Ceiling popcorn
January 2, 2008 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Anyone have any magic for removing the "popcorn" from my bathroom ceiling?
posted by Zebtron to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
They did this on the TV Show "Ron Hazelton's HouseCalls" a while back. IIRC, it involved putting down some kraft paper on the floor, taping the seams, then spraying water from a hand-pumped (compressed) sprayer up onto the ceiling. Then, using a stepladder, gently scrape the popcorn from the ceiling once it has softened using a wide (6 inches or so) drywall knife.
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:57 AM on January 2, 2008

If you are talking about the texture on the ceiling, you can usually moisten it with a spray bottle of water and scrap it off of the underlying material, usually wallboard. Be advised though that depending on how old it is, it very likely contains asbestos of some amount, and care should be taken to not inhale the fibers. You can use a cartridge type respirator for this. Also the wallboard will need to be refinished afterwards. In my experience it gets a little banged up in the process and simply painting afterwards will not look great.
posted by Big_B at 11:00 AM on January 2, 2008

Have you tried any of these?
sorry. Also, Hazelton's how-to is the second link.
posted by frobozz at 11:00 AM on January 2, 2008

Also, from friend's experience:

You may notice that your ceiling looks uneven afterward. That's why they put the popcorn up, to conceal this so they don't have to take as much care drywalling your ceiling.

Secondly, keep that bathroom door shut while you're in there scraping (use a respirator, as suggested) and for two weeks afterward, if you can, and then go clean.. That stuff takes a long time to fully settle out of the air and will keep showing up in your toiletries and towels and rugs if you just attempt to clean it up right away.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:05 AM on January 2, 2008

Following up on the asbestos point: hopefully it does not contain asbestos, but if you think it might, based on the age of the material, get it tested. If it does contain asbestos, consider having a professional remove it. Asbestos is very hard for a DIYer to safely remove.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:08 AM on January 2, 2008

I have a large basement that is coated with this crap and I plan on picking up this for renovation. If I were just doing one surface, or a smaller area I would do it manually with the spray/putty knife. You may also want to spray back a finer grade texture when you are done, to fill things back in. As middleclasstool notes the process will reveal and contribute to a lot of imperfections to the surface which won't necessarily look much better if left alone.
posted by prostyle at 11:25 AM on January 2, 2008

I agree with others' urging to be careful if you think it might contain asbestos (which, based on the research we did before removing ours, it might).

Afterwards, you might consider having them spray the ceiling with a texture - ours was called "orange peel." Just a very light texture, but it does help conceal imperfections that middleclasstool was talking about.
posted by krudiger at 11:41 AM on January 2, 2008

I sent some suspicious floor tiles to Western Analytical Lab for asbestos testing. It was a VERY well-spent $30 -- they called me 24 hours after receiving the sample to let me know the results and put a more detailed lab report in the mail the same day.

The dust will settle into every imaginable nook and cranny of your house and you'll be cleaning it for months. Seal off the room well.
posted by desuetude at 12:04 PM on January 2, 2008

I had this on many ceilings in my house - in fact, the only reason I knew the house was for sale is that a friend of a friend had knocked down the loose stuff for the previous (invalid/shut-in) occupant. Since it was falling off in places, I thought it would scrape off easily...I was wrong. I scraped the hell out of the ceiling with a putty knife, taking most of the texture off. Then it took four coats of drywall mud to get it flat. (however, it's now so flat and smooth that even re-habber friends can't believe that I didn't drywall over it!)
posted by notsnot at 12:05 PM on January 2, 2008

Allow me to reinforce the asbestos warning.
Get it tested, and if it is positive, have a professional do the removal.
Since asbestos remediation in residences is not big business, it can be difficult to find people. Usually it is a fellow and his crew who use their company's tools during the down times to make a buck on the side.
If you live in the Austin, TX area, I can recommend someone.

If you test negative, they sell a pole scraper that allows you to attach a grocery bag to avoid having to pick damp cottage cheese off the floor. You still have to spray. I suggest using one of those pump garden sprayers. The scraper has no blade so you are less likely to scrape through the paper of the gypsum board. It is just a piece of rectangular steel bent into a box shape.... I can't explain it, here's a link.

You will have to use your drywalling skills to cover up the pre-existing flaws you will reveal and the ones you will create. An easier option is to purchase a box of plaster (or whatever they call the mud) and rent a texture sprayer from Home Despot. Purchase a piece of drywall to practice on. The difficult part will be placing the board overhead to practice as the texture you will get on a ceiling is different than that you will get on a vertical wall.

Many assumptions and excess information.
posted by Seamus at 12:41 PM on January 2, 2008

Instead of wetting and scraping, you can also wet and press, meaning you press upward on the wet popcorn, flattening it against the ceiling and achieving a cheap Venetian plaster effect. Try experimenting with some of the ceiling. If you don't like it, you can always scrape it.

You can also install some brands of decorative ceiling planks directly over the popcorn ceiling for a different look entirely.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:05 PM on January 2, 2008

Would it be worth it to just start over and put up new drywall? That would make any possible asbestos etc. cleanup much simpler, and since it's a bathroom, it should only be a sheet or two. You could cut the sheets into half-sheets to make it easier to put up. Just an idea, especially if you end up having to redo all the finish work anyway, which the answers above imply is likely.
posted by smackfu at 2:08 PM on January 2, 2008

You could also use real or fake pressed tin tiles to cover the popcorn, if the asbestos-removal warnings have you spooked.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:26 PM on January 2, 2008

« Older Hope me Obi-wan, Ground Control to Major Tom...   |   Trying to get home from Morocco on Royal Air Moroc Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.