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Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Ditch That Outdated Ceiling Style in Favor of a More Contemporary Look

A close-up of a popcorn ceiling.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, popcorn texture was applied to ceilings in commercial and residential buildings across the country. Nowadays, the trend is towards removing popcorn ceilings. Although it's possible to paint a popcorn ceiling, painting doesn't address the fact that the ceiling style is no longer fashionable. Most homeowners, therefore, opt to remove their so-called "cottage cheese ceiling". This is a job best left to the professionals, as it can get extremely messy. Furthermore, some popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, a contingency that demands the services of a qualified pro.

Removing a Popcorn Ceiling: What's Involved

Popcorn ceilings, in addition to providing texture, dampen sounds, which is why they're alternately known as acoustic ceilings. Some take a more cynical view of this ceiling type, claiming that it was a means for contractors to mask their mistakes and cut corners. Whatever the true reasons for the popularity of popcorn ceilings, their appeal has faded. Fortunately, they're relatively cheap, if not dusty and time consuming, to remove. The actual work involved is outlined below.

  • The room where texture removal is to take place is completely emptied of furniture and other items. The entire room is then sealed off with plastic sheets, from the crown molding to the floor. A drop cloth and/or rosin paper may also be laid on the floor to assist with cleanup.
  • The ceiling, if it's not painted, is sprayed with water in order to soften the texture and make it easier to scrape away. If the ceiling is painted, water alone may not be enough to adequately loosen the ceiling texture. In this case, additional chemicals strippers might be sprayed on.
  • With the ceiling sprayed and the texture material sufficiently softened, scraping begins. A couple of different tools, including a ceiling texture scraper and a putty knife, might be used for this portion of the task.

Popcorn Ceilings and Asbestos

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Before popcorn ceiling removal commences, it's imperative to take a sample of the texture material and have it tested for asbestos. This is something you don't need a professional for. Asbestos testing kits can be purchased for immediate results, or you can send a sample - collected by scraping away a small section of the ceiling with a putty knife - away to a regional testing center. If you don't feel comfortable doing this yourself, a professional can come to your home and perform the test.

A positive test result means that, by law, you will have to hire a contractor certified in asbestos abatement. While asbestos is harmless when undisturbed, it can be deadly when released into the air. Professionals trained in asbestos removal have the proper equipment - such as respirators, protective suits, and HEPA vacuums - to make the job as safe as possible. Still, any exposure at all to asbestos can be a health risk, and there is no guarantee of safety, so you should carefully consider whether removing an asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling is the best option.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Costs

  • Removing popcorn ceiling texture from multiple rooms typically costs $1,500 to $2,000 and takes 3-4 days. Per room, plan on spending $250 to $450.
  • To further break down costs, you might pay as little as $.75 to $1.25 per square foot for popcorn ceiling removal, although work done at this rate might not be of the best quality. If you want to hire somebody who will take the proper measures to protect your home and possessions, expect to pay more in the neighborhood of $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot. Performing asbestos abatement could drive prices up to $4.00 to $6.00 per square foot.
  • Ceiling repainting or refinishing will cost extra, but you can probably get the same contractor to bundle the service with ceiling removal (learn more about interior painting and textured ceilings).

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