Is Removing Popcorn Ceiling Worth It?

At first glance, the popcorn ceiling sounds like a quirky trend for modern housing. In reality, it’s a relic of a past time that’s fading fast. Some houses still have popcorn ceilings, though. It’s time you consider getting rid of your old popcorn ceiling. 

Removing the popcorn ceiling is worth it if you want to upgrade your home to a modern look, give the rooms a higher ceiling and improve the natural lighting of your home. Modern homes will attract more first-time willing buyers if they have a contemporary ceiling. 

Popcorn ceiling removal is usually a tricky matter in modern housing. On one end, you need to improve the house’s interior appeal. On the other hand, there are inconveniences such as time investment, the financial burden, and the possibility of health complications in worse cases. 

We examine what you stand to gain if you take on this personal project. But first, let’s take a step back. 

What Is The Point Of Popcorn Ceilings?

Popcorn ceiling is also known as acoustic ceiling popular from the 1930s all through to the 80s. The reason why this ceiling was popular was because of its noise reduction property. 

At the time, the popcorn ceiling was an easy and practical solution to finishing the ceiling. It hid building imperfections, sealed small gaps, and gave the houses what was considered at that time, an okay finish. 

The primary material was made of vermiculite or polystyrene. The more health-forward and eco-conscious solutions used styrofoam. Most homes used this quick method to improve the sound deadening capacity of the rooms. 

Along the way, popcorn ceilings, particularly vermiculite ceilings, had an asbestos problem. And it was causing lots of health complications. However, even the houses that had the more eco-conscious popcorn ceilings had some issues. 

The ceiling looked unsightly. The popcorn ceiling reduced light in the rooms, and dust became a health concern. They had to go. 

Here’s a quick risk-benefit analysis of popcorn ceiling removal:

BenefitsDrawbacks
Better lighting disbursementIt’s a messy job
‘More’ roomIt’s costly, especially in a large home
Better aestheticsPossible exposure to asbestos
Increased resale value
Cleaner ceiling due to less dust
Reduced health risk if there’s asbestos

Is It Worth It To Remove Popcorn Ceiling?

Removing popcorn ceilings is worth it, especially if your problems are bad lighting, unpleasant appearance, and maintenance. Here are some things that you might take into account if you are planning to remove your popcorn ceiling for real:

Improved Lighting

Popcorn ceilings form mini craters that create small shadows. This effect causes less light in the room, making the room gloomy. Clearing the popcorn ceiling removes the shadows and makes sure light bounces off a flat surface to cover more of the room. 

Better light gives the room more ambiance. It becomes easier for you to set the mood with natural lighting or artificial light when you’re not fighting shadows.

You Create More Room

Popcorn ceilings create the illusion of a puffed-up ceiling. It makes the ceiling appear lower than it is. Due to the nature of the material, it makes the room appear more cramped, only increasing the claustrophobic effect. 

Clearing the popcorn ceiling for a flatter surface makes the ceiling appear less congested and higher. The higher ceiling makes the room look more open and spacious. It also makes the ceiling neat. 

Better Aesthetic Appeal

At the height of its popularity, popcorn ceilings were the standard. However, now people are adopting a modern take on home interiors. There is little room for the remnants of 1930s era designs. Unless your style is vintage, the popcorn ceiling doesn’t fit in modern housing. 

The upside of getting rid of the popcorn ceiling for a modern look is that the contemporary look will work even when the house is vintage. There are still vintage interior designs you can incorporate to replace popcorn ceilings. In a way, removing the popcorn ceiling to improve your interior visuals will work in your favor 100% of the time. 

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Cleaner Ceilings

Popcorn ceilings attract dust. White, the primary color of most ceilings, doesn’t hide dirt well. And since it is difficult to clean up popcorn ceiling, dirt and dust accumulate on the ceiling and darken it. 

You can scrape off the popcorn ceiling, or you can cover it with drywall. Both these solutions give you more control when you want to clean your ceiling. Also, dirt has less sticking power when a ceiling does not accommodate or attract dust. 

As much as popcorn ceilings hide imperfections under them, water stains are a different case. If the ceiling is below a room with a water leak, the water leak shows more prominently. Unfortunately, there is little you can do to hide a water patch. You might have to redo the entire ceiling. 

Asbestos-Free Home

Asbestos ceilings were, at one point, a valid selling point for houses. It was an excellent fire retardant, sound absorber, and it could hide construction imperfections at reduced costs. However, long-term asbestos exposure was decimating public healthcare. 

Mesothelioma lawsuits were the order of the day. Some homeowners who built their houses before the 90s were experiencing the long-term effects of the material. By the time the government was outlawing asbestos as a construction material, many people were already exposed. 

Note: Before you consider popcorn ceiling removal for fear of asbestos exposure, you can conduct a precheck to see whether your house has asbestos or if the ceiling is another material. 

The EMSL Analytical Inc. is one of the most recognized laboratories in the US. It is accredited to test samples that you suspect might be asbestos. 

The testing company in 45 locations in Canada has a one-week wait period from sample submission to results delivery. Lab fees will cost you about $130. 

Does Removing Popcorn Ceiling Add Value?

If you still have that old popcorn ceiling, removing it and replacing it with updated ceilings and design helps increase the sale value of your home. Since the housing market is moving towards modern aesthetics, selling a vintage home might be more challenging with old-style interiors like popcorn ceilings.

The estimated cost for popcorn ceiling removal can go up to $2500 depending on the house’s size. You can add the cost of the upgrade to the house’s final price. And while it’s not guaranteed that a modern ceiling will increase resale value, it might widen the pool of interested buyers. It’s safer to invest in modernity than lose prospective buyers. 

If you remove the popcorn ceiling to improve the home’s resale value, it becomes easier to pitch the house to potential buyers. A cleaner and higher ceiling and brighter light disbursement are all factors that could put you at a vantage point in the real estate market. 

In a vintage setting, a classier aesthetic will make your prospective client appreciate the labor and time to clear the popcorn ceiling. 

How Much Does It Cost To Take Off Popcorn Ceiling?

Popcorn ceiling removal is a relatively expensive project. Let’s assume the total area to be covered is 500 square feet. You’re looking at a bill of between $900 – $2900. 

Let’s break down the cost of hiring a professional 

It will cost you as much as $40 per hour from site pre-visit to the popcorn removal to waste clearance. Sometimes these services are not lumped, but you can always negotiate for a team. The debris removal might run you another $200 in separate costs. 

It is vital to note that these are not the exact costs as what you will incur if the lab tests come back positive for asbestos. 

Asbestos removal for only the ceiling will cost you between $3-$7 per square foot. So for 500 square feet, you can expect to rack a bill of up to $3500. Considering the expertise needed for asbestos removal, it is worth paying that price. 

Painting the ceiling after popcorn removal will also cost you. Depending on your area, set aside about $3 per square foot. That’s about $1500 for every 500 square feet you have to cover. 

Alternative Post-Removal Finishes For Popcorn Ceilings

Knockdown Texture

Knockdown texture is a type of finish where the joint compound is applied on the ceiling then ‘knocked down’ after it’s partially dried. This kind of finish almost looks like a popcorn ceiling, except it uses less space and is almost flat. 

There are three types of knockdown.

  • Splatter
  • Stomp
  • Mud Trowel

The average cost of putting in knockdown texture is about $800. The cost per square foot can range from $1-$3. The labor costs can go up to $40 per hour, depending on your locality.

Drywall

This is a superb approach after removing your popcorn ceiling. It comes in pre-made boards measuring 8’x4′ x 1/4″. These boards cost between $10-$30, while the labor for laying drywall costs $2 a square foot. 

Tiles

Tiles are a pricey option for popcorn ceiling removal. It’ll cost you between $5 and $7 to have decorative tiles over the ceiling popcorn. However, you don’t have to remove the popcorn ceiling to install ceiling tiles. 

Can I Remove Popcorn Ceiling Myself?

Some do try to DIY their popcorn ceiling removal. However, it will tire you out. Also, it’s a messy project that’ll have you cleaning up for a while after. 

These three factors will determine whether you should hire a pro or go the DIY route. 

  • Do you have the time?
  • Do you have the money?
  • Do you have the protective gear and expertise to remove the popcorn ceiling if there is asbestos?

Popcorn ceiling removal requires at least two people so that you use less time and effort. You’ll save the cost of hiring a professional. All you will need is a scraper, a collection container, a ladder, and protective gear. 

Since popcorn ceiling removal involves dust and debris, you would need to protect your entire body. Face masks, respirators and overalls should be the minimum gear to wear while removing the popcorn ceiling. 

DIY is a great option that will save you that $2000+ fee if you only work on a few standard rooms. 

Scraping the popcorn off the ceiling is not an easy job. It certainly will not be easy on your neck and arms. However, it gets more complex if there is asbestos. If you ever needed an excuse to call a professional, this is that time. 

Do You Need A Professional To Remove Popcorn Ceiling?

Working with a professional is what I would recommend since doing it by yourself can be a handful for some reason. Asbestos carries a lot of crystals that float in the air as you work. A DIY project takes hours to complete. Even if you had the proper equipment, it would not be easy to identify the asbestos crystals in the air. The removal could send you to the hospital with respiratory complications.

An asbestos removal pro knows how to get rid of asbestos such that there are no remnants in your home. Most professionals have the proper certification to work in such toxic environments. They have the appropriate cleanup equipment, and they have the appropriate gear to protect themselves. Some even come with the additional experience to get rid of lead that might be present.

What Do You Need For Popcorn Ceiling Removal?

If you decide to remove the popcorn ceiling yourself, here are most of the materials you will need.

  • Water tank with sprayer
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Ladder
  • Putty knife or scraper
  • Plastic bags to lay on the floor
  • Disposable garbage bags
  • Vacuum cleaner

Procedure

  1. Cover the floor with plastic or paper. Cover any areas near electrical installations in the ceiling. The cover acts as a containment for easier cleanup. 
  2.  Wet a small patch using a handheld sprayer — preferably a 4 square feet area. The sprayer needs a 3-gallon water tank. Also, if you need the wetting to last longer, add vinegar or liquid dish soap, one part to five parts water. This reduces the spread of dust and fine particles that might affect your respiratory health.
  3. Let the area soak the water. 
  4. Scrape the popcorn in one direction, collecting the popcorn in a small container. It’ll be less strenuous on your body if you let the popcorn fall to the floor. 
  5. Have a vacuum at hand to clean up as soon as the popcorn ceiling peels off. 
  6. You can cover small 4×4 sections, or you can extend the scrape distance as far as your arm can reach. Watch out for the ceiling, though. Don’t dig in too deep, or you might damage the ceiling. 
  7. Gather the popcorn ceiling in the garbage bags and discard it appropriately. 
  8. Vacuum the area to clear the area of fine popcorn ceiling particles. 
  9. Painting over the newly exposed surface is optional. However, if you notice any gaps, holes, or imperfections, you can fill them with texture. 

Final Thoughts

Modern construction dictates that you grow with the change. There’s more to gain from the hours of work and money you’ll spend on the upgrade. 

HomeInspectionInsider.com is owned and operated by Hubert Miles 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. HomeInspectionInsider.com also participates in affiliate programs with other affiliate sites. Hubert Miles is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, 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.

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