Fix-It Friday: How To Remove A Popcorn Ceiling In A Jiffy

Fix-It FridayHome Improvement 3 Comments

“What’s the easiest way to get rid of popcorn ceilings, and how should I finish and paint them once the texture is gone?” – WYSK Reader Laurel

NV: Ah yes, the dreaded popcorn ceiling. That objectionable lumpy textured surface – dated, dust collecting, rivaled by my disdain for a similar looking texture creeping up my thighs (ugh) – scores of homeowners want it gone.

The removal technique is easy, but the process is backbreaking. It’s best approached in small sections at a time, that is, if you plan on walking the next day. Essentially, the popcorn needs to be sprayed down with water – yep, good ol’ agua – then scraped away… a lot of scraping. A simple garden sprayer and large putty knife will do the trick.

Spatula with plactic handle isolated on whiteTackling The Popcorn:

  • Wear protective gear and cover all surfaces with plastic drop cloths.
  • Additionally, switches and outlets should be taped over.
  • Be mindful not to gouge the drywall beneath the popcorn as you’re scraping.

Buttered Popcorn:
Has your ceiling been painted? If so, it won’t be able to absorb the water necessary for its removal. In this case, use an environmentally safe paint remover first, then tackle the popcorn.

Asbestos In Your Popcorn:
Now for the caveat that may advance your ceiling from dreaded to downright dangerous. Most pre-1980 popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, a material proven to cause grave diseases. No danger is present unless particles become airborne.

Asbestos PopcornRemoval should be left to contractors with an asbestos abatement license. You can test for asbestos by submitting a small sample to a lab. Contact the lab for more details and check with local building codes before starting the project.

I know there are DIYers out there that tackle asbestos removal projects themselves, but I think it’s reckless, not to mention illegal in many places.

The Great Popcorn Cover-Up:
An alternative to removal is to hang drywall directly over the ceiling. If only cellulite were that easy to make disappear…

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.

Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.


  • Tara

    Norma, We have ceilings that we painted with sand paint way back when. We have since repainted over them several times. I’m beginning to dislike that textured look although it is not as heavy as the popcorn ceilings. Would the same technique be used for removal of sand paint? That is, using paint remover in a spray bottle and then scraping? Thanks.

    • Norma

      Hi Tara!

      For sand, there’s a combination of things you’ll need to do.

      First use a wide scraper and try to scrape off the max sand
      possible. Then sand smooth (easiest to use a pole sander). Finally, skim
      coat—which means putting a very thin coat of joint compound over the entire
      ceiling surface, then sand smooth once it’s dry.

      An entirely different route would be to rehang the ceiling with 1/2 or 3/8 inch drywall right over your existing ceiling.

      Hope that helps and thanks for your question!


    Great tips for popcorn ceiling removal. Couldn’t do it any other way. Thanks for sharing!

    fasting leaky gut