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A guide to popcorn ceiling removal

Popcorn ceilings, also known as acoustic, vermiculite, stucco or cottage cheese ceilings, were all the rage in the 60s and 70s. They were renowned for their unique bumpy texture and time-saving ease of application. However, once the 80s rolled around, popcorn ceilings quickly fell out of favour. This guide will explain how to remove a popcorn ceiling that doesn’t contain asbestos.

The problem with popcorn ceilings

The primary concern with popcorn ceilings is that they are known as a haven for asbestos. In fact, it was not uncommon for popcorn ceilings to contain up to 10% asbestos, causing severe health concerns among household members. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is known to cause respiratory problems such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you’re renovating your home and removing your popcorn ceiling is on the agenda, ensure a professional tests your ceilings for asbestos before getting started!

Prep your room

Cover floors and walls with plastic drop cloths as you begin your task of removing your popcorn ceiling. Don’t use canvas drop cloths because water can soak through. Leave the plastic in place after popcorn ceiling removal to catch the mess you’ll make repairing and sanding the ceiling later.

Remove fixtures

You might think it’s easier to leave light fixtures and ceiling fans in place as you figure out how to remove popcorn ceiling, but they’ll just be in your way and get covered with wet popcorn. Plus, you don’t want to accidentally spray water into an electrical fixture.

Spray the ceiling with water in small sections

Now that you’re ready to start the removal process, begin by spraying the ceiling with a garden sprayer or wet pump in small sections. You can also mix white vinegar with water if the surface is covered with dirt and bacteria. However, be sure not to soak the surface, as this could damage the Sheetrock below the old ceiling. Once you’ve sprayed your desired area, wait for 15 minutes or so for the water to soak in. It’s important to work in smaller sections, as spraying your entire ceiling at once will cause the water to dry up before you’re done scraping.

Time to scrape!

Use a wide putty knife or drywall taping knife to remove the texture from your ceiling, being sure to collect falling debris in a plastic bucket. Alternatively, you can purchase a popcorn ceiling scraper from a home improvement store. These scrapers have a plastic bag attached to them to collect the debris, making for easy clean-up.

When scraping, do so gently as not to damage the Sheetrock beneath. If the texture is stubborn and doesn’t want to come off, spray with water a second time and wait for it to soak in. Do not gouge your ceiling, as this could poke holes in the material which will require repairing later on.

What happens after scraping?

Scraping alone won’t leave you with a paint-ready ceiling. You’ll probably have small dings and gouges to fix. At a minimum, you’ll have to sand the ceiling to get it perfectly smooth before painting. Once you’re finished scraping and painting, it’s time for the final clean-up. Collect all debris in your plastic sheeting and dispose of them accordingly. Use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment to remove any remaining dust or particles from the walls and floor.

Our professional painters and renovators at AMMS have the knowledge required to remove popcorn ceilings that both contain and don’t contain asbestos. If you have any questions about the removal of vermiculite ceilings, give our team of experts a call today on 0412 668 294 or contact us online here.


To arrange a quote on our professional painting services and restorations, fill out our form or give us a call on 0412 668 294.

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