DIY Popcorn Ceiling Removal: How to Easily Remove Popcorn Ceilings without the Mess

Sick of that out-of-date popcorn ceiling that grows uglier every day? Thinking about removing it and repainting for an updated, modern look? Seems like it should be pretty easy, plus not to mention cheap, if you do it yourself. Right?

Think again.

A lot of popcorn ceiling material contains asbestos which is a serious health hazard. Well, maybe you’ll just hire a friend or a handyman to do it for you.

Right? Not.

In fact, there’s a law that prohibits you from hiring just anyone to remove asbestos without using a certified asbestos abatement contractor. So, as a homeowner, you can choose to accept the health risks of DIY removal, but if you hire someone else, theymust be a certified contractor for this dangerous task or removal and disposal.

Worried yet?

If you still want to remove your ugly popcorn ceiling as a DIY project, you certainly can do that. But, first things first.

Before you begin to remove popcorn ceiling, it’s wise to determine if it actually contains asbestos. (If not, then you’re good to go. No worries about exposure to toxic asbestos. All you need to do is take the common precautions that you would for any home improvement project.)

In 1978, the U.S. Clean Air Act banned asbestos n ceiling treatments. However, there was a large inventory of the product, and manufacturers, retailers and builders were legally able to sell or install popcorn ceiling treatment well into the 1980s until the inventory was finally depleted.

The only way to determine if your ceiling contains asbestos is to take one or more samples and send it to a certified lab for testing. There are simple test kits that make it easy to collect and mail the samples to a lab. You can also hire an asbestos testing specialist in your local area to conduct the entire test for you, which, of course, is more expensive than a DIY asbestos test kit.

If you’re removing the popcorn material in a very large area, it’s wise to take more than one sample to ensure that you get a good reading on asbestos. If the tests return positive, meaning more than 1% of the sample contains asbestos, then you should use special precautions in removing the material. (Some people opt to hire an asbestos removal company to do the job after learning that they are dealing with large amounts of asbestos.)

How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling Yourself

how to remove popcorn ceilingAfter the hurdle of determining whether or not your ceiling contains asbestos, there is a surprisingly easy method to scraping popcorn ceiling material without the typical mess that you’d expect. (This is assuming there is NO asbestos in the spray on ceiling material that you’re going to scrape. This method is NOT recommended for popcorn material that contains asbestos.)

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Shop vac
  • 2 gal. sprayer
  • 6 inch spackle knife
  • Duct tape
  • Face mask
  • Eye goggles

remove popcorn ceiling


  • Fill sprayer with water.
  • Attach the 6 in. spackle knife to the shop vac wand with the duct tape. Make sure it is secure and is stiff when pressure is applied.
  • When you’re ready to start removing the popcorn ceiling, very lightly spray in large sections. Wait up to 5 minutes before removal. You don’t want the sheetrock to get wet. Also, you’ll notice that the video example below doesn’t use water to dampen the ceiling material. Do what you think works best on your particular ceiling project.
  • Turn on the shop vac and scrape the ceiling so that the damp popcorn material comes off in rows and is vacuumed into the shop vac holding tank.

This method is exceptionally easy and cuts down on the dust and debris during removal. Plus, there’s hardly any clean up involved since the ceiling material is vacuumed up at the same time of scraping.

If you need a demonstration of this super easy technique for removing popcorn ceiling material, watch the video below for a great demonstration that you can easily follow. Happy remodeling!

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