Sure, everybody loves a big bag of popcorn at the latest action movie. But when the popcorn is on our ceilings, well, that’s a different story entirely.
Popcorn ceilings were popular in the 1970s and 80s. Builders loved them because the popcorn texture covered a multitude of sins. Unfortunately, homeowners in overwhelming numbers now prefer flat finishes.
How to remove the unwanted popcorn look?
This can be tricky, particularly in homes built before 1978 when asbestos was routinely used in popcorn ceilings. If your home dates to 1978 or before, first test for asbestos: Wet down a small patch of ceiling and then scrape some of if into a plastic bag and send it for testing. If the test confirms asbestos, you will need specialists to tackle this project.
If not, you can take it on yourself. For DIYers, the Denver Post offers these steps:
1. Dress in old clothes and wear eye protection.
2. Remove or cover furniture with plastic sheets. In addition, “don’t be tempted to skip the step of masking the walls all the way up to the ceiling,” notes the Post, as “this stuff gets everywhere.”
3. Turn off the power to overhead lights and fans. Disconnect them and mask them off.
4. Mix water with some dishwashing liquid into a squirt bottle or sprayer and spray the mixture onto the ceiling in 4-feet squares at a time. Once the ceiling is the consistency of oatmeal, scrape the ceiling with a drywall spatula, guiding the material into a drywaller’s mud tray. Take care “not to break the surface of the drywall underneath.” Also take care not to spray too much water onto the ceiling, as that can damage the drywall.
5. Make three passes at the popcorn finish: the first to remove the bumpy layer, which will come off in sheets; the second to scrape off any loose texture beneath that; the third to remove any pieces missed before.
6. Empty the mud tray regularly into a garbage bag — or simply let the popcorn debris fall onto a plastic sheet on the floor, which you can then roll up and throw away at the end of the project.
7. Let the ceiling dry overnight. Then check the next day to see how it looks. At this point, you might need a professional to smooth things over, fill damaged spots and so on – creating that flat look you’ve been craving.