Popcorn Ceiling Removal And Repair

Take that popcorn off!

Remove the popcorn and fix that ceiling.

Removing popcorn texture from ceilings is no fun, but the improvement that is possible afterwards makes it all worthwhile.

In my work as a wall and ceiling repair professional, I have dealt with acres (so it seems) of popcorn ceilings, and I still get pleasure from seeing things change for the better.

I get the homeowner himself or herself to get rid of the popcorn. Yes, I have done tons of that myself, but with the changes in law in some places, only the homeowner or a specialty licensed pro is allowed to scrape the stuff off and dispose of it. This is because old popcorn probably has asbestos, which is nasty stuff. So special cautions and procedures are in order for the safety of all concerned.

Once the popcorn is off, then we are faced with the need to upgrade that ugly bare surface.

The first thing is to get rid of the dust. Wiping down with a damp sponge can take care of that. Remember to rinse the sponge very frequently, because it will load up quickly. You can test the ceiling when you are done and it is dry. Wet your fingertips and rub the ceiling. If they come up white, you need another rinse up there.

The reason for being fussy about the dust is two-fold. First, dust can interfere with the adhesion of any drywall compound you use for repair or texturizing. And secondly, if the popcorn did have asbestos, you don't want any lingering residues in your home.

In my part of the US (Oregon), the drywall ceiling joints were often given only one topping coat before the popcorn was sprayed on. Now, before you go any further with your ceiling repair project, it would be a good idea to second coat those joints so they are nice and flat.

You may also have some gouges in the drywall face paper, creating by the broad knife used to remove the popcorn. These may need a coat of joint compound, to fill and smooth them.

Another challenge you may face at this point is some nail popping in the ceiling. Drywall ceilings from the sixties and seventies were usually nailed into place, and over time the wood framing shrinks and squeezes the nails. So you will need to push the nails in deeper - use a nail set to keep from denting the drywall any more than it is already.

A good addition to just setting the nails, is to use drywall screws. These will suck up the ceiling boards and snug them tightly against the wood joists. Plus, you may see the nails move, which tells you of the need to get them snug also.

Now the next step is to coat all the nails and screw heads with two or three coats of joint compound. This is essential, so these don't show up after you paint.

Having come this far, you have one more basic step to complete before priming and painting.


Are you going to be happy with a smooth ceiling (is it flawless enough?), or do you think some texture is in order?

If smooth is your choice, then some light touch-up sanding will remove lines and defects in the joint compound. If you want perfection, it is probably smart to skim coat the exposed drywall paper so it too looks the same as the areas covered with joint compound. This will mean some extra sanding at the end, but it will be worth it.

If texture is your choice, you will be putting "icing on the cake." A pretty texture can really add class to a ceiling, but at the same time an ugly one is not worth doing.

A lot can be written about doing texture, but let me just give you a few quick tips.

Materials: use texture compound, or all purpose joint compound, thinned as needed.

Tools: lots of possibilities here. Brushes of all kinds, trowels, sponges. Experiment.

Practice on scraps of sheetrock or plywood or cardboard. Try different things, and when you see something you like, ask yourself: can I do this over the whole ceiling in a consistent manner?

You can also rent a texture sprayer and put on various kinds of spray texture - light or heavy, plain or knockdown. If you actually like the granulated look of popcorn, you can spray up a granulated texture that is finer and much more durable, using coarse white quartz sand or plaster perlite. These last textures are easily painted and don't have the sifting problems associated with popcorn texture.

To spray granulated texture, you mix the particles with thinned texture or joint compound which is the carrier and fixative.

If you like the idea of texture, but need more to think about, you can access a DVD of filmed demonstrations.

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