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How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Next up, we have a call from Steve who wants to remove his popcorn ceiling.

    Steve, tell us about your ceiling.

    STEVE: Well, I believe whoever built the home didn’t prep it properly because I’ve got flakes of the popcorn material coming off the ceiling.

    TOM: It’s raining popcorn. (Leslie chuckles) So what would you like to do, Steve? Would you like to permanently and once and for all remove this popcorn so you have a smooth ceiling?

    STEVE: Well, that’s kind of what I’m thinking.

    TOM: Yeah. How old is your house?

    STEVE: It’s about six years old.

    TOM: Well, that’s good news because that means the popcorn is not going to contain asbestos, which was a concern 20, 25 years ago. What I have found is the best way to remove that is with water and a spackle knife. You need to wet the stuff down because it comes off a lot easier when it’s wet. And so if you have like a spray bottle where you can soak a section, let that water sit there for a while, and then slowly but surely work your way through with, say, a 6-inch-wide spackle knife, you will eventually, sometime in the next 22 years, remove all of that popcorn. (Leslie chuckles) And meanwhile, you’ll have something to keep you busy on lonely nights.

    LESLIE: And you really want to make sure you protect your floor because this stuff is going to go everywhere.

    TOM: It comes off pretty quick, Steve, but you have to be very careful about the job because it does kind of get everywhere. You just want to go through it and get it done. It’s a good idea to block off this particular room from the rest of the house with plastic sheeting. And the other thing that you can do is to put a fan in the door facing out so it kind of depressurizes the room and then you open up a door or a window slightly on the other side of the room so that you have some air pulling through the room the whole time so if any of that flakiness gets into the air, it’ll at least keep moving it out. And then of course, aside from all that, you want to wear some respiratory protection.

    LESLIE: Hey Tom, what do you do once you have all the popcorn removed from the ceiling?

    TOM: Well, you get all your friends together and you go to the movies, of course. Yeah, what can you do? After that, the decision is going to be based on what the condition of the ceiling is. Now it might be that the ceiling is reasonably smooth and so if you go up there and spackle off any dings and dents and chunks that you took out of it, you could potentially prime it. Priming I’d say is very important. You don’t want to skip the primer step, especially after having that popcorn material on there for all those years. And then paint it and I would be very careful to use flat paint; not to use anything with a gloss whatsoever. Because invariably, the ceiling is not going to be as smooth as it would be if the popcorn was not there.

    LESLIE: Do you think when he’s doing the work in this room, should he turn off his HVAC system in the house?

    TOM: Not a bad idea and if you don’t turn it off you’re going to end up having to clean many filters and perhaps even having to have your ducts vacuumed out. But if you use that little trick of the trade to depressurize the room, that should keep most of the dust moving out, Steve.

    STEVE: Well, that sounds good. I didn’t know that it would just come right off with water and so …

    TOM: Absolutely. Steve, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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