Painting FAQ- Popcorn Ceiling Textures


Can I Remove “Popcorn” Ceiling Textures on my Own?

Bill Woodward, Paint Division Manager at Cape Associates, Inc., works with customers from Orleans to Provincetown and came to us with this frequently asked question from our customers: “Can I remove “popcorn” ceiling textures on my own?” Bill offers some advice that might be helpful to keep in mind. Although it is a very time-consuming process, it can definitely be done.

Popcorn ceilings are most common in homes built from the 1960s to the 1980s. It’s important to know that some of these older homes may contain asbestos, which is extremely hazardous when tampered with. Make sure to test the area before you start any work. The look of popcorn ceiling textures comes from mixing water “to expand small chips of polystyrene, allowing the drywall to look like cheese or popcorn.” Some can even include a coat of glitter to add sparkle and create an illusion on the ceiling. However, this has since gone out of style and can oftentimes be a pain to remove.

Popcorn Ceiling

  1. Scraping & Sanding

To begin the process of removing a popcorn ceiling, Bill recommends scraping the surface first with a firm spackle knife and sanding the ceiling with a drywall sander, such as the Festool Planex Drywall Sander LHS 225. You will have to use various degrees of grit sandpaper to do the job correctly. Starting with the most course then changing to fine as the surface gets smoother.

Festool Sander

  1. Skim Coated with Spackle

Next, the entire ceiling needs to be skim coated with multiple coats of spackle over several days. This will ensure that there is a flat finish on the surface. This is a timely, yet necessary step.


  1. Sand, Sand, Sand!

It is necessary to sand the entire ceiling with fine sandpaper to make it smooth; however, this is a delicate process. Apply moderate pressure when sanding and avoid sanding over the same spot in a straight line as this will leave a groove or indent in the paint when the project is complete.

  1. Prime the Surface

Apply latex primer over the entire ceiling.  This is a “must-do” process.  This will seal the new spackle and ensure proper paint adhesion.

  1. Determine if you Need Spackling

There will be areas that have imperfections and will need to be re-spackled. Priming those new areas is also recommended. Bill recommends viewing the ceiling during different times of the day and with various artificial lights as well.

Spackling 2

  1. Finish Paint

Finally, two coats of finish paint will complete the task of removing “popcorn” ceiling textures. Always keep a wet-edge while rolling to prevent the paint from drying, which will result in lap marks.

Finish Paint


Many new homeowners want to get rid of popcorn ceiling textures. The process can seem overwhelming, but if you’re a DIYer, it’s well worth it. Bill makes a remark that “At Cape Associates, we refinish ceilings all the time, so we’ve perfected the process. We’re able to save homeowners countless hours of time and strain when they hire our team.”

If the steps above seem like more than you’d like to take on yourself, the Cape Associates Painting Division is here to help.


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