Popcorn ceilings, also known as acoustic ceilings or textured ceilings, were a popular design choice in homes built between the 1950s and 1980s. While they were initially intended to absorb sound and hide imperfections, the rough texture has become outdated and is now often seen as an eyesore. In addition to being aesthetically unappealing, popcorn ceilings can harbor dust, allergens, and even asbestos, posing potential health risks to homeowners. This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need about popcorn ceiling removal, including the process, costs, and alternatives to consider if you can’t remove popcorn ceilings where you live.

What is a Popcorn Ceiling?

A popcorn ceiling is a textured surface created by spraying a mixture of water, white paper pulp, and styrofoam onto the ceiling. This mixture dries to create a bumpy texture that resembles popcorn, cottage cheese or even orange peel. While this style was once trendy, it has since fallen out of favor due to its dated appearance and potential health hazards.

Why Remove a Popcorn Ceiling?

There are several reasons why homeowners choose to remove their popcorn ceilings:

Aesthetics: Popcorn ceilings can make a room feel dated, and removing them instantly modernizes the space. It’s a home improvement that is instantly noticeable.

Health Risks: Popcorn ceilings can harbor allergens, such as dust and mold, which can negatively affect air quality. In some cases, popcorn ceilings may also contain asbestos, a harmful substance linked to respiratory issues and cancer.

Increased Home Value: Removing popcorn ceilings can increase your home’s resale value, as potential buyers often view this outdated feature as a drawback.

Easier Maintenance: Smooth ceilings are easier to clean and maintain compared to textured ones.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Process

There are two main methods for popcorn ceiling removal: scraping and covering. Although many first think of this as a DIY project, it’s more complicated than it seems. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to remove popcorn for each approach:

Scraping Method:

a. Prepare the room: Remove all furniture, ceiling fans, light fixtures, cover the floors with drop cloths or plastic sheeting, and turn off the power to the room.

b. Test for asbestos: If your home was built before 1980, it’s crucial to test for asbestos before starting the removal process. If asbestos is present, hire a professional abatement team to handle the removal. The EPA is a good place to start if you have any questions, or need an asbestos test kit. Obviously, if you find asbestos during the remodel, it’s a carcinogen that needs professional asbestos removal. No matter what you find, be sure to wear a dust mask and eye protection while working with drywall and doing any drywall repair.

c. Wet the ceiling: Spray small sections of the ceiling with water to soften the popcorn texture, don’t try to do the entire ceiling at once, making it easier to scrape the wet popcorn off. Avoid dry scraping, it makes a terrible mess and is much more work.

d. Scrape: Using a wide putty knife or scraper, gently remove the popcorn ceiling texture, being careful not to damage the underlying drywall.

e. Repair and smooth: Fill any gouges or dents with joint compound, scrape them smooth with a drywall knife, then sand the ceiling smooth. A skim coat can be added for the best possible smoothness.

f. Prime and paint: Apply a coat of primer to the ceiling, followed by your chosen paint color. A sprayer will make short work of a ceiling.

Covering Method:

a. Prepare the room: Remove all furniture, cover the floors with plastic sheeting, and turn off the power to the room.

b. Install furring strips: Secure furring strips to the existing ceiling, spaced approximately 16 inches apart.

c. Attach drywall or paneling: Fasten new drywall or paneling to the furring strips, concealing the popcorn ceiling.

d. Tape and mud: Apply joint tape and compound to the seams between the new drywall panels, then sand smooth.

e. Prime and paint: Apply a coat of primer to the new ceiling, followed by your chosen paint color.

Cost of Popcorn Ceiling Removal

The cost of popcorn ceiling removal can vary depending on the size of the room, the method used, and whether asbestos abatement is required. On average, professional popcorn ceiling removal costs between $1 and $2 per square foot for scraping and $2 to $5 per square foot for covering. Asbestos abatement can significantly increase the cost, ranging from $3 to $7 per square foot, depending on the severity of the contamination and local regulations.

DIY Popcorn Ceiling Removal

If you’re a handy homeowner, you may choose to tackle popcorn ceiling removal yourself. However, this project can be labor-intensive and messy, so it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons carefully. Here are some tips for a successful DIY popcorn ceiling removal:

Safety first: Wear protective gear, including goggles, gloves, and a dust mask or respirator, to protect yourself from dust and debris.

Plan ahead: Allocate enough time to complete the project, as the process can be time-consuming, particularly for large rooms or multiple areas.

Be prepared for surprises: Removing a popcorn ceiling can reveal hidden issues, such as water damage or mold, which may require additional repairs.

Clean up thoroughly: After scraping or covering the popcorn ceiling, ensure you thoroughly clean the room to remove any residual dust and debris.

Alternatives to Popcorn Ceiling Removal

If you’re not ready to commit to a full popcorn ceiling removal, there are alternatives to consider:

Painting: A fresh coat of paint can help minimize the appearance of the popcorn texture and provide a temporary solution.

Texture change: Apply a different type of texture, such as a knockdown or orange peel finish, to mask the popcorn texture partially.

Decorative elements: Add architectural details, such as crown molding or ceiling medallions, to draw attention away from the popcorn ceiling.


Popcorn ceiling removal is an effective way to modernize your home and improve its overall appearance, air quality, and value. With options for both professional and DIY removal, you can choose the approach that best suits your needs and budget. By understanding the removal process, costs, and potential alternatives, you can make an informed decision on the best course of action for your home.

Are you ready to transform your living space and say goodbye to your outdated popcorn ceilings? Hire a trusted professional and reach out to our team for personalized advice on your popcorn ceiling removal project.