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.
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popcorn ceilings were in every home a few decades ago, they can now lower the value of your home because they look so outdated, not to mention their ability to catch dust and host spiders’ webs.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.
*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.
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.
|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|
Popcorn Ceiling with Asbestos
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:
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
Popcorn Ceiling Removal
It’s recommended that you match the ceiling texture to the texture of the walls.
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.
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.”
Prime and paint. Oil-based primer works well. Painting labor is approx. $38/hour.
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.
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.
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:
Get free estimates on HomeGuide from trusted pros:
Let us know about your needs so we can bring you the right pros.
Receive quotes from multiple pros that meet your exact needs.
Compare quotes, message or call pros, and hire only when ready.