How to Remove a Popcorn Textured or Acoustic Ceiling

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:
Now my friend Teen Osborn, no relation to Ozzie, is looking to get rid of the popcorn ceiling that clashes with his casa's Spanish style. Now, truth is I do prefer my popcorn at the movies and not on the ceiling, so I'm going to show him how to remove it. It's really a lot easier than you may think.

TEEN OSBORN:
As you can see, the ceiling needs some work.
RON HAZELTON:
Oh, yeah? Yeah, this is not part of the 1930s design, is it?
TEEN OSBORN:
No, I think the original owners did some work in the '80s.
RON HAZELTON:
All right. Well you know what, it's not that difficult to take this down. A little bit messy.
TEEN OSBORN:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
So we'll do a lot of preparation work here just to protect the walls and the floors. First thing though, let's get the furniture out of here.

TEEN OSBORN:
Okay. I'll get the chairs.
RON HAZELTON:
With the power off, Teen takes down the light fixture from the ceiling.
TEEN OSBORN:
Oh, that was pretty easy, Ron.
RON HAZELTON:
The beginning - well, the first electrical job in the new place.

Next, we're going to cover the walls and floor with layers of heavy duty plastic.
RON HAZELTON:
This is just a little added insurance here for the receptacles, even though we've turned the power off. So let's go ahead and --

We taped small pieces of plastic over each outlet. Next, we extend the plastic floor sheeting up the walls a foot or so and paint the edge. This will keep any water from getting under the baseboards.
TEEN OSBORN:
So all that water's going to be dripping?
RON HAZELTON:
It will come right down here, yeah.
TEEN OSBORN:
Oh, okay. It kind of makes me nervous, Ron.
RON HAZELTON:
Well, it should. [LAUGHS]

Next, we run a strip of painters tape along the upper edge of the walls, about a quarter of an inch below the ceiling. This will give us a good seal at the top. Then we cover the entire wall with plastic, taping the top edge to the strip of tape we've just put up.

Finally, we roll out a layer of resin paper. Now this will absorb a lot of the water that falls from the ceiling to help prevent the floor from getting slippery, reduce the possibility of tracking debris into other parts of the house and make cleanup a lot easier.

Some blown-on acoustical ceilings applied before the early '70s contain asbestos and they should be removed only by a certified asbestos removal contractor. Now you can find out if your ceiling contains asbestos by taking a small sample, then send it off to an EPA-certified testing lab before you begin your removal project.

Okay, Teen, now for the fun part. This is just a garden sprayer, plain water in here.
TEEN OSBORN:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
We're going to start applying this to the ceiling. Probably want to work in an area about four to five feet square at a time. It's probably better to make several passes and kind of let it soak it up as you go.

The acoustic material on a ceiling like this can absorb a lot of water. The trick is to wet it thoroughly but not overwet it. Too much water can damage the paper surface of the wallboard underneath.

Now this is what we're going to use to scrape this material off the ceiling. It's a joint knife. You can think of it as kind of a wide putty knife. So what I was doing a moment ago, was rounding off the corners right here. That will prevent us from gouging the ceiling, something we'd have to repair later on.

Now the water has done most of the work. This popcorn ceiling is just about falling off by itself. If we run into any hard scraping, we'll stop, apply a little more water, wait and then try again.
[MUSIC]
Before Teen gets too far, we take a little break and unroll a second layer of resin paper right on top of the ceiling debris. Presto, we've got a nearly clean floor surface again. In less than an hour, Teen is removing the final remnants of his old popcorn ceiling.

With the dirty work done, we take down the plastic sheeting from the walls and roll up the wet paper and plastic on the floor. The mess from the old ceiling gets wrapped up inside and the whole thing goes into a large garbage bag.

Now the same water that so easily removed the acoustic coating has also loosened the paper joint tape.

So now we've got a bare joint right here and we're going to have to recover that. So step one, this is joint compound right here. I mixed it up in a tray and I'm going to put this on and I'm using about a six-inch knife.

First, we lay down a thin layer of joint compound along the joint line. Next, I dip the joint tape in a bucket of water and squeeze off the excess between my fingers. Wetting the tape makes it stick to the joint compound better and reduces the likelihood of air bubbles.

Teen uses a putty knife to press the tape into the joint compound and smooth off the excess.

Same water that caused our tape to come loose has kind of eroded these nail holes. This is joint compound that was put on to cover up the depressions from the nail holes or screw holes, whatever they used here. So we're going to have to bring those back up flush with the wallboard.

We use the joint compound sparingly, just enough to fill the holes. It's faster to make two thin applications than overfilling and having to do a lot of extra sanding later.

A little steeper, that's pretty good. Well, our joint compound is dry. Now we're going to do a little sanding but we're not going to use sandpaper, we're going to use instead, a sanding mesh like this right here.

Now this is designed to go on a sanding pad, and this particular sanding pad is on the end of a long pole so that we don't have to go back up on the ladder. Teen, all set. You're all ready to go here. Just hold this up on the ceiling.

The secret here is to sand off high ridges. Low spots will be filled with another coat of joint compound. Well, the popcorn's gone.
TEEN OSBORN:
Yeah.
RON HAZELTON:
Got a little bit of stuff on us in the process, but we're not too bad here.

TEEN OSBORN:
Yeah, it's not too bad.
RON HAZELTON:
You got a couple things left to do. You're probably going to want to put on, eh, maybe one, maybe two skin coats just to fill up any low spots with a light sanding in between and then prime this. And be sure to choose a primer that says, for wallboard.
TEEN OSBORN:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
And then you have -- you can leave it. You can put a final coat of paint on or you can texture it to match your walls right here, whatever. It will be your choice at this point. Anyway, the first probably of many home improvement projects here in this house, huh?

TEEN OSBORN:
I'm energized. I have confidence now.
RON HAZELTON:
Well, I say leave the popcorn for the movies. A smooth ceiling is the first step in making Teen's vision for his dream house, a reality.

Remove a popcorn-textured ceiling simply and effectively.

Remove a popcorn textured ceiling in four basic steps: preparing the room, wetting the ceiling, scraping the "popcorn" material off the ceiling and using joint compound to recover any bare joints and eroded nail holes - leaving your ceiling ready to be painted or textured in any way you desire.

Check for Asbestos
Step 1

Check for Asbestos

Take a small sample of the ceiling material and send it to an EPA certified testing lab before you begin. If your ceiling contains Asbestos, you will need to have a certified asbestos removal contractor do the job for you.

Turn Electricity Off and Remove Light Fitting/s
Step 2

Turn Electricity Off and Remove Light Fitting/s

Since you’ll be using a lot of water in this project, first be sure to turn of the electricity and check it with a circuit tester. Remove all furniture and ceiling light fittings.

Cover the Floor with Plastic Sheeting
Step 3

Cover the Floor with Plastic Sheeting

Tape small pieces of plastic over each electrical outlet and cover the floor with heavy duty plastic floor sheeting, extending it up the walls a foot or so.

Cover the Walls with Plastic Sheeting
Step 4

Cover the Walls with Plastic Sheeting

Run painter’s tape along the upper edge of the walls then cover the entire wall with plastic sheeting, taping the top edge to the tape already there. Roll out a layer of resin paper on the floor.

Wet the Ceiling
Step 5

Wet the Ceiling

Using a garden sprayer, wet the ceiling, working in 4 to 5 square feet areas at a time, wetting the ceiling thoroughly, but being careful not to over-wet it.

Scrape the Popcorn Material off the Ceiling
Step 6

Scrape the Popcorn Material off the Ceiling

Round off the corners of a joint knife (to prevent gouges) and use it to scrape off the popcorn ceiling. If you run into any hard scraping areas, apply a little more water, wait and then try again.

Unroll Second Layer of Resin Paper and Finish Scraping
Step 7

Unroll Second Layer of Resin Paper and Finish Scraping

Unroll another layer of resin paper directly on top of ceiling debris and continue scraping ceiling. When all material has been scraped off, take down plastic sheeting from walls, roll up wet paper and plastic on floor and place all into a large garbage bag.

Re-cover any Bare Joints Using Joint Compound and Joint Tape
Step 8

Re-cover any Bare Joints Using Joint Compound and Joint Tape

Mix joint compound in a tray and apply along the joint lines. Dip joint tape into water, squeeze of excess and use a putty knife to press the tape into the joint compound. Smooth off excess.

Fill any Eroded Nail Holes
Step 9

Fill any Eroded Nail Holes

Use two thin applications of joint compound to bring holes flush with the wallboard.

Sand the Ceiling
Step 10

Sand the Ceiling

Use a sanding pad on the end of a long pole to sand off any high ridges.

Finish Your Ceiling
Step 11

Finish Your Ceiling

Fill any low spots with another coat or two of joint compound, sanding in between coats. Prime the ceiling using a primer that says “for wallboard”. Your ceiling is then ready for you to paint or texture as you like.