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Down with Popcorn

Raise your hand if you have that popcorn-looking stuff on your ceiling.


Raise your hand if you hate it as much as me.

Old Track Lighting

When we first moved into our house, one of the first big projects we tackled was removing the popcorn from the living room ceiling.  There were some fugly track lights in the corner, and when we took them down, they left behind a yellow mark.  Rather than try to paint over the popcorn (which could have been disastrous), we decided it all had to come down.

Removing Popcorn from Ceiling

This was actually one of the easiest – and messiest – high-impact projects we’ve done!

If you decide to tackle this in your own home, just make sure your ceiling has not been painted.  I read that it can be extremely difficult to remove if it’s been painted.  Try to take some down in an unnoticeable corner.  If it is at all difficult to remove, you might want to consider another project.

Removing Popcorn from the Ceiling

Just wet down the ceiling, bit-by-bit, and then scrape off the popcorn with a large putty knife.  We used a previously-unused insect repellent pump sprayer, which worked pretty well.  Not only does wetting the popcorn make it slide off like buttah, but it drastically cuts down on the dust.

Removing Popcorn from Ceiling

***IMPORTANT NOTE***  If you live in an older home, you will want to have your ceiling tested for asbestos before you try this.

We lined our walls in plastic because we foolishly painted them before the popcorn removal adventure.  The walls are optional, but covering your floors with heavy-duty plastic or fabric drop cloths is highly recommended (for obvious reasons).

Removing Popcorn from Ceiling

The device the hubs is using is his very own, jerry-rigged popcorn-sucking tool.  Basically it was a shop vac with a putty knife duct-taped to the hose.  Again, this is optional – I preferred to let it plop all over the floor around me.  There was something immensely satisfying about the mess this created.

Until I accidentally stepped in it and dragged it across the kitchen floor.

C’est la vie.

After the popcorn removal came the real work.  We were lucky because the drywall on our ceilings had already been taped, puttied, and sanded fairly smooth.  Often builders will neglect to do this and use the popcorn as a cover-up for unfinished work.  Even so, the hubs we still had a lot of sanding and painting.  The sanding created a LOT of dust, so you will want to wear a mask if you try this yourself.

Sanding the Ceiling Smooth

Unpainted drywall sucks up paint like crazy.  We ended up with one coat of primer and two coats of paint.

Once we had a nice, smooth ceiling painted a slightly lighter shade than the walls, our 8′ ceilings looked substantially better.

Before (with the old, crusty popcorn):

Old Popcorn Ceiling

After (with the smooth, creamy ceiling):

New Smooth Ceiling

Has anyone else taken on a project like this?  We thought it was worth the work.


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I did this in my hallway – I wanted to start with a small area. And though I agree with you on the satisfaction you get when it all plops to the floor, it was the sanding that did me in. It was too painful for me to constantly be looking up, bending that way. So the second and third times I did this, in my living room (biggest room in the house) and entry, I didn’t wet it so that it all fell off. I simply scraped the dry popcorn, making it much smoother, but still a little textured. That way I could just paint right over it. It was much easier, and looks about the same. I’ll do the rest of the rooms in my house eventually, I’m sure. It’s like childbirth – you have to forget about how uncomfortable/hard it was before you try it again. :-)


Thanks, Beth! Great tips on the popcorn! We’ve done all but our office and master bedroom – I agree with you on how difficult the sanding is, but lucky for me, the hubs is a huge perfectionist when it comes to that. I just have to give him a good massage when it’s all done. ;)

My Indecision is Final. | Domestiphobia

[…] So yesterday we cleared out the room.  Apparently the thing about decorating is you can’t just get right into the good stuff.  There’s a certain amount of prep work involved if you want it to look right in the end.  Since new carpeting isn’t really in the budget right now, we’re going to pretend the floors look fantastic and move right on up to the ceiling.  Yep.  Popcorn.  Just like every other room in this house, it had to come down. […]

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