Though spray-on textured popcorn ceilings are great for acoustics, they do have their limitations. They make a ceiling look darker, they're difficult to clean, and they disturb a room's smooth lines. Removing the popcorn ceiling brings back that clean look. With fresh water in a spray bottle and a tool called a ceiling texture scraper, it's possible to remove popcorn ceiling texture in most rooms with only moderate effort.
What Is a Popcorn Ceiling Removal Tool?
A popcorn ceiling removal tool, or ceiling texture scraper, is used to remove popcorn and other acoustic ceiling textures. The tool has a broad metal blade, a lower frame with an attached plastic catch bag, and a threaded end for joining an extension pole.
Popcorn Ceiling Removal Tool vs. Similar Scraping Tools
Costing between $25 and $50, a popcorn ceiling removal tool has a tilted handle that provides the ideal angle for pushing into the dampened texture. A lower frame holds a trash or plastic shopping bag to catch most of the debris, and the blade's rounded corners limit gouging of the delicate drywall paper surface or seam tape.
But these same features also render it unusable for projects other than texture removal. Can you use other scraping tools that you might already have on hand?
You can use a 6- or 12-inch drywall taping knife to scrape popcorn texture, but it's a little more difficult than with a texture scraper.
Taping knives have straight handles, making it more difficult to scrape at a low angle. Since taping knives cannot be attached to extension poles, you'll need to work entirely from a ladder. Taping knives have sharp corners which can tear drywall paper—a problem remedied by rounding off the corners with a grinder or metal file.
Threaded end for optional pole
12 inches wide
Frame to attach catch bag
No threaded end
12 inches, 6 inches, or other widths
No attached catch bag
If your house was built between 1945 and 1980, the textured popcorn ceiling may contain asbestos. Friable, air-borne asbestos may cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis if it is breathed in. Have the ceiling texture tested for asbestos before removing it.
How to Use a Popcorn Ceiling Removal Tool
To remove popcorn ceiling texture, you'll need a ceiling texture scraper, a threaded-end extension pole, a 1-gallon pump sprayer, kitchen-size trash bags, duct tape, and plastic sheeting.
Add plastic sheeting across the entire floor. Bring the sheeting up the walls about 1 foot. Tape all of the seams.
Attach Catch Bag
Attach the kitchen-size garbage bag to the bottom of the scraper with the clips on the tool.
Attach Extension Pole
Screw the extension pole into the back of the scraper handle. Or, if you prefer, you can leave off the extension pole for better control.
Fill the pump sprayer with clean warm water to the maximum fill line indicated on the side of the sprayer. Pressurize the sprayer by depressing the handle until the handle begins to resist and feel spongey. Usually, this will be about 10 to 15 pumps.
Dampen Popcorn Texture
Spray an area about 4 feet by 4 feet with water. Soak the popcorn texture well but not so much that water is actively dripping. Do not soak more than 16 square feet at a time, as areas may dry out before you can scrape them off.
Scrape Popcorn Texture
Holding the scraper at a low angle to the ceiling, slide the scraper forward for about 2 feet. The texture should peel off of the ceiling and drop into the bag. After every three or four scrapes, empty the catch bag in a trash receptacle.
Finish at Walls
Scrape up to the wall. Press firmly against the wall to sever the peeled texture from the ceiling. Peeled texture that will not easily sever can later be knocked off with a clean broom.
Tips and Troubleshooting Using a Ceiling Texture Scraper
- Popcorn ceiling removal tools are best for unpainted popcorn ceilings or for ceiling painted with flat paint. Paint with any type of gloss (eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, or gloss) prevents the water from soaking in and loosening the popcorn texture.
- Frequently change out the catch bag to avoid overloading the tool.
- Whenever possible, scrape in the direction of the joint tape to avoid ripping it off.
- Expect that some scrapes and gouges will occur. Fix by smoothing over with drywall compound, then lightly sanding.
- After scraping, thoroughly dry out the moistened drywall with a fan before painting.
- With difficult ceilings, it's often best to cover the popcorn texture with 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch drywall instead of removing it.
- Often, after removing the popcorn texture, the drywall may require some repairs prior to painting.
"Lung cancer from asbestos textured ceilings: a case study." National Institutes of Health.