DIY: Removing Popcorn Ceiling

After we signed the final paperwork for the purchase of our house, we dove right into our first DIY project!  Removing popcorn ceiling!

I didn’t realize how much I disliked popcorn ceiling until we bought our house and we had the opportunity to remove it without having any furniture in the house.  So we got started!  

We scraped 2,600 square feet of popcorn ceiling in five days!!!  It was A LOT of work, but TOTALLY worth it.  Plus we were on our new house high so we thought it was kind of fun 🙂

Below are the supplies needed for this project:

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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

Step 1: Prep your rooms

Make sure you do the following before you start scraping:

-Use painters tape to tape over all vents and outlets

-Cover floor with plastic drop cloths

-Seal off openings to room with plastic drop cloths and painters tape

*Prepping took a long time, but it makes cleaning up much easier!

Step 2: Get Shop Vac Ready for go time

-Put shop vac extension hose on the shop vac.  Snap-on the seven-inch utility nozzle.

-Remove the filter from the inside of the shop vac (set the filter aside because you will not be using it) and click in the other shop vac extension hose onto the exhaust end of the shop vac.  This allows for the dust to travel through the exhaust extension hose and out the window of your choice.  Make sure the exhaust hose is long enough to reach the window from anywhere in the room you will be scraping.  

NOTE: There will be a little bit of excess popcorn ceiling flying out of that hose, so do not aim the hose into your neighbor’s windows (unless they are mean…jk…).

-Duck tape the putty knife to the shop vac attachment like this:

Step 3: Prep Ceiling

Fill your garden sprayer with water.  There is a special solution of some sort that I have seen being used, but plain old water worked great for us!  Next, spray a five-foot by five-foot section of the ceiling at a time, starting in one corner of the room.  Let the water soak into the popcorn for 5 minutes.  Spraying the ceiling with water helps eliminate the amount of dust.

Step 4: Scrape!

-First and foremost, put on your dust masks and protective eye-wear.

-Turn your shop vac on and start scraping like shown in the video below.  This is strangely satisfying 🙂

The shop vac may not reach all the way into the edges and corners of the ceiling so use another putty knife to go around and scrape that off.  This was messy, but it was really the only option we had.

Step 5: Fill in any flaws in the ceiling with joint compound

This step was tedious but worth it.  Once the ceiling dried, there were a few areas where we gouged the ceiling with the scraper.  So we used joint compound to fill those flaws in.  If you plan to finish your popcorn free ceiling with knockdown, then you probably don’t have to do this step unless the gouges are huge.

NOTE: if you are not going to keep your ceiling flat and you plan to spray knockdown, you are done!  If you are planning on keeping your ceiling flat like we did continue on…

Step 6: Sand the ceiling

This was probably our least favorite part, even though the vacuum sander worked wonderfully.  Dust is dust and it was everywhere.  

-Use the drywall vacuum sander with a new sanding screen and extension pole and start sanding every inch of the ceiling.  We (and when I say we, I mean me) used the sanding sponge to sand the dust off in the edges and corners of the ceiling.  It worked and I got a great shoulder workout 😉

Step 7: Prep Ceiling for Painting:

Wipe down ceilings with a water and a rag or with a mop like this to get rid of as much excess dust as possible before painting.  Excess dust will cause the ceiling paint to be bumpy.

Step 8: Paint the Ceiling:

We bought 3 five gallon buckets of the Eminence High Performance Ceiling Paint from Sherwin-Williams to paint 2,600 square feet.  This paint covered the ceiling in two coats and hid imperfections beautifully!  We love it!

Look at those beautiful flat ceilings 🙂 Surprisingly, removing popcorn ceiling really brightens up a room.  

NOTE: This project was very dusty and messy so I am very happy we didn’t have any furniture in the house yet.  If you scrape while you have furniture in your house, make sure you protect it with plastic and or move it to another room.

Full tutorial on how to remove popcorn ceiling.  I give you details on the supplies you will need along with the best technique!


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10 thoughts on “DIY: Removing Popcorn Ceiling”

  1. Had same problem. I stapled a woven foil heat barrier right on top of the popcorn ceiling surface. Then we installed (with screws) a whole new layer of sheetrock on that. Mudded and sanded, one beautiful ceiling and never scraped a square inch off the old ceiling. The heat barrier foil reduced the temperature about 10 degrees at the surface of the ceiling (attic above).

    1. LiliesandLife

      It really does brighten up a room taking the popcorn off the ceiling! I hope this helps 🙂

  2. Hi, Emily!

    Thougth I’m a former professional painting contractor it was interesting to read your article, thanks. I wonder what ceiling paint you use (if use any). I personally think that Benjamin Moore is out of charts, but currently I want to know what other people using.

  3. Another masterpiece …..
    I always use your techniques and found a great response. I like your presentation and the way you simplify a complex thing. And most importantly, keep helping all the online community members, like the way you do now. God bless you…

  4. Initially, it seems like a lot of work, but after seeing the final output I was like WOW! It’s worth the effort.

    I enjoyed the post. It looks like a very interesting and fun project to get my hands on.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thank you for your amazing painting tips. I am a new painting contractor and I could use all the help I can get. I have been reading a lot of painting articles and blogs. You are my favorite and I look forward to reading more of your post. You are obviously an expert at what you do.

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Emily (1)
Hi, I'm Emily

I’m an Interior designer, decorator and blogger.  I help overwhelmed homeowners and DIYers bring timeless design and function into their home so they can love their space and the life they are building within it!  Thank you for visiting 🙂


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