Popcorn Ceilings?How to Remove it - Paintway

The 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of popcorn ceilings, easily recognisable by the rough texture. Also called vermiculite ceilings they were mainly featured in hallways and bedrooms but sometimes throughout every room of the house. Popcorn ceilings were applied through spraying or painting in a particular way. It was a popular interior design and covered up imperfections on the plaster. But in actual fact, it catches a lot of dust and was even used in conjunction with asbestos, which was widely used in the 60s and 70s. You can remove popcorn ceilings yourself but it is a big job to take on and you must test for asbestos first.

Paintway see these types of ceilings during renovations and remove them as part of our services. We understand the process and can easily remove the old popcorn texture and replace it with beautiful new modern ceilings. 

Before you follow these tips there is a very important first step – to test for asbestos in the popcorn ceilings. The only safe way to do this is call in a professional. They will safely scrape a small amount for testing and if it shows asbestos then the professional asbestos teams will remove it for you. 

If there is no asbestos then these are the tips to follow. 

Tip 1 – Prep and Protect

Taking down popcorn ceilings is very messy work, remove all the furniture and cover any heavy furniture that can’t be moved with plastic. Tape plastic to lights switches, walls, door frames, floors and windows. Make sure it’s thick plastic drop sheets designed for these types of specific home renovations. And heavy-duty tape to keep the drop sheets in place. All of this needs to be done with great care as the wetting process during the ceiling removal can potentially cause a lot of damage. We also recommend turning off the power as obviously water and electricity do not mix.

Tip 2 – What to do with ceiling lights and fans on a popcorn ceiling

It’s also very important to protect your lights and ceiling fans from the water spray. If you have downlights then after removal of the fixture put newspaper or similar into the holes. Removing the ceiling lights and fans may be cumbersome and annoying but they will be in the way during the removal process and can easily be damaged by dust and water. 

Tip 3 – What to wear when DIY popcorn ceiling

Protect yourself – get a face mask that is HEPA or of a similar protection level. This prevents the dust and materials from being inhaled into your lungs. Also, wear gloves and eye mask protection. For clothing either buy protective plastic clothing or wear long sleeves and long pants plus boots. And make sure you throw them away afterwards as it’s easier than trying to wash the dust off! As you can see all of this work is prep and the removal process has not even happened. This is one reason we often see people decide DIY removing popcorn ceilings is better left to professional painters.

Tip 4 – Wetting the ceiling

The popcorn ceiling is removed by wetting the area with warm water which breaks down the adhesive bonds. Use a spray bottle and wet one area at a time, not the whole ceiling. The water needs to soak on the surface for at least 15 minutes. Do not overspray water and use too much as this will damage the plasterboard underneath. 

Tip 5 – Scraping the popcorn ceiling 

The most important step of the process is scraping. As scraping is what actually removes the rough texture. Make sure you have the right tools to scrape popcorn ceilings, a large wide blade is best. Keep steady and use long motions to best remove the textured effect. For hard areas like corners and edges using a putty knife works. Use a paint pan in your other hand to catch as much of the texture that scrapes off as you can. 

If you find the texture is not easily coming off then wait another 15 mins and spray a little more water then try again.

Tip 6 – Repairing the ceiling

After the scraping and texture removal then you need to repair and smooth the surface. This step must be done before any repainting otherwise it will look uneven and the paint will flake off. To repair any holes in the plaster use a joint compound. It will need 24 hours to dry before the ceiling can be sanded. Use a fine-grit sanding paper on a sanding pole. The way to sand is horizontally from one end to the other. Do not swirl the pole or apply too much pressure as this damages the ceiling. This is a very tedious process and if at this stage you have had enough, we can step and finish the process from here. We have taken on many vermiculite/popcorn ceiling renovations at this stage. 

Tip 7 – Priming and painting ceilings

Now it’s finally time to paint the ceiling. Make sure you use a primer before painting and at least two coats. Buy paint that is specifically made for ceilings and take a look at some ceiling paint interior design ideas. Believe it or not, there is a lot more than white paint for ceilings!  

Finally, removing popcorn ceilings with DIY methods is not easy and we recommend our professional painting service to get the best finished result. You are still going to pay costs for DIY with paint, primer, sanding tools, scraping tools etc.

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