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Renovating Your Popcorn Ceiling - Top Contractor Tips

Real Estate Agent with The Premier Properties Group RM419338

5 Things You Need to Know About Popcorn Ceilings


If you’ve ever watched a home improvement show, the first thing said when the host walks into an older home is almost always “Popcorn ceilings - we’ll have to remove those”.


Why does everyone assume popcorn ceilings must go? And what if you chose to leave them? What can be done with them?


With some advice from a local painting and renovations contractor, we dive into this interesting topic!


What is a Popcorn Ceiling?

Popcorn ceiling is a kind of textured finish for ceilings. With a closer resemblance to cottage cheese than popcorn, this ceiling treatment began appearing in the middle of the 20th century.


The technique is accomplished by spraying on a texture to the ceiling. The result accomplished several goals - it quickly and inexpensively covered any imperfections in the ceiling, help dampen room noise, and even provided some fire resistance.


While popcorn ceilings have gotten a bit of a refresh as interest is renewed in mid-century looks, some people still have questions about its safety and how to care for it.

How is it Different From a Textured Ceiling?

Homes built today typically have smooth or lightly textured ceilings, as popcorn texturing largely fell out of style for some time.


Popcorn ceilings are a type of ceiling texture, but today’s techniques are more subtle than the aggressive and rough blobs that characterize the popcorn look. Texture sprays can be used, or “stomping” can create a pattern on the ceiling as well. Swirls and orange peel are other popular texturing methods that are alternatives to popcorn.

What’s the Relationship with Asbestos?

When popcorn ceilings were first added to homes, the material used to provide the texture was a fibrous mineral called asbestos. Over the years, it was discovered that this material could end up in the lungs, causing scarring and even lung cancer.


Asbestos was banned in 1978, but several companies continued to sell it as a building material until they ran out, well into the mid-1980s. After that paper was substituted for the carcinogenic asbestos.


Homes built before 1985 with popcorn ceilings should be tested to see if they pose a risk to the occupants. If they do, a qualified professional should be contracted to come in and remove the material. While it is legal for a homeowner to do it themselves, a qualified professional understands the risks and how to mitigate them for their crews and for the home.

What to Do with Water Damage on Popcorn Ceilings

Water stains can leave ugly patches on your ceiling, even after the leak is repaired. If your popcorn ceiling has water damage, it’s a simple process to remove the damaged area and replace it - once you know that the ceiling does not contain asbestos, of course.


Using a scraper tool, completely scrape the area that is damaged, plus an inch or so around it, all the way down to the drywall. You may wish to paint the area over with a primer paint intended to cover stains, such as Killz.


Next, apply popcorn ceiling patch material. As you apply the material, match the existing spray pattern as closely as possible. The patch can be painted to match your ceiling once the area has completely dried.

Cleaning a Popcorn Ceiling

To clean your ceiling, begin by using a broom or vacuum to remove dust and cobwebs.


After it is dusted, you can spray it with a mixture of dish soap and water or bleach and water. First, be sure to test the mixture on an inconspicuous area of your ceiling. If the solution causes damage you may need to use a more diluted version or switch from soap to bleach, or visa versa.


Once you have found the right cleaning solution, spray the entire ceiling, concentrating on areas with stains or heavy soil. A second application can be made for particularly tough stains. Do not scrub. Wet popcorn texture can peel away from the drywall.


If cleaning doesn’t work, you may consider a fresh coat of paint.


How to Paint Popcorn Ceilings

Painting a popcorn ceiling simply requires the right tools and techniques for the job to give it a professional look.


As with cleaning, be sure to remove as much loose dust and cobwebs from the ceiling as possible before you begin painting. To ensure an even coat that covers the textures, a segmented roller should be used to apply paint. Unlike painting a wall, you’ll want to only go in one direction, not back and forth. This is to prevent damage to the ceiling texture as it becomes wet from the paint.


If a second coat is needed, be sure to allow the first coat to completely dry to prevent damage to the texture.


Whether you think they give your home a funky, mid-century look or just don’t want the mess, hassle, and expense of removing it, popcorn ceilings can be cleaned, painted, and repaired to improve the look of your home.


If you are looking for a general contractor in the Philadelphia area, please reach out to T.J.'s Painting and Renovations Co. 

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Harry Norman, REALTORS® - Atlanta, GA
Associate Broker

Good afternoon David J. Caracausa 

Thank you for sharing the tips about removing popcorn ceilings.  

Have a great day.

Jun 11, 2019 04:15 PM
Abby Stiller
SW Florida (239) 284-8637

This is a great post David J. Caracausa Very informative for those first time home buyers. It's not just the look of the popcorn ceilings, but also the risk of asbestos that many people don't know about. 

Jun 11, 2019 04:58 PM