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How to Repair a Popcorn Ceiling

Updated on March 30, 2012

Repairing a popcorn ceiling may seem like a job for the professionals, but it doesn't have to be. How you fix popcorn ceilings really does depend on the size of the damaged area. DIY popcorn ceiling repair might only require a can of aerosol spray, of course it might require a bit of elbow grease and some drywall if the damaged area is larger than a dinner plate. Still, drywall repair and popcorn coatings can be done by almost anyone with a tall enough ladder.

Yep, this is a popcorn ceiling. Nothing too flashy. In fact you'd never know it had been repaired.
Yep, this is a popcorn ceiling. Nothing too flashy. In fact you'd never know it had been repaired.

A simple repair can be done with an aerosol repair kit, while more extensive damage may require replacing the ceiling drywall. Popcorn ceiling repair isn’t all that difficult once you have mastered mixing the dry ingredients with water to obtain the correct consistency.


Assessing the Damage

The first step in fixing a popcorn ceiling is assessing the damage. Relatively minor damage, such as that left by ceiling hooks or accidental bangs, can be repaired quite quickly with a popcorn spray kit available at most home improvement stores. The aerosol cans can be bought in three textures: small, medium and large. One of these should match the texture on your ceiling.


If the damage is more severe, say water damage from a leaking upstairs tub, you will have to cut the entire damaged area away. This type of repair is much more time consuming and may require a second set of hands.


Popcorn Ceiling Repair Procedure

If the repair is a minor one, you can simply spray new popcorn texture on the ceiling to cover the defect. To do this you will first need to mask off the area immediately surrounding the area to be fixed. Once the area is taped off you can spray the texture on up to the thickness you need. After the spray has dried, it may be painted to match the rest of the ceiling.


To repair a larger problem in the ceiling, you will first need to cut away the entire damaged area. Once this is done, a new piece of drywall needs to be tacked up with drywall screws to cover the hole. Make sure to drive the screws into a ceiling rafter, and not into the floor of the level above. Scrape off about an inch of texture from around the newly installed drywall. Use drywall tape to secure the new drywall to the old ceiling. There is no need to mud or fix any damage to the ceiling drywall, as any imperfections will be covered by the textured spray. Again tape off the area directly surrounding the new installation and prime the drywall. Once the primer has dried (usually less than 30 minutes), spray the aerosol popcorn ceiling texture on the primed area. After the texture has dried, paint the ceiling to color match.


If the area to repair is larger than 10 feet, then you will want to abandon the spray-on texture idea. It is hard to get a consistent look when using the aerosol can. In these cases you can purchase a dry compound that is mixed with water. This latex based paint product incorporates small bits of Styrofoam to create the texture. This texture is then rolled on to the ceiling with a roller brush. The results are generally better with this method, as the latex is thicker and creates a stronger bond than the aerosol. There is also less chance of the texture lifting when a roller is used.


Tips and Tricks for Popcorn Ceiling Repair

If the ceiling suffered water damage, it is important to fix the cause of the problem before fixing the ceiling itself. If you fail to fix the leak then you will just be replacing your ceiling again in a short time.


Keep a wet cloth and bucket nearby when working with texturing sprays. If the spray happens to get on an unintended area it needs to be cleaned quickly. If it is left to dry, the spray will be very hard to remove without a sander.


If it is your first time using a texturing spray, do a practice run on an old piece of cardboard. This will allow you to gauge the rate of the spray, as well as how the texture looks as it comes into contact with the ceiling. When you are practicing, have the cardboard above you just like a ceiling. The spray will work differently when pointed vertically than when held horizontally.


If you are working on a popcorn ceiling repair on a ceiling that was textured before 1980, there is a good chance that the texturing may contain asbestos. If you are doing a very minor repair, make sure to wear a dust mask to keep from inhaling the dust. If the repair is larger, you may want to consult a professional to make sure that it is safe.



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