Fix-It Chick: Remove textured ‘popcorn’ ceilings

Removing textured “popcorn” ceilings is a time-consuming and messy task, but with a lot of elbow grease, smooth ceilings are within reach.

Step 1: For ceilings installed prior to 1980, purchase an asbestos test kit from your local hardware store and test for asbestos before proceeding.

Step 2: Remove as much furniture and décor as possible from the room.

Step 3: Cover any remaining items in the room with plastic drop cloths and painters tape.

Step 4: Cover the floor with plastic drop cloths. Use painters tape to secure the plastic a few inches up each wall to protect the base boards and electrical outlets. For added convenience, roll long pieces of rosin paper over the floor to reduce the slickness of the floor during the process and to make cleanup easier.

Step 5: Remove or cover any ceiling light fixtures. Turn off the electricity at the circuit panel before removing any fixtures. For ceilings with exposed electrical boxes or recessed lights, fill a small plastic bag with crumpled newspaper and stuff the bag into the empty void to temporarily protect electrical connections. Keep the power off until the project is done and the fixtures are securely back in place.

Step 6: Use a respirator, safety goggles and protective clothing to mitigate any danger created from loose debris.

Step 7: Use a garden tank sprayer or spray bottle to wet down a small section of the ceiling. If the ceiling has been previously painted, scratch the ceiling surface with a stiff bristle brush before spraying. Be careful not damage the actual drywall during the process.

Step 8: Use a wide putty knife or drywall knife to scrape the moist texture from the ceiling. If the texture does not scrape off easily, apply more water and wait for the moisture to loosen the texture. Ceilings textured with stiff drywall compound will need to be sanded rather than scraped.

Step 9: Continue scraping small sections of the ceiling at a time, disposing as much of the texture into plastic trash bags as possible.

Step 10: Once all the texture has been removed, patch any divots, holes or cracks with spackling compound.

Step 11: Use a hand or pole sander and 100-grit sand paper to sand the entire ceiling surface.

Step 12: Wash the ceiling with a nonresidual cleaner such as Dirtex or TSP before applying the desired finish coat.