The Popcorn Secret

On In the House, Jared shares the “popcorn secret”, the trick to easily removing your old ugly popcorn ceiling. Get the smooth look you want and save hours of hard work and labor with this one household ingredient!

Jared: Hey, welcome back to In the House; your home improvement questions are answered right here right now. Any type of home improvement question is okay. I'm a licensed general contractor as well as a licensed roofing contractor here in the State of Florida and own a business, Universal Roof & Contracting. Throughout the week, we help people with roofing, siding, and window needs, and then we answer your home improvement questions every weekend. Let's go to Sue in Sanford. Sue, how can I help you this morning?

Sue: I have a problem with popcorn ceiling. Some of it's coming down in my kitchen, and I'd like to remove it and put something smooth up. I just wondered, what's the best way to remove the popcorn ceiling?

Jared: Sue, I'll tell you a story. A number of years ago, I had gone to a client's home. He was a listener to the show, and I went in, and he was just so proud. He wanted to show me how he was removing his popcorn ceilings, so he goes, "Man, I've been doing this for like ... two weeks." Two weeks, he was working on it, and I said curiously, "That's a long time. How are you doing it?" He said, "I'm just doing this," and he was just scraping it off. I was deciding whether or not to tell him that there was an easier way than what it is that he was doing. He'd literally been doing that for like all of his free time for like two weeks!

Here’s the trick to removing popcorn. You take a small pop-up sprayer, even a little hand sprayer, and put warm water in it with just a little bit of fabric softener. Then you just mist it lightly on the popcorn, and let it sit there for a minute or two. Then you just take what we call a drywall blade – like a 12-inch hand scraper - and pull the scraper towards you, and the popcorn will literally just peel right off! Keep in mind, you don't want to push it away from you, because it will actually gouge the dry wall creating more prep with the new texture.

The key is warm water with a little bit of fabric softener in it - it does wonders - and it will be much easier to remove, and it's a lot cleaner that way. You still want to cover your stuff in plastic to protect it or move some of the contents out of the room, because you don't want to get the popcorn all over the place.

I do have a word of caution before you get started. Although now banned, popcorn ceilings installed as late as 1986 may contain asbestos in the mixture. You can scrape a small section off of the ceiling, place it in a sealed plastic bag, and have it tested by an EPA certified testing lab. It is important to wait for the results before beginning any removal project.

Sue: Okay, great. Afterward, is there anything I need to do to prep the ceiling then before I paint it?

Jared: For sure. What you have to understand is that the reason why popcorn was used a lot is because it hides a lot of the imperfections in the dry wall, so you will not want to just paint after you remove the popcorn. You have to actually “float” the ceiling out with drywall mud to hide the imperfections of the seams of the drywall. If all you do is just paint when you remove the drywall, you're going to see a bunch of seams all over the place, and it's not going to look good.

The removing of the popcorn is actually pretty simple. But there is an art to texturing - or the smoothing out - of the drywall. I don’t recommend it as a "do it yourself" project if you haven't done drywall before. Even myself, I've done it numerous times, and when I look back and I look at it, I'm just not happy with how it looks. I have to do it multiple times, and it just never comes out looking perfect. Now when I do it, I can have one of my guys go over and do it in 30 minutes, and it looks phenomenal. I’d probably recommend that you have a drywall installer or texture person come in and float it, especially if you want a smooth look, because the smooth look is difficult to achieve unless you really know what you're doing.

Sue: Do you have any people you might recommend to do this?

Jared: Yeah, if you call my office, then they can recommend somebody to you. I don't have anybody that I recommend over the air, but if you call my office, then my office will give you a referral of somebody that can help you with that. 

Listen Saturday mornings to "In the House". Get more Home Tips and show info at the In the House website. For a free inspection and estimate on your next Home Improvement Project, visit Universal Roof & Contracting or call now. Orlando: 407-295-7403 Jacksonville: 904-647-3907.

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