How To Remove That Ugly Popcorn Ceiling

Featured image of popcorn ceiling CC2.0 by Enoch Leung via Flickr

When we were house hunting, one of my absolute deal breakers was popcorn ceilings. We both love old homes and neither of us were afraid of a little work, but for some reason, those popcorn ceilings reminded me of everything I’ve hated about rentals.

Also, I had read that the “popcorn” is likely to be made of asbestos, especially in homes built before 1977, which is when asbestos was banned as a building material.

While by today’s standards, popcorn ceilings are dated looking, they shouldn’t be the deal breaker I made them out to be. The can be removed, and it’s not as difficult as you might think.

What is a popcorn ceiling?

Popcorn ceilings refer to the bumpy, cottage cheese-like texture you see in many mid-century homes. While popcorn ceilings made their first appearance in US homes in the 1930s, they didn’t become a trend until the 1960s and 1970s. They were excellent for hiding ceiling imperfections and for noise insulation.

Unfortunately, they aren’t exactly easy to maintain. A light touch is enough to dislodge one of the bumps, and theoretically let asbestos loose in the air. While you can paint over popcorn ceilings, many people don’t, which is why it’s not uncommon to see a grungy once white ceiling looming over newly painted walls.

How do I know if my ceiling has asbestos?

You are undoubtedly curious whether your ceiling has asbestos, but that’s something that should be left to experts. Spray-on asbestos was used in popcorn ceilings from the 1940s to the late 1970s. Remember that popcorn can be sprayed onto older ceilings, so you can find them in older homes as well.

If you insist on removing it yourself, you will need to take a lot of precautions, including hazmat gear and thorough covering of the floor and every soft surface in the home. Once you collect a sample, you can send it to an asbestos testing lab near you.

Of course, not all popcorn ceilings contain asbestos. Later, styrofoam pellets were used, but that didn’t solve the problem of being difficult to maintain and clean.

How to get rid of popcorn ceiling

If you moved into a home with popcorn ceilings, it’s best to hire a professional, but if you are looking to save money, here are tips from a pro: