Is It Expensive To Get Rid Of A Popcorn Ceiling?

Photo of author

Hubert Miles

Updated on

popcorn ceiling removal lg

The popcorn ceiling was popular in the 70s through to the 90s in North America. These are ceilings with a stipple effect that homeowners loved because they absorbed sound, and they also hid any flaws in the ceiling. But with time, there has been a ceiling revolution. Unfortunately, these old ceilings can lower the value of your home. If you have a popcorn ceiling, it may be time to change it.

So, is it expensive to remove a popcorn ceiling?

It is expensive to get rid of the popcorn ceiling. The average cost ranges between $1000 to $3000, depending on the size of the ceiling. That is because the removal of a popcorn ceiling is messy and time-consuming. Most ceilings will need a skim coat of mud and sanding to remove imperfections before priming and painting after the popcorn texture is removed. The process can take several days for a single room or several weeks for an entire house.

Let’s take a deeper look at why it is expensive to get rid of a popcorn ceiling. Also, is it necessary to remove the ceiling at all?

Why Is It Expensive To Get Rid of Popcorn Ceilings?

Removing a popcorn ceiling is expensive because:

There Is An Asbestos Risk With Popcorn Ceilings

Asbestos has harmful compounds that are dangerous for people to intake. That is why popcorn ceilings are recommended to be removed by professionals and are no longer trendy nowadays.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to know just by looking whether a popcorn ceiling has asbestos in it.

Your contractor will have to test the ceiling for asbestos and also wear protective gear during the process. If your home was before the mid-80s, there is a high chance of this harmful material in your ceiling. 

Asbestos fibers can flow into the air during removal.

So, the contractor will spray some water and liquid detergent mixture onto the ceiling, wetting a section. They will get some of the ceilings and bag them in a sealable plastic container or paper using a putty knife. A test of the sample will reveal whether it has asbestos or not.

Unfortunately, the analysis cost will be on you, and the contractor may increase their fees because of the risk they are taking by working on your ceiling.

The contractor will also charge you extra for disposing of the asbestos safely and professionally.

Proper removal of asbestos is crucial because breathing the material can result in lung cancer, among other life-threatening diseases.

The Process Of Popcorn Removal Is Lengthy And Messy

The messy nature of popcorn ceiling removal makes it a time-consuming process that even professionals abhor. You can expect a wet, unsightly sludge that covers everything, and everyone, standing under the ceiling.

To control the mess, a lot of time, supplies, and planning go into preparing the room before the work begins.

After prepping the room, the team has to pre-scrape and then scrape the ceiling.

If you pay by the hour, you have to pay for all the hours spent preparing the room, removing the ceiling, and cleaning up after the job.

This process requires a lot of manual labor, which means you have a sizable team to accomplish it in a timely fashion.

There Is A Lot Of Work Repairing The Ceiling After Removal

The surface of the popcorn ceiling remains messy and not safe for people to inhale because of asbestos risk.

If you want the complete restoration service, the contractor will paint the ceiling. But before painting, they have to clean the area to remove any ceiling remnants. And after that, they have to resurface it.

If you decide to install ceiling tiles or apply paint or plaster, that is even more work.

Is Removing Popcorn Ceiling Worth It?

I get that your popcorn ceiling isn’t that appealing. However, if it’s still in good shape, it is best not to remove it. If you happen to have extra time to remove it, or it is not in the best condition anymore, replacing or removing it is worth it. 

For me, instead of removing the ceiling, you can opt to seal it so that the asbestos fibers remain undisturbed.

The process of sealing is known as encapsulation. Encapsulation is done to a popcorn ceiling whether there is only one percent of asbestos or more.

What Is The Easiest Way To Cover A Popcorn Ceiling?

  • Using Gypsum Board Ceiling Panels

Board up the ceiling using gypsum board panels. Gypsum board is like light drywall that is easier to cover by attaching to the ceiling using screws. However, the screws must be inserted into the framing of the ceiling and not directly into the ceiling boards.

  • By Spraying Vinyl Paint

Spraying vinyl paint is another easier option for your popcorn ceiling. However, you will need special vinyl paint to do it successfully. But the results are worth it!

Contractors strongly advise against using ordinary house paint because it may trigger the exposure you are trying to avoid. That is because the paint soaks into the ceiling separating the asbestos fibers and making them more dispersible.

Diamond Brite Paint 40300 latex Flat Acrylic Vinyl Ceiling Paint is an excellent option to consider for this purpose.

  • By Putting Wood Ceiling Planks

Covering with wooden ceiling planks is one of the visually appealing yet efficient ways to cover your popcorn ceiling. For me, this is a much-recommended method, especially if you want to achieve that vintage wooden ceiling feel. 

Here are steps to cover your popcorn ceiling with wooden ceiling planks: 

  1. Measure the planks to make sure that they fit the length of the ceiling. It is advisable to prime the planks and then paint them. 
  2. As you install the planks, remember to cut around light fixtures and the fans.
  3. Once you have nailed the ceiling in place, you can use wood putty to cover the unsightly nail holes.
  • Using Decorative Plaster

That is also known as pargeting. It is another easy method of covering popcorn ceilings by applying plaster or mortar to the ceiling in a decorative pattern.

It is a traditional form of artwork on architecture that creates a beautiful ceiling aesthetic. It is specialized work, so you need a professional pargeter to do a good job. A pargeter is someone who not only applies the plaster onto the ceiling but also knows how to raise decorative and ornamental patterns on the plaster.

How Do You Scrape A Popcorn Ceiling?

When scraping a popcorn ceiling, you will need a scraper, of course, and other tools listed below. 

Tools Required

  • Ladder
  • Protective clothing, gloves, mask, and safety goggles
  • Plastic sheets to cover the floor, fixtures, and walls in the house
  • A scraping tool or a garden sprayer
  • A drywall taping knife or putty knife

Here are steps to start scraping your popcorn ceiling:

  • Start With A Scrape Test

The scrape test allows you to see whether the ceiling needs to be wetted or not. Some popcorn ceilings do not need dampening because the texture is easy to scrape off.

Of course, you should do the scrape test only after doing an asbestos test on the ceiling.

  • Cover The Floor With Plastic Sheets

Next, lay the plastic sheeting onto the floor, fixtures, and walls to protect them from the oncoming mess. Ensure that you remove all the furniture from the room before beginning the work to avoid ruining them. Plastic sheeting makes the clean-up work easier than working with cloth covering.

Also, remove the fans or fixtures that you may have on the ceiling. That is crucial if you do not want to get a wet popcorn ceiling on them. Also, it guarantees that water doesn’t ruin them. 

You can stuff newspaper into recessed lights to prevent water from getting on them. And make sure you turn off the power to the fixtures.

  • Begin Scraping

Using the knife of your choice, gently scrape the ceiling or run it along with the dampened ceiling. 

This is a delicate and painstaking process to avoid ruining the ceiling underneath. Do not rush over this part to ensure that you get all the popcorn ceiling.

To give the ceiling the due attention it deserves, work on one small area of four-by-four feet at a time. This prevents the ceiling from drying, which will happen if you dampen a large section and take a long time to finish scraping it.

Consider using a mud pan to catch the mess from the ceiling. That lessens the mess you have to clean afterward.

  • Sand Or File The Ceiling

It is inevitable to have gouges in the ceiling after scraping. These wounds can be treated by sanding them down to create a smooth surface.

A hand sander works best in this case because you can handle it better. The ultimate goal of sanding is to create an even surface that you can paint on or accommodate a new ceiling.

However, make sure that you prime the ceiling before you paint.

If you already treated your popcorn ceiling with paint, you have to remove the paint first before proceeding to the above steps.

Make a mixture of vinegar and water: 10 parts of water to 2 parts of vinegar. Spray the mixture onto the ceiling and allow it to soak for a few minutes until the vinegar breaks down the paint.

Now you are ready to start scraping because the water and vinegar dampen both the paint and the popcorn ceiling. Only spray one section at a time.

Can I Remove Popcorn Ceiling Myself?

Removing the popcorn ceiling by yourself can be dangerous because of the asbestos element. Calling a professional makes the process more convenient for you. You do not have to worry about the involving work that comes with the removal of this ceiling.

And also, because of the dangers that lurk within the ceiling should it have asbestos, you may not be well equipped to safeguard yourself.

This is perhaps the most crucial consideration when removing a popcorn ceiling yourself. As earlier mentioned, even the smallest amount of asbestos can be highly detrimental to your health. It is imperative to have the right gear when working on these ceilings.

A mask may not be enough. You may need to invest in a respirator that comes with a highly efficient particulate air filter that you will wear. For the room itself, it may be prudent to get an air purifier set up to clear the air of asbestos microparticles.

Make sure that you have no problem disposing of the clothing and gear you wear during the project. And make sure that your clothing covers your hair and all your skin to prevent asbestos from touching your skin.

Also, disposal of the popcorn ceiling is easier and safer when handled by professionals.

They will get garbage bags that are specifically created to hold asbestos for disposal. These bags feature 6-mil polyethylene, and they come with specific asbestos warnings to caution anyone who handles them.

You need four bags for every 100 square feet section to accommodate the popcorn ceiling you will remove.

And, of course, the size of the house will determine the workforce and supplies you need for this job. The bigger the house, the harder it becomes to make this a job for one person. 

Professionals come with a team of experts to handle the scope of work at hand.

Why Was Popcorn Ceiling So Popular?

One of the main reasons for the popularity of popcorn ceilings is their ability to absorb sound and muffle it. That is why they were called acoustic ceilings.

However, if that is all that is keeping you attached to this ceiling, some options offer sound muffling. Consider an option like the sound-absorbing drop ceiling tiles. These ceiling tiles provide, improve and add to the acoustics in your space by absorbing sound and reducing noise.

They can manage sound in both small and large spaces. There are a range of products to choose from, including

  • Sound silencer tiles
  • Painted fiberglass tiles
  • Barrier acting tiles
  • Silk metal tiles

Is Removing Popcorn Ceiling Expensive?

The reason why popcorn ceilings are expensive is that they cost too much effort and are time-consuming. It can also be quite expensive healthwise if you do not do it right.

Did you know that only a certified asbestos abatement contractor should work on any construction aspect involving asbestos? If you decide to DIY, you may be opening yourself to health ramifications that could cost you your life.

Legally, you take on the liability of disposing of the asbestos popcorn ceiling if you decide to remove it yourself. If you dispose of it incorrectly and it ends up harming someone else or contaminating the environment around you, you will be held legally responsible.

So you must transport the ceiling while covered and dispose of it in the authorized disposal site or station.

Overall, the range of cost for removing a popcorn ceiling varies from state to state. But you should expect to spend upwards of $1000 for a proper, professional job.

Photo of author

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting professional home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Professional Inspector (CPI), Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
HomeInspectionInsider.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. We also participate in other affiliate programs with other affiliate sites. We are compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.