What Are Popcorn Ceilings and Why Do Homeowners Remove Them?

A Short Guide to Removing Unpopular Popcorn CeilingsOnce popular for their acoustics, popcorn ceilings were excellent for reducing noise from above—which was great news for tenants and homeowners alike. Popcorn ceilings were also beloved because they could conceal any flaws and didn't require an additional painting job. Yet the glow of the popcorn ceiling quickly lost its appeal, as the long-term ramifications made themselves known. Learn more about why this is and what it takes to remove them.

Why Are Popcorn Ceilings Unpopular?

Popcorn ceilings may look perfectly acceptable once they're first completed, but they can quickly become magnets for household pests such as spiders to spin their webs and dust mites to make their homes. All those nooks and crannies serve to quickly mar the look and even the air quality of the home by making the ceiling difficult to clean. Homeowners who need to patch up a crack in the ceiling will also find it difficult to match the overall pattern, especially if it's in a well-lit area.

Scrape and Retexture

Before doing anything with a popcorn ceiling, it should be tested for asbestos first. This material could be in any ceiling made before 1980. Testing recommendations may vary depending on where the home is located, so call the local health department to learn more about collecting a sample. If the ceiling contains asbestos, it will likely need either drywall or a professional asbestos abatement contractor.

For those whose ceilings are asbestos-free, the big question is whether the substrate of the ceiling is intact underneath. Homeowners can first try scraping a small area with a utility or drywall knife. However, this may not be possible with a painted ceiling due to an absorption of the paint. The idea is to turn all those little bumps into a smooth surface to see what the ceiling is really made of.

Tips for Scraping

It may be easier to scrape a popcorn ceiling when it's wet, but experts caution away from this because it's both messy and the water could absorb into the ceiling and cause it to expand. Homeowners who do want to use water to soften it should aim to use as little as possible. They will need to first cover the floor and walls and also remove the furniture. However, it's entirely possible for one person to do the whole ceiling as a relatively straightforward DIY project.

The Perks of Drywall

A drywall ceiling is essentially to block the release of harmful chemicals, like asbestos or lead. Scraping the ceiling will send all those particles into the air. Here are just a few tips before getting started with drywall:

  • The drywall boards are relatively expensive, so it may end up being a higher budget project
  • Crown molding may need to be removed for homeowners who are drywalling
  • A drywall lift can make it easier for homeowners to get a better grasp on the materials

A popcorn ceiling won't add to the resale value of a home, so it's smart for homeowners to start taking steps to modernize their property. Homeowners who have lead- and asbestos-free ceilings may be able to just scrape off the 'popcorn' on their own. But other homes may require more consideration, like drywall or asbestos removal.

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