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Mike Holmes Reveals How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Mike Holmes Reveals How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling
As seen on Holmes: Next Generation

Mike Holmes is one of HGTV Canada’s go-to contractors and the host of Holmes and HolmesHolmes: Buy it Right and Home to Win.


Popcorn ceilings were all the rage back in the day, but now they’re really starting to show their age. Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and scrape off that old popcorn ceiling for something new? For me, the old way tends to work best. My son once tried to bet me that he could take down a popcorn ceiling in half the time with a scraping attachment for his shop vac, but at the end of the day, I think he spent as much time struggling with his vacuum as he did scraping.

Test for Asbestos
The use of asbestos in ceiling paint was banned in the late ’70s, so if your popcorn ceiling is newer than that, you likely don’t need to be concerned. But if the popcorn ceiling is older than that, I would have the ceiling tested before you start scraping. Should asbestos be found, you don’t want to pull down the ceiling yourself. Bring in an asbestos abatement specialist.

Cover Up
Scraping a popcorn ceiling is a huge mess! Move furniture out of the room. Anything that can’t be moved, cover with a plastic tarp. Remove any ceiling fans or fixtures that are attached to the ceiling. Also, put some plastic down on the floor, letting it extend up the wall a few inches and taping it in place. Once the project is finished, you can pack it all up and toss it in the trash. Don’t forget to cover any vents and electrical outlets with plastic, securing them with painter’s tape.

Related: A Rundown Home From the ’70s Gets a Contemporary Overhaul

Get Your Gear
You’ll need supplies: rags, putty knife, mesh sanding pad with handle, sprayer, liquid dish soap, drywall compound and a floor scraper. Also, don’t neglect your safety gear. Wear a respirator and safety glasses at the minimum. To keep dust from spreading out into the rest of the home, I find it convenient to have a pair of disposable coveralls that I can toss when the project is complete.


Get Popping
Working on about 4-foot square sections at a time, fill your sprayer with water and a few tablespoons of dishwashing soap and moisten the area enough to loosen the popcorn finishing, but not damage the drywall underneath. Let it absorb for 20 minutes, then gently scrape away the ceiling with your floor scraper. Your putty knife will be used for any leftover material and for harder to reach areas. To prevent gouging holes in your ceiling and save you some timely repair work later on, file down the edges of your scraper.

Related: These Stylish Ceiling Ideas Will Inspire You to Reach New Design Heights

Finishing Up
Once you’ve scraped everything, look for any problem areas and apply drywall compound, allowing it to set overnight. Once dry, come back with your mesh pad to sand these areas down so they’re smooth. From there, prime the finished ceiling and cover with a latex paint.

Images Courtesy of The Holmes Group and Getty Images

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