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Get Rid of Your Popcorn Ceilings

Nobody likes popcorn ceilings. They look cheap because they were when they were installed, but don’t let it keep you from making an offer on the home you want, or selling your home for as much as you think it’s worth. 

According to ArchitecturalDigest.com, popcorn ceilings, also known as acoustic ceilings, are supposed to absorb sound, cover up imperfections in the ceiling, and act as a fire retardant, plus they could be sprayed on and eliminate the need to paint the ceiling which saved labor costs. Like a lot of ideas that seemed good at the time, popcorn ceilings were widely used. 

Unfortunately, popcorn ceilings are made of materials that frequently included asbestos which are “naturally occurring fibrous minerals with tensile strength, flexibility, and resistance to heat and chemical degradation,” according to sources cited by a prominent cancer study. Where asbestos becomes dangerous to living beings is when the fibers become friable which means they can become loose and airborne due to deterioration over time or a disturbance such as adding a light fixture. When inhaled by the lungs, asbestos can cause cancer, mesothelioma and other lung diseases. 

If the home you want to buy or remodel was built between1945 to 1980, the popcorn ceilings almost certainly contain asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you have the ceilings tested by a licensed “asbestos inspection and assessment” professional. Or, you can buy a testing kit, along with the appropriate safety gear, including gloves, a dust mask and eye protection, do the scraping and send the samples to a lab yourself. 

If the test comes back positive for asbestos, you should have a professional asbestos abatement expert either scrape off the ceiling or cover the ceiling with new texture, drywall or other materials. Your third option is to leave the ceiling alone if you see no signs of deterioration. If no asbestos is found, you’re in luck and you can either remove or retexture your ceilings yourself, using safety gear and tools you may already have. 

Scraping the ceiling is messy and requires some skill to keep from damaging the substrate, the drywall the popcorn texture was applied to. There’s also a lot of preparation – covering floors with plastic, removing furniture, taking down light fixtures, covering electrical boxes, etc. If you choose to dry scrape you can get started with your ladder, goggles, mask and a putty knife. If you wet scrape by hosing sections of the ceiling, the scraping will be easier, but be careful not to get the ceiling too wet. You’ll also have to wait for the water to do its work for about 15 minutes and you can only work on small areas at a time. 

If you decide to cover up the popcorn ceiling, you have lots of options, says DallasPaints.com. You can choose “ceiling panels, ceiling planks, wooden beadboard, metal tiles, and more, most of which you can install directly over the existing popcorn ceiling. You can also spray on a new texture directly on the popcorn a little bit at a time, then flatten the areas with a drywall knife. 

Anytime you work with products that can form dust, you should open the windows to keep the room ventilated and always wear a mask and eye protection.