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Scraping Your Own Popcorn Ceilings – It’s a Messy Job, but Someone’s Gotta Do It!

Many of you guessed correctly that I would be scraping my own popcorn ceilings.

It wasn’t hard to do, but it also isn’t for the bad neck or bad back sufferers. Normally I hire out this job — but because our laundry room is so small — it seemed silly to pay someone else to do the work. Now that it is done, I’m really glad I decided to tackle this project. The sense of accomplishment and the resulting smooth ceiling is HUGE!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you live in a house that was built around 1978, take several small samples of your ceiling and test it for asbestos before you begin. Even though the cutoff date for asbestos in popcorn texture was 1978, the inventory could still be bought from store shelves well into the 1980’s. Do yourself and your family a favor, If you have asbestos popcorn contact a professional who is trained in asbestos removal to handle the job. If you want to learn more, you can read more about our experience with asbestos remediation.



(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Difficulty: Medium Hard

The scraping is relatively easy if you have a popcorn ceiling that hasn’t been painted numerous times. The hard part is looking up for an hour and also finessing the joint compound to look smooth. But, if you can ice a cake, you can do this!


Remove any light fixtures (Be sure to turn off the power to any light fixture before removing it.) Put the wire nuts back on the exposed wires and cover the fixture box with a plastic and tape.

You must — I repeat — you MUST tarp off the entire room. This project is messy and in the end it will be so much easier to roll up the tarp and throw away the removed popcorn.

Tape the plastic at the very top of the walls. Tape any  seams in the overlapping sheets of plastic.

Removing the Popcorn:

Fill the garden sprayer with water. Put on your dust mask and eye goggles. Spray the entire ceiling. Throughly wet every square inch.

Allow the water to soak into the popcorn. After 15 minutes, spray the entire ceiling again. Wait a few minutes and then test an area to see if the popcorn will come off. When it’s ready, that stuff will just slide right off as you push the spackle knife along the ceiling.

I bought this floor scraper because my friend Sandra (Sawdust Girl) mentioned that it might make the job easier.

Once I tested the corner with the spackle knife, I got so excited by how easy it was coming off that I never used the scraper. If I were to scrape a larger room, I would definitely use the floor scraper next time.

All the popcorn will fall into your plastic tarping. Talk about seeing the fruits of your labor:

Once all the popcorn has been sloughed off, take a damp sponge and wipe off any remaining pieces and the film that is left. Be careful not to get the drywall paper too wet or it will rip.

Inspect the ceiling for any gouges, holes, or imperfections. Use spackle to fill any of them.

Spreading  joint compound (or spackle) over large areas that need smoothing:

  1. Dip spackle knife into joint compound.
  2. Spread the compound over imperfections in the drywall.
  3. Continue spreading the joint compound over the drywall in the same direction until the entire “line” has been covered.
  4. Wipe off excess joint compound back into the bucket. Gently drag the spackling knife along the joint compound perpendicular to the direction that it was applied. Resist dragging the knife over a 2nd time. It is okay if you have some raised sections, they will sand down. Holes and dents in the joint compound are no good and you will need to spread more onto the ceiling.

Allow the spackle to dry and sand it smooth with the sandpaper.

Wipe off the ceiling with a damp sponge.

Prime and Paint the Ceiling:

Using a paint roller on an extendable handle, roll primer onto the entire ceiling.

Allow the primer to dry.

Lightly sand the ceiling to knock down any imperfections.

Wipe off any sanding dust with a damp sponge.

Paint the ceiling with two coats of a flat paint in your color choice. If you want a more thorough tutorial on painting ceilings, read this post.

Personally, I like using an ultra bright flat paint like Valspar. It has the best light reflection ability.

After all your hard work, pat yourself on the back and then carefully roll up the tarps and take out the trash. That will be one heavy bag!

Coming up next week: Installing the FlowWall System and a giveaway! You don’t want to miss it.

P.s. Thank you for all your prayers and kind words while my son was sick. He is finally feeling better and went back to school yesterday after three weeks. We are fairly certain that he had norovirus and it just sent his system into a tailspin. Thank goodness for hospitals and modern medicine!

75 replies
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  1. Carol Rose
    Carol Rose says:

    We cleaned the ducts yesterday.
    My husband wore a mask and goggles. It’s hard to find good help in poor small towns. We’ve lived here 3 years.
    Thank you so much for your kind comment!

  2. Carol Rose
    Carol Rose says:

    My husband 71 yrs old, sanded the popcorn off the shower ceiling. He had a sheet down but dust is everywhere. In the cupboards and drawers and floor vents. I cleaned the cupboards but what about the vents? Is it dangerous?

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Did you have it tested for asbestos? Regardless, it’s not good to breathe any dust from demolition or scraping. He should have kept it wet. You may want to at least change your filters, but you can also hire someone to clean your ducts.

  3. Gino Tortelli
    Gino Tortelli says:

    I purchased a power drywall sander from my local home store for just over $100. It sanded off my popcorn quickly while vacuuming the resulting dust into my shop vac for easy disposal. I saw them do this on the DIY channel and decided to give it a try. Not only was there very little mess, the ceiling was ready for paint when I was done. No spackle or additional sanding needed. It as an adjustable handle, so I didn’t need a ladder either. When I first went looking for the power sander like the one I had seen on the TV show, it was about $1500. The one I bought at the home store looked just like it and worked perfectly for $1400 less! I couldn’t be happier with my decision to sand instead of wetting and scraping.


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