What is the best way to remove popcorn texture from a ceiling? The ceiling has never been painted, and you need to remove the texture cleanly and quickly.

March 2006

The best way to remove popcorn texture from an unpainted ceiling is by using a small pump sprayer … lightly saturate texture with water and remove with a 6-12" scraper. Normally you will need to re-float all of the tape joints. I have found that ceilings where popcorn texture has been applied have not been properly floated to begin with.—Rick Blackburn, Blackburn Plastering Ltd., Kerrville, TX

Spray ceiling with water mixed with dish soap (1/2 per gallon), let soak and scrap off with flat ice chipper–type tool (flat blade on handle). Prepare space by poly wrapping room so all material drops onto plastic, which can then be double bagged for proper disposal. For added safety, wear disposable Tyvek coveralls and shower cap, gloves, plastic booties, goggles and HEPA dual filter mask. Normally, you will need a drywall taper to finish the ceiling as most textured ceilings have only been taped with one coat and won’t be ready for paint after the texture is removed.—Eric Fredricks, Fredericks Fine Homes Inc., Bainbridge Island, WA

First and most important item: You need to test for asbestos. Popcorn ceilings up to mid 1970s had asbestos in them.
Step # 1: Ligthly mist spray water w/Hudson sprayer (to control dust).
# 2: Remove popcorn texture w/taping knifes either 8" or 10" (the wider the knife, the more chances of cutting the paper w/the edges due to surfaces being uneven).
# 3: You can do this w/a small pan or bucket if there are furnishings. If area is clear, just lay plastic down and roll it up after for easy cleanup.—Vince Nihipali Sr., V&C Drywall Contractor’s Inc., Kapolei, HI

In a small area scrape down the drywall with a 12" knife and skim coat. In large area hang and finish 1/4" drywall.—Mike Chambers, J&B Acoustical, Mansfield, OH

Fastest, cleanest way is to wet down the acoustic, either with a garden-type pump sprayer or with a garden hose. You need to be careful to not over-saturate—a fine mist is usually sufficient. Let the water absorb for a few minutes and then scrape with a trowel. It’ll peel off just like butter!!—Patrick Harvey, Patrick G. Harvey & Sons Contractor, Mission Viejo, CA

Use a 3-foot splatter shield and carefully scrape at an angle to prevent tearing the paper face of the underlying surface. You do not have to scrape it all off cleanly as it is easy enough to skim coat the surface if a desired Level 5 finish is required. Othewise, just texture according to personal preference or taste. Then sweep/vacuum the popcorn from the floor. Remember, of course, to wear a good protective face mask with carbon filters to play it safe from anything harmful. Goggles are not a bad idea either. Long sleeves might be nice too. :o)—Larry Lee, Cache Valley Painting Company, Logan, UT

Tarp off the room to avoid damaging the fixtures or flooring below. Spray the ceiling with soapy water from a Hudson/garden sprayer let stand for a few minutes. Using a large putty knife or medium taping knife, scrape the texture off. A mason’s pan and a makeshift stand (tow ladders and a plank) can be assembled to hold the pan a foot or two below the ceiling to contain the mess.—G. Creason, Drycon, Inc., Antelope, CA

First have ceiling tested for Asbestos. If it is free from asbestos, mask room carefully, apply water with garden sprayer and scrape gently. Do not over-apply water.—S.M. & Co., Granada Hills, CA

First, spray the ceiling with water using a garden-type sprayer. When soft, scrape with a large drywall knife. Lay down a canvas or plastic on floors. Repeat the process until ceiling is smooth.—L.A. "Laddy” Dale, Dale Enterprises Inc., Challis, ID

If the floor is concrete: Take a common garden hose with a regular garden sprayer, Lightly spray the acoustic, scrape with a 12" knife.
If it’s a plywood floor: Use a bug sprayer to soak down the ceiling, scrape with a 12" knife.—Anonymous

To remove popcorn is not easy in any case. The best way is to install another layer of drywall over top of the existing, tape it out and continue with your remodel. By doing it this way you don’t lose your attic insulation, and you don’t have such a big mess to clean up as you would if you scraped off the old popcorn. It will work.—Ken Bradshaw, Bradshaw and Associates Inc., Anchorage, AK

Fill a garden sprayer with water, and gently spray the texture until it is damp. Then scrape onto plastic (if over carpeting or finished floor) with whatever knife or scraper size can be handled comfortably.—Glen Riffe, Denver Drywall Company, Colorado Springs, CO

Once the room is empty and the covering is down, I wet the lid down with water and maybe a little detergent in it if I have some handy. Let it soak a little and use a floor scraper. This only gets most of it. I use a trowel then and get the rest. Clean up is by collecting the plastic floor covering in one piece and carrying it out.
Now if there is asbestos in the texture, I let the asbestos abatement companies do it. This is the easiest of all.—John McElwee, John McElwee Plastering, Fresno, CA