When doing popcorn ceiling removal projects your first concern is whether the texture being scraped away has asbestos in it.

Un-disturbed asbestos will not hurt you but once asbestos fibres start floating around it becomes a problem. Textured ceilings prior to 1980, more than likely containing asbestos which in most areas of the world is considered to be a carcinogen.

If your thinking that your home MIGHT have an asbestos popcorn ceiling it's best NOT TO REMOVE IT. You'll first want to purchase an Asbestos Test Kit from your local home improvement retailer. Keeping in mind that these kits can take up to a week (or more) for the results as they have to be sent away to a lab.

If after buying your kit (and testing the texture along with the surface under the texture) you find that you do have asbestos be sure to contact (a relevant) local government agency regarding the removal process. Asbestos by law (in the majority cases) is only to be removed by a certified asbestos abatement company.

For those who feel that removing their popcorn ceilings will be a daunting task, remember that most types of ceilings can be either bleached, painted, re-boarded or re-splattered. By having professional painters, dry-wallers or ceiling bleachers offer you a free estimate you'll be given guidance as to what technique will work best for your particular situation. Such guidance is especially useful if what your contending with is an asbestos issue.

Even if your not dealing with an asbestos popcorn ceiling, health issues can still incur if the texture isn't removed properly in the first place. Be sure to use a respirator, goggles and tight protective clothing (duct taped at the arms and legs) along with a good hat. Your intentions are to keep the dust and debris from getting all over your skin and into your lungs.

Below you will find how to instructions for the process of popcorn ceiling removal.


Popcorn ceiling removal is by far one of the dirtiest and most difficult DIY jobs that one can do. You want to start by removing everything that's in the area your working in. Doing so will protect your valuables and at the same time give you the wiggle room your going to need. All furniture that can't be moved needs covering with some type of plastic or draped drop cloth.

Furthermore, protect your floors by securely taping down heavy plastic. When placing the plastic leave it about one foot up from the floors onto the walls.

Some people prefer to use overlapped drop cloths or rolled paper because of the slipperiness of the plastic. I don't find plastic to be an issue just as long as it's heavy enough. You'll need to decide on what process works best for your particular situation.

Keep in mind too that if your wanting to do a little less removing of the dried on mud, then remember to include the draping of windows and doors with light weight plastic.

Electric breakers should also be turned off and remember to remove all lighting fixtures (draw a picture of the wiring if needed) along with covering light switches or wall plugs with duct tape.


Every project is different and requires an assortment of tools and materials. You will need to decide on which of the items that will work best for your specific popcorn ceiling removal project.

  • Materials Needed:
  • Contractors/Masking Paper
  • Painters, masking/paper/tape & duct tape
  • Light weight painters plastic
  • Pump Sprayer, & hand sprayer
  • Paint tray, roller/nappy cover, & extension pole
  • Wall Scraper (6" to 8" drywall taping knife)
  • Drywall joint compound (or plaster)
  • Drywall taping knifes
  • Mud pan or hawk (if needed for repairs & skim coating)
  • Pole Sander and sand paper (120 grit)
  • Ladder or type of other platform
  • Protective clothing, goggles, gloves, respirator
  • Primer, brush, roller, cover, tray etc., (and ceiling paint if needed)

Talk to your local home improvement retailer regarding tools materials and how to tips. Amazon.com also carries an assortment of reasonably priced painting and decorating items, tools and materials.


Once your sure that your not dealing with asbestos and all the goodies are protected, check to see if your ceiling has been painted by the previous home owners. Most painted ceilings can be removed it's just requires much more work when doing so.

While wearing protective gear, get a ladder and rub your hand over the ceiling. If small chunks or pieces of texture fall to the floor theres a good chance that your ceiling has never been painted before.

If on the other hand the texture is firm and un-movable the ceiling has more than likely had a coat or two of paint applied to it. If this is the case you'll need use the (oil or latex based) texture removal instructions below.


Most ceilings textures that have a latex painted painted topcoat are removable. Just roll the ceiling with hot water and scrap away (follow the instructions below). Alkyd or oil paints on the other-hand are not as easy to dispose of.

You can test the surface to decipher the base of the paint that was applied to your ceilings (do so in an inconspicuous area). To do so dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol then rub the swab on your painted ceiling. If the paint comes off it's latex otherwise your dealing with an oil or alkyd based paint.

If you find that it's an oil type paint product you can either contact a Dry-waller or Ceiling Professional for help. A Pro might re-texture, paint, use a specialized bleaching formula, or even apply a chemical that lift the texture itself. Your Pro might also suggest that skim coating or re-board may be your only alternatives. Both options are labor intensive but can be done by the do it your-selfer.

If your bound and determined to tackle the project yourself then proceed to the test that follows below. Keep in mind though that once you start the testing process, after doing so re-boarding and mudding might be your only re-course.


Start your test by spraying a spot on the ceiling using a small hand sprayer with dish soap mixed in (1/2 a tsp of soap per cup should do). If after a few minutes your mixture look like it's soaking into the texture you can start rolling and scraping to get the job done faster.

To begin your scraping use a paint roller and paint tray filled with hot water (and some soap). Roll a square on the ceiling (about 4'x4') with a good amount of water then let the water sit for five or ten minutes. After waiting re-roll the spot with water then scrape the old texture away.

This is a wet and un-believably messy job so try and stay out of the way of the dripping water or falling texture.

If the popcorn doesn't seem to want to scrape away use a sharp utility knife to cut a square shape into your textured ceiling. Remember to cut the square a little bigger than the size of your taping knife.

Once the square is cut remove it with your scraper. Try not to scrape or tear the paper from the drywall that's underneath, your just removing the texture it self.

Once you have a starting point between the painted texture and drywall paper begin rolling on water and scraping away the texture. Your wet ceiling should come off in chunks. Be sure to cut around the room with your utility knife at the 45 degree angel where your ceiling meets the walls. Not doing so could result in you pulling drywall paper from your walls as you remove chunks of the ceiling texture.

You may now repair (fill with mud) or skim coat the entire surface (if needed).

Texture ceilings that do not come off, will need skim coating, or re-boarding, and re-mudding (or plastering).


Before you begin your popcorn ceiling removal project be prepared for some hot, humid, messy hard work. I have found that a number of ceiling textures are not as stuck to the surface as one would think.

Using a ladder and 6" to 8" drywall taping knife try to see if your texture can be easily removed. If not you will have to go ahead and wet the surface.


I like to use a paint tray, roller and nappy roller cover to get the job done. A garden type pump sprayer will work just fine and is less messy, it will involve more effort though and does take extra time.

Whatever method you decide upon try not to get any more water onto your ceilings, walls or floors than you need to.

Your now ready to start the wet popcorn ceiling removal process. I like to start in the center and work toward the wall.

Joints and patches where the nails or screws have been covered with compound are the most difficult areas to scrape the texture from. When going over such spots try not to tear the drywall taping paper or gouge the surface. Also, re-wet and let the water sit longer if your finding that the texture doesn't seem to want to budge.

Keep wetting and scraping until all of the texture has been removed. Once your old texture is gone let the surface dry. Follow up by pole sanding the entire ceiling leveling out any rough spots that there might be.

After sanding use joint compound and a drywall knife to fill any dents grooves or other demarcations that you might see. Let your filler dry, sand it with a large sponge sander, re-fill the surface again as needed then sand again.

Keep sanding the entire surface and filling until it is smooth and too your liking. After your ceiling is level remove dust with the help of a Swiffer or dust mop.

Prime your ceiling then check for extra holes, humps or other scratches and markings. They will require re-mudding, sanding and a final application of spot priming.

Choose a color and either begin painting your ceiling or start applying some type of drywall texture.


The ceiling is now on the floor let all the dust settle then slowly roll up your plastic (drops or contractors paper). Once done place the entire mess into heavy duty garbage bags. You can also fold then roll the plastic up along with taping it shut with duct tape if you prefer.

Carry your bags or plastic bundles out for disposal.

After the plastic, tape, drop cloths or paper is gone dust and sweep the room. Be sure to keep your mask and protective clothing on as this is a very dirty part of your popcorn ceiling removal process.


Removing an asbestos texture can be quite expensive, so if your ceiling was done prior to 1980 you might be better off re-splattering, painting, or re-boarding the surface. If you decide on just painting keep in mind that once a ceiling has been painted it's that much more difficult to remove it.

No matter what you do be sure to check the EPA's website or any other local government agency regarding the proper procedures when dealing with asbestos construction materials.
Some Pros like to put 2 or 3 tablespoons of dish washing detergent (per gallon) in their soaking water. You might want to try doing so on a more difficult to remove textures as non-painted textures can usually be removed with little or no water.

For the best protection it's advisable to use a respirator as a paper type mask works best for less dusty conditions.

If after choosing a small inconspicuous spot to test and the texture won't lift you might want to bring a couple Pros in to at least give you an estimate and some removal advice.

Also, having a Long handled scraper might help you get the job done faster but tends to work best on textures that are easier to scrape away.

When applying the water be sure to keep it out of your switches and light boxes. Excess water can also damage your drywall and create a skating rink if your using plastic.
Be sure to hammer nails in or twist screws below the drywall prior to scraping or mudding.

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