Ashburn, VA

Average cost to Remove Popcorn Ceiling ranges from
$1 – $2 per sq. ft.

The average cost for popcorn ceiling removal is $1 – $2 per square foot with most homeowners spending around $2,700 for an 1,800 sqft home. The price can vary greatly by region (and even by zip code). Get free estimates from pros near you.

How much does popcorn ceiling removal cost?

Author: Daniel W.
Millions of people ask HomeGuide for cost estimates every year. We track the estimates they get from local companies, then we share those prices with you.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost: The Complete Guide


While popcorn ceilings were in every home a few decades ago, they can now lower the value of your home because they look so outdated, not to mention their ability to catch dust and host spiders’ webs.

Popcorn removal is an incredibly messy process and not for the faint of heart, so while it’s much more time effective to hire a professional to do this for you, not to mention the beauty of having someone else clean up the mess, it’s possible to do this yourself.

Popcorn Ceiling
Popcorn Ceiling

*If you have an older home, it’s likely that your popcorn is made of asbestos, which is a known carcinogen, especially for lung cancer. If it is, you’ll have to hire a professional to remove it.

*Once removed, you’ll need to refinish the ceiling. Expect to pay a total cost of $2–$2.50/sqft to remove the (non-asbestos) popcorn, texture the substrate, and paint = $3,600–$4,500 for an 1,800 sqft home.

This pricing guide covers:

Asbestos risk

If your home was built before 1986, you may have asbestos in your ceiling. While it was banned for residential use in 1978, any asbestos contractors had in stock for years after then could be used or resold, and it was. The biggest problem with asbestos is that it is airborne, so any kind of disturbance can cause particles to be released and mix with your indoor air.

You must take care of the asbestos risk first.

Onsite testing

Asbestos Test Type Average Cost
Standard onsite sampling $250 – $750
Air monitoring test $400 – $1200
Official AHERA inspection $250 – $1000 per sample
If asbestos is detected, a full inspection is required $400 – $800

Mail-in samples starts at $50 per material

Popcorn Ceiling with Asbestos
Popcorn Ceiling with Asbestos

DIY testing kits

Can be purchased to test for asbestos for about $40. Given the potential for hazardous exposure should asbestos become frias, and tainted results, the safest option is to look for an EPA-licensed professional to carry out the testing in your home. A directory of state offices can be found on the EPA website.

You can buy a test kit at your local hardware store or online. Be sure to buy the test that includes the lab test in the purchase. Alternatively, take a sample yourself and drop it off at a local lab to test for about $150 for an immediate result, or about $70 for a 24-hour result.

If it comes back positive (more than 1%), you have two choices, based on your local and state regulations for residential asbestos:

  1. Contain/encapsulate the asbestos with a new gypsum board or drywall. $2–$6/sqft
  2. Hire an asbestos abatement contractor to remove it before hiring the painters. Contact three contractors for a bid to get an accurate cost. Safe removal and disposal costs $10–$20/sqft. Expect to pay a minimum charge of $1,500–$2,500 because of setup, containment, air handling, and final cleanup testing.

Never start any type of popcorn removal yourself until you get the all-clear on the presence of asbestos. Once asbestos becomes airborne, you risk the lungs of everyone in the home—exposure can cause multiple nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders. Find a contractor who does remodeling and asbestos abatement so you can take care of both needs in one.

Be aware that homeowners’ insurance will not cover asbestos removal.

Popcorn Removal Scrape Test

To see how easy or difficult it might be to scrape the popcorn off your ceilings and resurface them, you can do a scrape test with a 4” utility knife or a drywall knife, but spray a small corner of the ceiling with some warm water and leave it to soak in. If it doesn’t, you might have gloss or semigloss paint over the popcorn, which will make the job very difficult. You can either decide between these options:

  1. Call in the pros
  2. Cover it up with newer drywall or other ceiling material
  3. Scrape it all off while dry

Some contractors recommended dry scraping because of the mess of wet popcorn, and because any water added to the ceiling could cause it to expand and crack down the road.

Popcorn Ceiling Scraping
Popcorn Ceiling Scraping

You might be tempted to use a power sander to remove the popcorn—not a good idea, as the dust can fill your lungs for days afterward. Check out telescoping scrapers: you attach a trash bag to one and start scraping.

Popcorn Removal Process

The worst part of removing popcorn ceiling is the huge mess it makes. It turns into a sludgy, soggy mess that drops on everything, so the biggest favor you can do for yourself is be very thorough with your room prep before any removal work begins.

Preparation

  1. Create a walking path—protect all the flooring—from the curb into each room of the house with a ceiling that needs popcorn removed.
  2. Move out as much furniture as possible.
  3. Remove light fixtures, fans, and ceiling vents.
  4. Stuff recessed lighting spaces with newspaper, cover electric wiring outlets with painter’s tape, and turn off power to them.
  5. Turn off heating and cooling and cover ceiling vent holes.
  6. Protect the entire room from the mess in advance. Cover the floors and walls with plastic sheeting and plastic drop cloths. Pre-taped plastic sheeting can be a godsend. Don’t use canvas drop cloths because of the amount of water you’ll need to spray on the ceiling, and because of the amount of cleanup necessary after. Remove alarm sensors and smoke detectors.

Pre-scraping

  1. Wear a dust mask and eye protection.
  2. Spray a light mist of warm water on a 4’ x 4’ section of the ceiling evenly. For DIY projects, you can use a garden pump sprayer or pesticide sprayer. Professionals are likely to use an airless spray rig.
  3. Once the water has soaked in, after about 15 minutes, test it to see if it has softened. If it hasn’t, spray a second time.

Scrape

  1. Set up the ladder/scaffolding/lift and begin scraping with a 6”–12” scraper—with long stokes rather than a back-and-forth motion. Repeat in 4’ increments until the ceiling is fully scraped. Consider using a container or pan, like a mud pan, to catch all the scrapings as you scrape—it will minimize the amount of cleanup.
  2. Your scraper has sharp edges that can catch on the ceiling and dig into the drywall inadvertently. Some contractors will avoid this by rounding the points of the scraper with a file or sander.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal
Popcorn Ceiling Removal

Repair substrate

  1. Because scraping usually damages the sheetrock somewhat, it will need to be repaired once all the water had dried out. Replace any damaged drywall tape. Fill in any holes with wall filler, cracks with latex caulk, and larger holes with drywall patches.
  2. The sheetrock joints must be recoated. and smooth out uneven areas.

Textures

It’s recommended that you match the ceiling texture to the texture of the walls.

Common forms of texture - $0.80/sqft

Spatter finish – applied with a spatter gun and overspray is scraped.

Knockdown – a uniform blotchy look that’s made by watering down joint compound and spatter blowing it on the ceiling.

Skip trowel or imperial – similar to knockdown but more randomly applied. The finish looks like Spanish stucco.

Crow’s foot – drywall compound is slapped, brushed, or rolled onto the wall.

Orange peel – looks very like the bumps on an unpeeled orange. Thinned joint compound is applied with a long-nap paint roller. Choose between a fine, medium, or coarse surface.

Smooth ceiling - $1.45/sqft

Skim with a thin layer of joint compound. Sand it smooth. Don’t over sand, or you will damage the ceiling.

Some popcorn removal contractors specialize in texturing walls and ceilings and can recommend the best options, like Perfect Painters & Construction in Chicago, IL, who “specialize in textures, sponges, pinstripes.”

Finishes

Prime and paint. Oil-based primer works well. Painting labor is approx. $38/hour.

Cons to DIY

  1. If you have any type of neck problems, this is not the job for you.
  2. Lots of clean up prep work and post removal cleanup throughout the house.
  3. Damage to the substrate, which might end up costing more to fix.
  4. You have no warranty on the labor.
Jonesco Total Home Services in Addison, TX, says, “We will address any and all project or repair situation with guaranteed results physically and financially. Our labor warranties cover ... performance and labor installs for life. And it’s 100% transferable if you ever sell your property.”

Alternatives to removing popcorn

If your current substrate is old and unable to handle the scraping, Armstrong Ceilings suggests you could be better off doing one of the following:

Beadboard – Nail sheets of beadboard to the ceiling. It’ll give your ceiling a light cottage look. $2.50–$4.20/sqft (for Armstrong products)

Metal – Nail or screw in patterned metal tiles, with options in brass, copper, chrome, white, or lacquered steel. $4–$9 or more/sqft

Decorative plaster or tin-look tiles - 12" x 12" mineral fiber tiles. “Apply it directly to the ceiling using Armstrong's Easy Up installation system or adhesive.” $1–$2.50/sqft

Wood-look ceiling planks – for a country home feel. $2.50–$4.20/sqft

Drywall – cover with a new drywall. This will lower your ceiling by about 1”, which could lower your resale value but can add the benefit of insulating your attic better. Some contractors say to use gypsum board rather than standard sheetrock because it’s lighter. Screw it into the frames and mud and tape before painting.

Consider renting a drywall lift to hold up and position the drywall as you screw it in place if you’re doing this job alone. Rent one from your local home improvement store for the day for $35–$40 or for four hours for about $25.

Plaster – skim coat with plaster or quick-setting drywall mud/spackle over the existing popcorn.

Add $25–$40/hour for labor — this cost will vary depending on where the home is and local labor costs. An experienced HomeGuide remodeling contractor will be able to remove your popcorn or do any of these installations for you.

Hiring your popcorn ceiling removal contractor

Get bids from 3 – 5 contractors for the project. Many companies give free bids or estimates, like Tex Painting in Round Rock, TX, who offers “free no obligation estimates 7 days a week.

Look for companies who include as many as possible of the following criteria:

  • In business for a number of years, like Chicago Service Group, Inc operating for 25 years in Chicago, IL
  • A or A+ rated on Better Business Bureau
  • Licensed, insured, and bonded
  • A portfolio of before and after photos
  • A scheduled begin and end date
  • Include setup and cleanup costs in the bid
  • Include a warranty on labor and materials used
  • EPA approved and certified—if you hire them to do both the asbestos abatement and remodel
  • Reviews on HomeGuide showing a history of efficiency and excellence

Get free estimates on HomeGuide from trusted pros:

Get free estimates

Looking for a popcorn removal pro?
Get free custom quotes from qualified popcorn removal pros in your area.

Looking for a handyman near you?


Answer some questions

Let us know about your needs so we can bring you the right pros.

Get quotes

Receive quotes from multiple pros that meet your exact needs.

Hire the right pro

Compare quotes, message or call pros, and hire only when ready.