pardon the fuzzy photo, I was having some difficulty figuring out the auto-shoot) and tired.  But look how far I got!

So, today, Sunday, was day 3.  I repeated steps seven and eight three more times after moving my tarp (it is not quite the size of the room, just a little smaller), and finished!  Yay!

This week I’ll wipe down the ceiling with a wet sponge to get any dust I left behind, patch the holes and cracks in the ceiling, prepare the walls for painting, paint the ceiling, and put the light back up before finally painting the walls.  After that’s all done, I can think about the floor!  And after that, furniture!

3 Responses to “How to remove “popcorn” ceiling”

  1. Doris Says:

    I’m really impressed, and proud of you! And, I had a good laugh at your “outfit.” Do you remember when we painted your room when you were little? You wore one of my sweatshirts and an old (dressy) hat of mine, and joined in the fun. I think you have to be young (or at least able to avoid thinking about how much work is involved) to even contemplate home improvement projects like this one. I know Little Sister and her mom do this kind of thing all the time, and my younger sister (by 10 years) has her own tools and toolbelt for her many fix-it projects– but I’m happy nagging my husband to do it, and, if it doesn’t get done, oh well! Looking forward to seeing your finished project…I know it will be gorgeous!

  2. little sister Says:

    hey looks great! down with textured sparkly popcorn ceilings!!

  3. The Reveal « TeaWithBuzz Says:

    [...] to you the redesigned room.  This is the room that used to be intensely blue, the one where I scraped the popcorn ceiling over the [...]

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