Popcorn Ceilings are My Enemy

Pin It Today I spent four hours scraping popcorn from a small 10'x10' room. If you have done this before you know it is very time consuming and messy work. However, this ceiling had a multi layer paint amour trying to conceal it which hindered the water penetrating the layer of popcorn.  Normally, it would only take about two hours to scrape this size room. 

How do my arms feel after scraping for four hours? Like jello. But, now I'm resting up for an entire day of installing hardwood floors because these arms are going to be screaming using the heavy hammer to nail them down. But trust me, I'm not complaining. The finished product is always worth the work.

If you have never scraped popcorn and are thinking about it you need to understand two important things. 1) It is VERY messy and 2) I'm a bit crazy when it comes to these things. What may not be a big deal to me may not work for you.  I'll let the pictures help you decide.  Neat freak folks may want to brace yourself.
Finished Ceiling   (I'll prime it in the AM before I start the floors)
Here is the ceiling after I started to scrape without water.  If you try to add water to a painted ceiling like this before adding the holes (where the popcorn was knocked off) you will be wasting time and water.
It took me a half an hour to just get an opening started (spraying water and scraping)
It is starting to come along, but very slowly
Sometimes the angels are singing and you can get a piece going (adding water at the edge on the ceiling)

Use the drywall trowel at a 45 degree angle pushing away from you on the ceiling, kind of like scraping ice from your windshield but over your head (sorry warm climate people for not understanding this reference).  Be sure to keep it flat.  If you use too much pressure on an edge or if you aren't at the correct angle, you will rip the drywall paper or create a hole.  You can always go back and patch, but you want to avoid it to save your time.  Start slowly until you get the hang of it.
By the way, this was my less used arm after only about 12 square feet.  I couldn't even touch my phone to take a picture after that.
Be prepared for a horrible mess.  If you aren't planning on ripping out carpet, you will need a tarp or plastic and a drop cloth over it.  Leave a towel on your ladder to wipe down the excess water that will run down the walls.  Also leave a towel at the doorway where you can kick off your shoes.

I think of it as an awesome arm workout...for four long hours.

These are the tools you will need - drywall mud trowel, ladder and water sprayer (it is over by the dresser, I think they can be found in the lawn and garden or bug spray area of the hardward store)  If you try to use an ordinary water bottle, it will take you a long time.
Ready for the leg workout tomorrow.
Sweet dreams :)

Special Note:  If your house was built before 1978, please have a test done on the material before you remove or disturb.  Lead paint and asbestos could be used in the ceiling materials and/or paint of houses built before the law changed.  My house was built after that and all of my previous houses (built before 1978) didn't have popcorn ceilings.  I think it was more popular in the 80's and 90's for this texture.  Better to be safe, so if you are uncertain, contact a professional. 


  1. WOW! Good work! Give your arms a couple of days' rest before you challenge anyone to arm wrestling -- but after what you've done today, I'm sure you can take 'em!

  2. For some reason two of the rooms in my 101 year old farmhouse had their pine slat ceilings covered in popcorn goo...I'm shamelessly passing the job of scraping it off onto the next owners as I'm soon moving closer to the city (though still in the country and to an only slightly younger home, built in 1924 :)

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  3. I had to repair a small part on the ceiling in my spare bedroom. It's a popcorn ceiling and I have absolutely no desire to scrape it off (though it is soo ugly!), so I'll be re-popcorning part of it. I had already made that decision, but seeing how messy yours was, that sealed the deal!!

  4. Thank you so much for the post on getting rid of popcorn!! Hope you are feeling better today!! :)
    Can I ask how you prepare the ceiling for paint, once you remove the popcorn? Do you patch with spackle or joint compound? Do you prime first? Thanks so much!

  5. @Anonymous. I don't blame you. If it didn't bother me so much I won't do it because of the mess. :)

  6. @Kelly @ Mom's Workbench If you have any imperfections or holes, use a lightweight spackle like you use for nail holes on walls, sand smooth if necessary after it dries. Prime it completely (I use two coats of primer). You may need an entire gallon sometimes. The raw drywall soaks it up quickly. Then, just paint like normal.