What Can You Do About That Dated Popcorn Ceiling?


Popcorn ceilings were pretty popular from the 1950s through to the 1980s because they were affordable and made finishing a ceiling easy. But these days, popcorn ceilings – which are typically sprayed-on stucco – are nothing more than an outdated eyesore.

Not only are they out of style, they’re also tough to keep clean and repair. If your home still has popcorn ceilings that you want to get rid of, you have a few options.

Scrape it Off

You can get that smooth ceiling finish by scraping all that stucco material off, which is the most common method of removal. It’s generally not recommended to go the DIY route with this method because it requires a lot of intensive work and leaves behind a huge mess.

Without proper technique, the finish may not be as smooth as you’d like it to be. If the popcorn ceiling has been painted over, the scraping process is generally much more challenging.

Once the ceiling has been exposed, it will usually need to be patched up and smoothed out to achieve a desirable effect. Another reason to enlist the services of a professional is because there’s a chance that your popcorn ceiling might contain asbestos if your home was built before the 1980s, so it’s best to use a professional in this case.

Considering how tough it typically is to scrape this material off and how long it takes to do so, you can expect to pay as much as $2 per square foot to have the pros do the job.

If you do decide to scrape it yourself, you’ll need to gather up a 4-inch drywall knife to do the scraping, some joint compound to smooth out any flaws, and a sander to create a seamless finish.

Cover it Up

If scraping the stucco off your ceiling proves to be a nearly impossible task (especially if it has been painted over), covering it up might be your better option. You’ll get a much smoother finish if the drywall is taped properly. Covering up with drywall is especially helpful if the material contains asbestos that could otherwise become airborne.

Ceiling-grade drywall is a popular material of choice in this case, which is simply laid right over the textured ceiling. It is then screwed into its framing then taped for a smooth finish.

Covering up your popcorn ceiling with drywall is a big job that involves a lot of time, heavy lifting, and mess to clean up. It’s certainly a job that a homeowner can do, but you can expect it to take a few days to complete.

Oftentimes, covering up an old popcorn ceiling can save you some money and hassle over the long haul. One of the benefits of covering it up is that you’re able to cut holes in the ceiling without having to deal with impossible repairs later on, which makes it a lot more convenient to install light fixtures, ceiling fans, cables, or electrical and plumbing lines.

For a standard 144-square-foot room (12 x 12 feet), the cost for all materials needed – including drywall, joint compound, and the rental of a drywall lift – will cost anywhere between $150 to $500.

In addition to drywall, there are also other materials that you might choose to use to cover the ceiling, including wood panels or fiber tiles. You can then paint it in the color of your choice and even add some crown molding to achieve a contemporary look.

Create a New Design

You can always swap the prickly texture of your popcorn ceiling with a more contemporary and attractive coat of material. This option is rather easy to do and doesn’t necessarily require the assistance of a professional.

Before tackling this method, it’s important to ensure that the substrate is secure enough to be able to handle the added weight of the added product you’ll be skimming on top. This tactic involves adding drywall mud over the surface of the ceiling, applying joint compound, and lathering on a finish compound with a utility knife.

Replace it

Rather than scraping or covering up the popcorn ceiling, you could replace it altogether. This entails not just removing the sprayed-on stucco, but the drywall underneath it that it’s stuck to. This is definitely a job for the pros, and usually costs anywhere around $5 per square foot. However, this method typically guarantees a smooth finish.

The Bottom Line

Don’t let that tired old popcorn ceiling date your home. Whether you choose to do the job yourself or hire the pros to handle it for you, there are various things you can do to revamp your ceiling and give it a much more modern look.