How To Paint A Ceiling After Removing Popcorn


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Removing an old popcorn ceiling and repainting it will likely improve your quality of life and increase your home’s value. Everything you need to know 

If you live in a home built or last renovated before the 1980s it’s quite likely that you have popcorn style ceilings. Also referred to as “textured ceilings” or “cottage cheese ceilings”, popcorn ceilings were once a popular feature in American suburbia that has been phased out of use due to changes in decor trends, the frequent presence of asbestos, and the tendency for allergens and dust to gather in the crevices of the texture. 

Popcorn ceilings were often used in hallways and bedrooms due to their acoustic absorption and echo prevention. In many cases, they were sprayed or painted on because the drywall and mudding job weren’t great but the texture hides the faults in the construction or renovation. 

Whether you are considering painting the interior of your home yourself or hiring professional painting services, it is important to be informed and knowledgeable about your popcorn ceilings. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common questions that arise about popcorn ceilings: home value, asbestos, removal, refinishing, and repainting.

Does Removing Popcorn Ceiling Increase Home Value?

Removing Popcorn Ceiling may Increase Home Value

A well-planned and executed renovation will very likely increase your home’s value. Something as simple as a new paint job can increase the street value of your home by a few hundred dollars. 

Removing a popcorn ceiling will make a big difference to ensure that your home’s value increases. Popcorn ceilings are an “old school” thing – they have been slowly phased out of use over the past several decades. Once your popcorn ceilings are removed, your home will be considered to be more up to date.

Many popcorn ceilings have traces of asbestos in them, which has a direct impact on home appraisal. Homes that still have asbestos in them can really have some issues when it comes to home value, and some states actually prohibit you from selling a home with asbestos in it. Be sure that you get the ceiling tested before you put your home on the market.

Removing Popcorn Ceilings That Have Not Been Repainted

How Do You Get Rid of Popcorn Ceilings That Have Been Painted

If your ceiling is not painted, then you can easily remove the popcorn ceiling by spraying water onto it and then scraping it off with a putty knife or ceiling scraper. Just put a drop cloth on the floor, spray some water on the ceiling and let it sit for about 20 minutes before you begin to scrape. It should scrape right off and appear smooth and flat. For a more detailed step-by-step process, read our article “How to Remove Popcorn Ceilings.”

Removing Popcorn Ceilings That Have Been Painted

How Do You Refinish A Popcorn Ceiling

There are some extra steps involved when you need to get rid of a popcorn ceiling that has already been painted over. It takes some extra care, time and muscle to get this done completely and correctly. We recommend the following steps:

  1. Protect yourself. Before you start, make sure you get a good respirator masks and protective safety goggles. You can get a decent set for $20-30. 
  2. Prepare the space. Move the furniture out of the room with the popcorn ceiling. Lay some drop cloths on the floor and make sure that your pets are going to be away from the room while you’re working. It’ll help to keep them and you as safe as possible.
  3. Prepare a vinegar mixture. Most experts recommend two parts vinegar to ten parts water (so that you don’t end up making your entire space smell like a pickling room). Mix the water and vinegar, pour into a spray bottle, and spray the mix on the ceiling. Allow it to sit for a half-hour or so. The vinegar will break down the paint, which in turn will make it easier for the popcorn on your ceiling to come off. Don’t let it sit too long; it could end up hardening again, making it even more difficult to get everything off of the ceiling.
  4. Scrape away! After the vinegar has eaten away at the paint and popcorn materials, you can get a large scraper pole and put your back into it. Scrape as much as you can and see how much comes off. Then, wait a bit, spray it with the vinegar mixture again, and repeat. After a few rotations of this, the entirety of the popcorn ceilings should come off and expose the drywall (or whatever was underneath it) with little to no residue.
  5. Bring in the big guns. If the vinegar doesn’t seem to work, your best bet is to get wallpaper stripper or paint stripper. Many of these products can be toxic, so be sure that you open up the windows in the room and that you close the door to protect your family from the fumes while it’s eating away at the paint. Then, you can use the same scraping technique to be able to get everything off of the ceiling with ease.

Refinishing A Popcorn Ceiling

Now that you’ve removed the popcorn ceiling, it is time to turn our attention to what comes next. After you have chipped away all of the texture, you’re most likely left with a rough-looking ceiling, perhaps a little like the drywall that your home was built with. No matter what you plan for your new ceiling decor, there are a few steps to take to prepare the surface:

  1. Sand it down. After you’ve removed the popcorn texture, it’s time to sand down the ceiling, making it as smooth as possible. It is best to use a hand sander while wearing protective goggles so that you don’t get anything in your eyes. Once everything looks as smooth and even as possible, your ceiling is prepared for the next stage.
  2. Get rid of remaining residue. If you scraped the popcorn off of your ceiling, you may notice that there is still residue left behind. After you sand the ceiling, remove any stubborn residue by using a dampened block sponge. 
  3. Apply new texture. You can utilize a joint compound as a base for a new texture on the ceiling. While popcorn ceilings are not “in” anymore, different textures and designs can help give your home a bit more of a modern look. All you need to do is use a joint compound (which is water + gypsum powder that’s mixed into a paste-like mixture) as the base and go from there.
  4. Prime the ceiling. If you choose to apply a smooth coat of paint rather than a new texture, consider using a drywall sealer to prime the ceiling. This can help you identify spots in the ceiling that may need to be patched, and make the painting phase a lot more efficient.
  5. Paint the ceiling. While you can paint a popcorn ceiling, it looks a lot better if you take the time to scrape it off first. So, when you’re done scraping, you can pick the type of paint that you want and paint it in the traditional manner. Paint rollers make it very simple for you to apply a smooth, even coat of paint in a DIY job.

Do All Popcorn Ceilings Contain Asbestos?

If your popcorn ceilings were installed after the 1980s, then your ceiling does not have asbestos in it. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of asbestos in popcorn ceiling applications that year, and so nothing built after that should contain asbestos. If your home was built before 1980 and there has not been any sort of renovation done in the home, it is recommended to order an asbestos test. 

professional painter or home inspector can take a look at your home, give you ideas about what you need to do, and let you know if asbestos is any sort of concern.

They can also help you to find resources that can help you to move forward if there is asbestos and/or if there are other concerns with the ceiling.

No matter what sort of changes you’re looking for, Dallas Paints is here to give you a hand. Our team has deep experience with popcorn ceilings and we can help you to determine what may be best for you and your particular needs. Contact us today to schedule a free and transparent estimate to get the ball rolling on a new future for your popcorn ceilings.

Let Us Help

No matter what sort of changes you’re looking for, Dallas Paints is here to give you a hand. Our team has deep experience with popcorn ceilings and we can help you to determine what may be best for you and your particular needs.

Contact us today to schedule a free and transparent estimate to get the ball rolling on a new future for your popcorn ceilings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it important to prime the ceiling after removing popcorn?

You need to properly sand the ceiling once you remove the popcorn and smooth out the bad seams and damages. Priming the ceiling before painting would be a wise move. Painting on bare drywall will absorb the paint’s moisture and will not allow even distribution of the texture. 

Do I need to move all of my furniture out of the house before I can scrape my ceilings?

It is highly recommended to remove breakables from the room at the very least. This includes lamps, decorative pieces, any item that is placed on shelves or tables that could be damaged by moving plastic sheets. It is best to move your glass-top furniture to another room. You can leave the rest of the furniture in their original positions as long as everything is covered in drop cloth or plastic. 

Will my home’s value be increased after removing the popcorn texture?

There is no way to figure out precisely if the value of your home will increase after getting the popcorn removed. However, you stand a better chance of getting your home sold once you get rid of out-of-style and messy popcorn, especially if it contains asbestos.

The United States News and World Report stated that the popcorn ceiling might not be a deal-breaker, but it may date and reduce the value of the house, causing potential buyers to continue shopping. 

Popcorn ceilings are seen as dated by many prospective home buyers, so modernizing the look of your ceiling with a fresh coat of paint could help in raising your home’s value.

How do I calculate the square footage of my ceiling?

Just measure both the length and the width of the ceiling and multiply the two. Example: if the dimension of a standard bedroom is 12’ x 12,’ when multiplied, the total square footage will be 144 square feet. For vaulted ceilings, add 20%.

Is it possible to paint over a dirty ceiling?

Painting over a dirty, flaking, glossy, chipping surface is technically possible, but the work will not last as long as you probably expect. 

Before a new paint can adhere, your interior and exterior surfaces must be properly cleaned and free of dust which interferes with the paint’s ability to adhere to surfaces, ceilings and trim.  

What ceiling paint is the best to conceal imperfections?

Flat latex is the best paint for ceilings regardless of the color. It gives a soft texture and absorbs light with its matte finish, which helps to hide any existing imperfections. Matte paint stains easily and is extremely difficult to clean; ceilings are usually safe from staining.

Can I simply paint over popcorn without removing it from the ceiling?

Technically you could, but removing the popcorn material makes the whole process much smoother. If the popcorn material gets wet, it might start to peel or flake off. If you choose to paint over popcorn, make sure you paint in one direction, and not roll the roller back and forth over the popcorn material to reduce the amount of flaking and peeling popcorn. Again, it is highly recommended to remove the popcorn material before painting.

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