How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling in 6 Simple Steps

Keep the popcorn where it belongs—in the movie theater

Justine Harrington
Updated May 11, 2022
Beautiful living room in new traditional style
Photo: bmak / Adobe Stock
Difficulty

Simple

Flex your DIY muscles.

Time to complete

3 hours

Cost

$100–$500

Doing the labor yourself goes a long way.

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Get quotes from top-rated pros.

What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Ladder
  • Tarp
  • Tape
  • Paint scraper
  • Putty knife
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Safety gear (safety goggles, dust mask)

SUPPLIES

  • Primer
  • Paint

Unless you’re, ahem, really into that retro 70s look, you’re probably more than ready to get rid of your lumpy popcorn ceilings. Not only are popcorn ceilings unsightly, but they may even contain asbestos. Luckily, removal is fairly simple, and you likely already have everything you need on hand. Keep reading to find out what to know about removing a popcorn ceiling yourself.

6 Steps to Removing a Popcorn Ceiling

Once you’ve gathered your gear, you’re ready to start scraping.

  1. Test for Asbestos

    If your popcorn ceiling was installed before 1980, there’s a chance it could contain asbestos—in which case, it’s important to get a sample tested before you do anything else. Contact your local health department to find out how to do so, or find a top-rated asbestos removal service in your area to protect yourself from potential exposure.

  2. Remove All Furniture

    A gray living room interior
    Photo: 4-image / Adobe Stock

    Removing popcorn ceilings is messy business, so remove as much furniture as possible from your space. Not only will this help ensure that your furniture stays clean, but it’ll also give you freedom of movement while you work. This is also a good time to cover the floor and any leftover furniture or belongings with a tarp, and the walls with plastic sheeting (pro-tip: use painter’s tape to attach the sheeting).

    Removing your ceiling fixtures and fans is necessary, too. You don’t want to run the risk of getting water in an electrical fixture. Also, be sure to open the windows to allow for maximum ventilation.

  3. Spray the Ceiling

    Don your dust mask and safety goggles, because now the fun can begin. Start by spraying the ceiling. To allow for much easier scraping and removal, it helps to mist the ceiling with a garden sprayer and let it soak for at least 20 minutes or so beforehand. Just be careful not to soak it through; too much water could damage the Sheetrock underneath.

  4. Scrape It Off

    A man removing old dirty popcorn ceiling
    Photo: ungvar / Adobe Stock

    Run your putty knife along the wet ceiling, taking care not to gouge the ceiling. To help prevent gouges, you can round off the corners of your knife with a file or sander. Go around the room until all the texture has been removed.

  5. Patch Things Up

    Once you’ve removed all the texture, you may need to patch some areas of drywall. Popcorn ceilings hide imperfections like visible joints or screws, so patching is likely. Cover any joints or screws with joint compound.

  6. Freshen Up Your Ceiling

    Now, it’s time to make your ceiling shine. After you’ve done your repair work, sand the ceiling and give it a fresh coat of paint.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

In terms of how much it costs to remove a popcorn ceiling, the average cost for a pro to do the job is around $1,900. This cost is largely dependent on the size and complexity of the job, as well as where you live. You can expect to pay as little as $900 if you hire a professional drywall installer. If you have a larger house or particularly high ceilings, on the other hand, you can expect to pay as much as $2,900. 

If asbestos is a factor, your ceilings are super high, or you simply decide that you’d rather not take on this messy, time-consuming project yourself, hire a professional to get the job done. A local popcorn ceiling removal contractor can help you achieve the smooth ceiling you want, without risking damage to your drywall.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.