Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost & Guide

We put together a comprehensive guide on popcorn ceiling removal. The guide includes cost of removal, guide to DIY removal & cost of professional services.

Popcorn ceiling formally known as an acoustic ceiling is a type of ceiling that is white in appearance, and it’s made by paint or spay on a ceiling. It was a very popular in the 1950s to 1980s in the American residential construction. It has acoustical characteristics, and it’s known to hide imperfections well.

However, when the Clean Air Act banned the use of asbestos in ceiling treatment in the United States in 1978, popcorn ceilings started falling out favor, and they have slowly been replaced by all-around better ceiling designs and materials.

These types of ceilings were much preferred in construction back then due to their durability, and they could absorb noise hence reducing echo in a home. But, the disadvantages of having popcorn ceiling outweigh the advantages, and with time, more effective and efficient ceiling materials have gradually replaced it.

If you have a popcorn ceiling in your home, with time the cons and disadvantages gradually become more pronounced with age and you will have to consider removing the ceiling for your interest.

Why should you remove your popcorn ceiling?

Unfortunately, popcorn ceilings have tons of disadvantages which have become more apparent with time, and they now are slowly becoming a thing of the past. If you are still in doubt whether to remove your popcorn ceiling or keep it, you should take time and read through the listed cons that will show you the significant issues that arise with this type of ceiling.


If your home was built before the late 70s, precisely before 1978, it’s possible that your ceiling may contain asbestos. Asbestos can cause severe health problem if any of the particles is disturbed. If inhaled in what is considered a large quantity, asbestos fibers can cause serious lung problems which include lung cancer and scarring of the lungs.

Even though not all popcorn ceilings have asbestos, most people do not want to take the risk of having this type of ceiling in their homes. Besides, you might not know when the ceiling was installed, and in some cases, some of the popcorn ceilings installed after 1978 have been found to have the asbestos.

If the ceiling is left undisturbed, there is a good chance it won’t pose any danger to you and your household; however, no one should take that risk and removal should be an only option. If the fibers in the ceiling are disturbed, they become airborne, and once you breathe them in, you will be exposed to a myriad of health issues such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and many others.
As a homeowner, you might not be able to tell if your popcorn ceiling has asbestos by looking at it with your naked eye. You will need to have it professionally tested and confirmed. You can call a professional to have a look at it, or you can take a sample using the following steps.

  • Wear a high-efficiency particulate air mask (HEPA) to protect yourself.
  • To avoid any contact with the sample, put on plastic gloves.
  • Take a spray bottle and fill it with a teaspoon of liquid soap and add 16 ounces of water.
  • Wet the specific area where you intend to take the sample and wait for a few minutes for it to soak. This step helps contain the fibers so that they do not spread.
  • Using a sharp small knife or razor blade knife, cut a sample preferably teaspoon-sized amount and put it in the container with soapy water and seal it tightly. Make sure you access the entire depth of the textured ceiling and not just the surface when scrapping off.
  • Ensure you label the containers if you are taking samples from different rooms.
  • You can then take your sample to the lab for testing.

Hard to paint

The popcorn ceiling has an extreme painted texture that has deep ridges and valleys that make painting it a challenge. The common painting method involves the use of a roller with an extension handle. This method will not work with a popcorn ceiling since it cannot nap to apply the paint effectively. The only other option is to use a paintbrush, which is time-consuming and labor-intensive rendering this kind of a ceiling next to impossible to paint.

Not Easy To Repair and Maintain

To keep a popcorn ceiling looking good and not worn out or dingy, you need to do regular maintenance and repair. This type of ceiling has a textured surface that has crevices and recesses that attract dust, cobwebs, and dirt easily.

You will have to clean your ceiling constantly, a process that involves using a ladder and a vacuum attached to brush. When cleaning the ceiling, you are required to be extremely careful not to disturb the texture because you will risk releasing the asbestos fiber into the air. Should any damage happen to the popcorn texture of the ceiling, you will have to contact a professional to take care of the situation because of the risk that comes with asbestos contamination.


As mentioned, popcorn ceilings used to be popular in the early 90s and with time they have become outdated. If you are planning on selling your treasured home, it’s essential that you remove the old-fashioned look to a modern one to increase the value of your home as well as interest potential buyers. According to real estate agents, popcorn ceilings can decrease the value of your home and make it less likely to sell.

If you are in the process of selling your home, a popcorn ceiling may not go well with potential buyers. These types of ceilings are not in the number one list of the most favorable features in a home. To make your home more valuable, it will be a good idea to rid of the textured ceiling and increase the interest of buyers.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

If your home was built before 1978, there is a possibility your popcorn ceiling has asbestos material. If it were built after, it would be safe to have a test done to confirm the absence or presence of asbestos. If in the absence of asbestos you can do the ceiling removal yourself. However, if there is no confirmation of whether your popcorn ceiling has asbestos, you will need to outsource the services of a professional to do a test and remove the ceiling for you safely.

The cost of removal ranges from $1.00 to $2.00 per square foot. For an average homeowner, expect to spend around $1,598 for the removal process. Majority of homeowners spend roughly $810.0 0 to $2,386 on the removal project. However, the cost of removal can increase if there presence of asbestos in a range of $3.00 to $7.00 per square foot. To remove popcorn ceiling that has asbestos, it will cost an average of $4,500 for an entire home and treatment.

It’s important to factor in the location and the contractor you hire when budgeting for the removal process since prices will differ depending on the two. If you include all the entire process of removal like the initial planning, area preparation, clearing debris, basic labor, and clean up, the cost of the whole process can come to around $15.00 to $40 per hour. To work on an area measuring 500 square foot, it could take around 20 hours of work which will cost you roughly $300.00 to $750.00.

Materials to be used such as a ladder, scrapper, protective gear, etc.$0.10 to $0.015 per square foot
Removal of debris $0.30 to $0.354 per square foot
Painting the ceiling$0.808 to $2.151 per square foot

Cost Considerations For Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Before you start planning for the removal process, there are other factors that you need to consider that will influence the overall cost of removal. You will need to factor the possibility of the presence of asbestos which could complicate the removal process. You may also consider giving your ceiling a smooth finish after the removal if your budget can accommodate the expense.

Costs for Popcorn Ceiling Removal with Asbestos

One of the essential factors to consider when planning for a popcorn ceiling removal project is to know whether there is the presence of asbestos. If your home tests positive for asbestos, the cost of removal and treatment will go higher. Asbestos is used as an insulating material that is fire-retardant, and it provides both acoustic and thermal insulation. There are around six types of asbestos, and all of them are carcinogenic.

Extensive research has revealed that the asbestos fibers can cause serious health complications. Therefore, the disposal of this particular building material requires specialized safety disposal method and standards. As mentioned, you will need to call a professional to do the asbestos test, or you can follow the safe procedure to remove a sample of your ceiling for testing. Lab fees will cost anywhere around $100.00. There are test kits that you can use, but, it’s advisable you take the sample to a lab for safe testing.

Cost of Replacing a Popcorn Ceiling with Paint

You can opt to have the popcorn ceiling scrapped off the all the bumps and lumps. The contractor will then sand the surface and paint it to acquire a smooth look. Expect to be charged around $1.00 to $3.00 per square foot for labor and materials. However, if you choose to DIY, you will spend around $30 to $200 to purchase paint, primer, and a scrapper.

Cost Of Replacing A Popcorn Ceiling With Knockdown Texture

One the reasons for having popcorn finish is to hide imperfections in the surface such as cracks, warps, and uneven areas. But most homeowners do not like the dated look and opt to have the ceiling finished with a texture spray that is loaded with un-aggregated spray texture. The process involves scrapping the heavy texture and then replacing it with a knockdown finish to hide the flaws without having a dated look.

With the textured popcorn ceiling, the bumps and the knobs tend to attract dust and normally make a room appear smaller. For the new finish to be applied, the contractor will have to scrape off the original finish, lightly sand down the surface and then apply the lightly textured knockdown. Expect to pay an average of $1.00 to $2.00 per square foot for labor, materials, and equipment. The average cost of replacing a popcorn ceiling with knockdown texture comes to an average of $500.00 to $1000.00.

Cost of Having a Skim Coat over Your Popcorn Ceiling

You can still have a textured surface with a smoother finish than that of the popcorn ceiling. For homeowners who still prefer to have a bit of history of their home, this method works better. However, since the process can add weight to your ceiling and compromise its structure, you need to consult a professional before adding the skim coat. Expect to spend around $1.00 per square foot for a skim coat.

Cost of skimming a popcorn ceiling with a drywall

You can opt to cover your popcorn ceiling with a drywall instead of scraping off. The process will eliminate a lot of mess that comes with the removal process of popcorn ceiling although it lowers the ceiling level of the room. For a skimming project, expect to spend an average of $1.50 per square foot; this is a cost for standard panels (8-foot by 4-foot) that sell at about $10.00 to $20.00. Other materials needed for the dry project include a compound that goes for an average price of $5.00 to $9.00 and dry joint panel tape rolls that cost about $3.00 to $5.00.

Cost of Replacing Popcorn Ceiling by Installing Decorative Tiles

You can cover your existing surface with ready-to-hang tiles to give a new beautiful look. The tiles are available in most home improvement stores. You will spend about $5.00 to $7.00 per square foot which depends on the materials you choose.

Other Cost Considerations

There are cost factors that you will need to plan before you proceed with the popcorn ceiling removal process. They include:
Furniture removal- before starting the process of removing the popcorn ceiling, all the furniture in the room needs to be cleared and placed somewhere else. To cut down the cost, a homeowner can do the removal themselves. If the contractor moves the furniture for you, expect to spend an average cost of $75.00 to $125.00.

High ceilings – there are rooms with higher ceilings that will require more labor to accomplish the task of removing the popcorn ceiling. For such situations, expect to pay an additional cost of $50 to $150 to the total cost of ceiling removal.

Painted popcorn ceiling – if your popcorn ceiling is painted, the process of removal becomes more complicated and long. This is because water will not saturate in the ceiling as fast it would if the ceiling was not painted. In such a case, the contractor may have to repeat scrapping process for almost five times to remove it. Expect to spend about extra $150 to $250 for non-enamel painted ceilings or $300-$600 for enamel painted ceiling.

Disposal of debris – after the removal work is accomplished; a contractor will have to dispose of the debris and other dirt that accumulated during the process. Expect o spend around $75.00 for this process.

DescriptionDetailsAverage cost
Average cost of popcorn ceiling removal$1,598
Average cost of popcorn ceiling removalPresence of asbestos materials$4,500
Lab feesAsbestos testing$100.00
Replacing popcorn ceilings with paint$1.00-$3.00 per square foot
Replacing popcorn ceilings with knockdown texture$1.00-$2.00 per square foot
Skim coat$1.00 per square foot
Skim coat with drywall$1.50 per square foot
Installing decorative tiles$7.00 per foot
Moving furniture$75.00-$150.00
Removing a higher popcorn ceilingsExtra charges$50.00$150.00
Removing painted popcorn ceilingsExtra charges$150.00-250.00 for non-enamel paint
$300.00-600.00 for enamel paint
Materials for DIY popcorn ceiling removal$30.00

How To Remove Popcorn Ceiling: DIY Guide

A How To Remove Popcorn Ceiling DIY project will only be possible if your popcorn ceiling is considered to be asbestos free. If the ceiling is proved to contain the hazardous material, the removal process should be left to a professional who will seal and scrape it off safely.

Otherwise, the process of removing popcorn ceiling can be tedious but attainable if the asbestos test comes back negative. It will save you a lot of money, almost half the price of hiring a professional.

Also, it’s vital to note that, the process of removing a textured ceiling that is painted over requires special wetting techniques that only a professional can do. For such a ceiling, it would be advisable to let a professional do the saturating process and then scrape off. Also for convenience purposes, you can hire a pro to do the removal for you. Professionals have an added advantage of years of experience and will have the right tools to accomplish the task in a shorter time span.

But if you are up for the challenge you can read this guide for tips on how to accomplish the task of removing popcorn ceiling.

Tools and Materials Needed For the DIY Project

You will need to scrape off popcorn texture as the first step. You will require several materials for scrapping which cost around $30.00. You will also need the following:

  • Plastic sheet for covering the walls (2-3 mm)
  • Plastic sheet for covering the floors (6mm)
  • Rags
  • Painters tape
  • Rosin paper
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Putty knife
  • Floor scrapper (6inch wide)
  • Pump sprayer
  • Drywall compound
  • Mesh sanding pad ( with a handle)
  • Drywall tape
  • Clothing protection
  • Respirator/dust mask
  • Goggles

Before you start the scrapping off process, you need to clear your working area. Remove all furniture and cover the walls with thick plastic. To secure the plastic sheet on the surface, use the painter’s tape. Make sure you cover the room fully to protect the walls and the floors from the dust.

Make sure you cut off the power to the room by use of circuit breaker and ensure all the wall’s outlets are covered by a plastic sheet to prevent dust and water from reaching them especially during the wetting process. Remove the light fixtures, and if you have ceiling fans, it’s good to remove them too. Leaving the fixtures on the surface might get in your way or get covered with the wet popcorn. You also risk splashing water on the electrical fixture accidentally as you spray the ceiling.

Removal of the Texture

The first step of removal is to wet the ceiling down. To make your work easier to handle, wet areas of about 4-6 foot square foot. You will then spray the area with the mixture of warm water and the dish liquid to saturate it. To make the mixture, use 2-3 teaspoons of dish liquid per gallon and warm water. Put the mixture in the pump sprayer. Let the solution penetrate the textured layers for about 15-20 minutes to allow the area to soften.

After the area has softened enough, you can start scrapping the ceiling material using the large 6-inch floor scrapper. While scrapping off, make sure you do not chip the drywall or tear the tape that holds the wall together. You can spray the area again if the ceiling material does not come off with the first attempt.

You can then make use of the smaller putty knife to remove the residual material out and be able to work on the corners. Keep repeating the same process for the rest of the remaining areas and rooms.

What to Do After Removal

If you successfully scrape off the ceiling material, you will need to update the look of your home and create a better surface. You will notice that the surface will be left with a lot of stains, marks nails, patches, bumps and many others. To accomplish a stylish modern look for your home, you will need to sand, refinish and paint the surface with a paint color that best defines your house and suits your style.

1. After the removal, you need to consider sanding the surface to create a smooth surface. Once you manage to scrape off the texture, you should be able to see the sheetrock through some parts of the ceiling. You will have to sand the surface down especially if the original texture was a bit uneven to be able to achieve a smooth finished look.

2. If some of the parts of the drywall got chipped during the scrapping off process, you should do some repairs before going to the next step. Use the joint compound and tape and let it dry for 24 hours. Sand the compound smooth and proceed to refinishing the area.

3. Once you are sure your ceiling is smooth and dry, you can proceed to paint it. Prime, the area, and then apply the paint. When purchasing paint, make sure you get the ceiling latex paint to achieve the best results.

4. Allow the paint to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You can then clean up the area around the ceiling and also under the ceiling before you remove the plastic sheeting.

Why You Should Hire a Pro

If your popcorn ceiling has been tested and declared free of asbestos, this type of ceiling can be an easy job to tackle for around two days. However, it’s essential to note that the whole process can be labor intensive and you will need to do a lot of clean-up since the removal can be messy. It also needs a lot of time and dedication to accomplish the removal task.

Here are some of the benefits of hiring a professional the removal job.

Efficient preparation – a professional will prepare the room within a short time and cover it appropriately to protect your floors and electrical outlets. They will clear the room and safely return the furniture once the job is done. The process of preparation can be time-consuming and tiresome especially if you do not have someone to assist with the moving of furniture and other household items.

Scrapes off faster – a professional popcorn ceiling remover will remove the textured ceiling faster and efficiently. This is because they have trained and handled a couple of ceilings and they will not have the same challenge as someone who is not an expert in the removal process.

Home improvement package – if you are having other home improvement processes like painting, most professional will incorporate popcorn ceiling removal as part of the package. This makes it easy to hire as the job becomes part of the overall improvement process.

Low risk of damages – professionals are trained to remove the ceiling and know the right techniques to use that will deliver the task without the risk of damages. Due to their experience, a professional will handle the ceiling properly and give it a beautiful smooth finish compared to what a novice can do.

Hiring the Right Professional for Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Just like any other home improvement project, you need to take time and hire the right professional for the popcorn ceiling removal. More than often, homeowners get overcharged for shoddy jobs from contractors who claim to be experts in the removal and paint job.

Remember there is the risk of asbestos which needs to be handled with care to ensure your home is safe. If you are going to entrust someone to remove the popcorn ceiling, they should possess the right skills and tools to handle popcorn ceilings professionally especially the one that has tested positive for asbestos.

Popcorn ceiling removal has become very popular with a lot of homeowners who are ready to get rid of the outdated look to cross over to the modern and stylish ceiling designs. If you are on a mission to get a pro to the removal, you will easily find one; you just need to take your time and vet the contractor before you hire.

Here are some useful tips that should help you with your search for the right contractor for popcorn ceiling removal.

Ask Around

As mentioned earlier, the popcorn ceiling removal is a common task in most homes nowadays, and there is a possibility someone close to you has had their textured ceiling removed. If you ask around you are likely to get a local contractor who is reliable and can do an excellent job.

Make sure you ask the person giving you referrals about the skills of the contractor and their experience working with that particular contractor. Customer care is vital, and you need to hire someone who will address your concerns professionally and accommodate your ideas. Get the contact details and their physical location.

The good thing about asking for referrals from your local area is that you get to know the contractors to avoid due to their bad reputation.

Search Online

The internet has become one of the most useful platforms to source for information and services. In fact, most contractors nowadays have websites that enlist their services, and you can get help for the majority of home improvement projects. There are also websites that will give you detailed information on popcorn ceiling removal and where to get the best person for the job.

However, before you settle for a ceiling contractor online, you need to do thorough research to ensure you have enough information about the contractor you are about to invite in your home. Look at the reviews on their websites and find out what their clients are saying about them. Do they have a trail of happy customers? If there are negative reviews and complains, find out how the contractor handled the situation.

When outsourcing an online contractor, you need to make sure you meet in person preferably in their offices. Therefore, make sure you ask for physical address and schedule a meeting. You should avoid ceiling and painting contractors who have nothing on their websites other than a cell phone number.

Get Multiple Estimates

Different contractors will charge differently depending on location and their expertise. To avoid being overcharged, you should get multiple estimates and make a price comparison. Also, several cost estimates will enable you to know the average cost of popcorn ceiling removal including other services such as refinishing and repair.

Make sure you give accurate information detailing the scope of work to be done, for example, the size of your home and its location. If the contractor is supposed to carry out an asbestos test, find out how much they will you charge for the testing. If possible, you can let several contractors have a look at your ceiling before they give you a detailed price estimate to enable you budget accurately.

10 Questions to Ask a Popcorn Ceiling Removal Contractor

Removing a popcorn ceiling and refinishing the surface is a job that majority of homeowners can do for themselves. However, there are some situations where hiring a professional might be a good idea. For example, if your ceiling tests positive to asbestos, hiring a professional is the only option of having the ceiling removed safely. Also, due to the tedious process of removal and the need for a perfectly smooth finish, some homeowners opt to hire a professional ceiling contractor to do the removal and refinish the surface for them.

When hiring a contractor for the job, there are critical details you need to find out. To achieve a clean job that will leave your home safe and still look stylish, you need to hire someone who has good knowledge of removing the popcorn ceiling safely. You can only be certain of their level of expertise and qualification by asking them the following questions.

1. Ask For References

An established popcorn ceiling removal contractor will probably have a trail of satisfied customers. Therefore, they should have no problems giving you several contacts of their past clients.

You can also ask them to show you written testimonials from their past customers about their services. While at it, it’s advisable that you get contacts of more recent clients to enable you to get updated information about their services. A contractor who is willing to share their client’s contacts as references shows that they are honest and transparent. Make sure you follow up with calls and ask for relevant details that will guide you in the decision making of whether to hire or not.

2. Are You Insured?

The popcorn ceiling removal will happen at your home, and many things go wrong while the job is in progress. There is a risk of the workers falling and getting injured. Also, the contractor may have to move heavy furniture from the rooms, and you cannot ignore the risk of damage.

To ensure that your property is protected and the safety of the contractor, you need to hire someone who is insured. If they are going to have workers on your property, they need to have a workers’ compensation cover. To make sure the company is covered, ask the contractor to show you the certificate of insurance and confirm its validity.

3. Ask About License

If a contractor is going to remove a popcorn ceiling that is probably contaminated with the hazardous material (asbestos), they should possess the right licensing documents to show that they have been approved to handle this kind of a ceiling.
You will be safer working with someone who has the right qualifications to handle asbestos considering the amount of risk involved.

4. Are You a Certified Asbestos Worker?

Disturbing asbestos materials is a serious hazard, and that’s why laws have been enacted to prevent any exposure. If a contractor is to remove a popcorn ceiling that could potentially have asbestos materials, they need to have asbestos abatement certification. Ask to see the certificate to ensure that the person you are about to hire can safely handle the removal and dispose of the asbestos material as required.

5. Ask About Their Experience

The reason why you are want to hire a professional for the popcorn removal service is that you need someone who can handle this type of ceiling with the delicacy and skills it requires. You need someone who will deliver a better job than what you would have done had you tackled the removal task yourself.

To get the best out of your money, look for someone who has at least two years of experience in the popcorn ceiling removal process. An established professional has probably dealt with all kinds of problems associated with popcorn ceiling removal and has invested in the appropriate equipment to accomplish the task safely.

6. Ask About the Cost

This is one of the most critical questions you should ask before you even get down to other issues. You need to be able to know if the contractor’s charges can fit your budget and if their prices are reasonable. Remember different contractors charge differently depending on the scope of work and expertise.

Make sure you get an elaborate and detailed cost breakdown. Any additional costs such as anticipated repairs should be included in the final cost breakdown so that you can fully budget before the removal process.

7. Ask How Long the Removal Process Will Take

You need to work on, and therefore it’s important to know the duration of the process. Remember, this process can get messy, and some of your rooms will be inaccessible which can be inconveniencing. Having a set working timeline will ensure that there are no unnecessary delays by the contractor.

8. Ask About the Replacement Options

Once the removal of the popcorn ceiling has been done, you will need your ceiling replaced with a look that suits your home’s design and style. You can choose to have the ceiling painted, or you can skim a popcorn ceiling with drywall, the options are many. Ask your contractor for the best options for your ceiling designs. After assessing your ceiling, your contractor should be able to give the best replacements ideas that will best replace the popcorn ceiling and suits your budget.

9. Ask About Preparation Process

Ask your contractor if there any preparation measures you need to take before they start the removal. If the popcorn ceiling has asbestos, they might require you to move out your home temporarily until they are done with the removal process.

10. Will They Do A Clean-Up after Removal?

Popcorn ceiling removal is a messy process that may leave your room dusty with debris scattered everywhere. Most contractors offer one package that includes clean-up after the process. Nevertheless, it’s important to inquire about the cleaning afterward and the charges. Find out if they will cover up your up your room with a plastic sheet to protect the walls and floors.

Avoid Getting Scammed

Popcorn ceiling removal has become popular with most homeowners looking to upgrade their outdated ceilings to the modern, stylish ones. When it comes to getting removal services, you need to be careful with the person you are about to welcome in your home. Even though the industry has reliable and honest contractors, there are others whose aim is just to make money regardless of quality or safety.

Make sure when looking for a contractor, you research widely and find out about the procedures that need to be followed for the removal process. Avoid employing people who go door to door advertising their services. Only hire a contractor whom you have enough information about, and you know where to find them in case of follow-ups.

All the details of the removal process including costs and materials to be purchased should be put down in writing. Ensure you read the contract before you sign. Verbal agreements are not binding, and it is safer to have everything in writing.


It is possible to have popcorn ceilings removed safely. Most of the homes built in the 1950s to early 1970s have the popcorn ceiling. Homeowners are now removing these dated ceilings for something more modern and stylish. Besides, most of these ceilings have asbestos materials that are potentially hazardous if the fibers find their way in the air. Also, they these kinds of ceilings are hard to paint and maintain.

It’s possible to do the ceiling removal all by yourself if you have the right materials and your popcorn has been declared free of asbestos. However, if your popcorn ceiling is proved to have the hazardous materials, it’s advisable to hire a licensed professional to do the removal for you.

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