Five steps I didn’t consider before removing my popcorn ceilings |For what it's worth

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Five steps I didn’t consider before removing my popcorn ceilings

Let me just start by saying, I should have thought more about it before starting.  This post is all about the things they don't tell you about removing popcorn ceilings in those made to look easy videos. This 1956 fixer upper had and still has in several rooms, popcorn ceilings.  It is one of the first things folks comment on when they come to see what we’ve accomplished.  Are you taking down the popcorn?  And of course my answer is always, “Sure”.  [enthusiastic DIY me  - oh yea!] Time has passed, we’ve taken care of the really big stuff and I began thinking about the ceilings.  First mistake, thinking about the ceilings…
 popcorn ceiling debree and scraper

One day I was sipping my morning coffee and gazing at the popcorn ceilings.  I was between DIY jobs and I had spotted a long handled scraping tool in the shed a few days before.  My mind started saying things like:
  • “Couldn’t be that hard. Bet I could do it before hubs even notices I started.”
  • “Homework? I’ve seen the videos.”
  • “Why not?  I'll save a bundle doing it myself.”
  • "A little clean up and I'll have it put back together in a flash."
  • and... "Hmm, there's no mention of what to do after it's scraped."
Before I knew what happened I had the furniture cleared from a guest bedroom, plastic spread on the floor and the scraping tool in my hand.  I started in the corner and gently raked the tool across the ceiling.  It fell like snow and sleet. I quickly had a four foot square scraped and realized how messy this was going to be.  My arms were coated with powder and my hair looked like I need to do more than touch up the roots.

I pulled on a long sleeve shirt I used when painting and a baseball cap and continued.  It took a little while to work my way across the room leaving a four foot strip free of popcorn.  I was scraping it dry.  I know, I know, all the “good” videos show them wetting the ceiling with water and scraping.  But in my haste to start I tried the dry method and it seemed to work.  Second mistake, dry scraping. 
 ceiling with popcorn removed

I began to notice not all the popcorn was falling off and there appeared to be another texture under the popcorn.  I could see by the second row that it wasn’t going to be smooth as a babies butt, much less smooth enough to paint and I began to doubt my decision to do it myself.  But, heck, I was already half way across the room and couldn’t leave it half scraped and half popcorn so I worked diligently to get it finished.  By the end I’d begun to wonder what in the word I would do now.

I hesitantly asked hubs to look at what I’d done and got the exact response I expected.  “Hmmm. What ya gonna do now?”  Third mistake, hoping he’d take over and bail me out.  Nope, not happening.  I spent the next day searching the internet and watching a dozen videos that showed how easy the popcorn comes down but didn’t go into what you have to do once it’s down.  I searched more.  Found one that showed a “new” ceiling getting a coat of compound and began to be suspicious of what I’d have to do.

Next I went to my social media channels, admitted my folly and typed “I removed my popcorn ceiling, now what?” Several responses later I knew just how much I’d underestimated this DIY project.  I was advised a skim coat would need to go up if I intended to paint.  One person said I really needed a professional to do it for an acceptable smooth finish.  Sooooo, I called for a quote and found out it would take several days to do it right and about 500 bucks.  Fourth mistake thinking this project would be cheap.
 applying skim coat

Now I would spend a couple of hours looking at alternatives for ceilings.  There are some amazing ceiling projects on Pinterest.  But fifth mistake won’t be taking on a DIY that is even more involved and even more expensive.  I decided to try putting up the drywall compound myself.  I’m on break writing this post right now.  I’m pretty much covered with the sticky stuff and I am SURE the popcorn on the remaining ceilings is looking pretty good.  I’m thinking if I leave it alone it will come back in vogue and someday people will remark how smart I was to “save” the very retro look on my ceilings.  As for the guest room, I’ll finish spreading the *@!!!##  compound, I’ll sand the imperfections, use some spray on texture to help hide the imperfections I know will still be there as mistake number five. And finally roll on some paint. 
 skim coating is messy

I’ll quietly replace the furniture, close the door and never consider removing popcorn ceilings myself again.  I’ll publish this article hoping to spare some other ambitious uninformed DIYer the humiliation of admitting she (or he) may not have done enough homework before starting such a big project.

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Fortunately, many of my DIY projects work just like I imagine.  Here is the 1956 Fixer Upper and plan with some successful home improvements I've completed:


  1. Loved this. Especially understanding about wanting your husband to bail you out!

  2. LOL! Good to know! I wanted to remove them in my old condo but never did because this was before Pinterest made it cool. Now I'm glad. ;)

  3. I'm so glad I don't have popcorn ceilings but my son did in his prior house--what a job it was to refinish them! he did the work himself but it took him a very long time and was very hard work. I'm glad you are warning others!

  4. My hubby is looking at this.. but will use our shop vac to help minimize mess. :)

  5. Personally I hate popcorn ceilings, they're far too difficult to keep clean. It might be best to let a pro handle it.

  6. Wow! That turned into a big job fast! I had no idea how difficult or expensive popcorn ceiling were to remove. If I ever have to get rid of it, I think I'll go for diy shiplap and cover that sucker up!

  7. What a great post! So much great info. It was even the most clicked this week at You're Gonna Love it! I'm featuring it this week!


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