Popcorn Ceilings

Now and then we get calls asking for help with a ‘popcorn ceiling’.

“Help” will typically mean either how to help get rid of them entirely or how to paint them without damaging them.

Popcorn ceilings are ceilings where, for lack of a better way of describing them, there are little, tiny bumps scattered about the ceiling (‘popcorn’).

NOT to be confused with ‘textured’ ceilings, ‘popcorn’ ceilings have been used throughout their existence when building or renovating a home as a more inexpensive means of finishing a ceiling vs. finishing it with a plastered ‘swirl’ finish or using a technique providing a ‘smooth’ finish.

Popcorn ceilings that are older (example: done in the 1950s, 1960s, etc.) tend to have their ‘popcorn’ firmly in place and while being easy to maintain, can be a bit more difficult to get rid of (if so desired) than newer popcorn ceilings.

More modern popcorn ceilings are much more challenging to paint (as when doing so a good portion of the ‘popcorn’ can be pulled off on your paint roller and are best done by having their finish ‘sprayed’ on by a professional), but are a bit easier to convert by having the popcorn removed if that is what you would like to do.

The best way to get rid of an older popcorn ceiling is to either hang a new ceiling over it (the most common approach we take is hanging over it with 3/8” blueboard and plastering over the blueboard to the finish one aspires to).

Sometimes folks elect to try to skim over the popcorn with a process allowing them to smooth it out, I am not a fan of this however as in my mind, no matter how stable the older popcorn ceiling appears, in the back of my mind I am always worried of the new skimmed over coating somehow coming off at some point due to some type of bonding issue with the ceiling it was put over.

Of course, the other way you can convert the ceiling is by taking down the existing ceiling and hanging a new ceiling up altogether, the demo in this method however, can be quite messy.

Speaking of messy…

If working to get rid of a newer popcorn ceiling, a chaotic situation can certainly ensue.

While similar to the older popcorn ceiling conversion, the path of either hanging a new ceiling over the existing ceiling entirely or removing the existing ceiling and putting up a new ceiling altogether are applicable here as well, there is also another technique that can be used.

If prepared for properly – everything removed from the room and/or covered extensively – the newer popcorn ceilings can actually have their popcorn removed by being carefully wet down and then scraped off (as the popcorn will come off and get everywhere and be extraordinarily dusty if it is not wet down first).

After this process is done, the ceiling may need a procedure in place to be skimmed over in order to smooth out the ceiling.

The procedure would most likely look something like:

– Prime the ceiling

– Patch the ceiling wherever needed

– Sand the patches appropriately

– Spot prime the patches

– Then keep repeating until the surface reaches the “smoothness” that you are looking for

Popcorn ceilings are certainly something we run into fairly often and there are various ways to help people out achieve their preferred finish.

Depending on the age of the ceiling and the desired result, the methodology for getting people there absolutely ranges from “not too bad” of a project to SUPER intense!!

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