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Easiest Way to
Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Removing a popcorn ceiling with paint instead of water will make the project so much easier and simpler. Instead of spraying water until your fingers grow numb, saturate your popcorn ceiling by painting it with a roller soaked in cheap paint.

Removing popcorn ceilings is messy, time-consuming and labor-intensive. The process of moistening the popcorn ceiling so as to loosen it may take hours depending on the size of the room. The conventional way of spraying water can leave your hand feeling numb and sore. While hosing the popcorn ceiling before removing it can create a small flood. Fortunately, there is a third alternative. Instead of using water to remove popcorn ceilings use paint.

Step #1. Obtaining Cheap Paint

Start by going to Home Depot, Lowe's or your local paint store and look for their returned paints. These are cans that someone custom ordered, then changed his mind. Since most buyers are looking for custom colors, returned paint cans cost very little. For the purpose of removing popcorn ceilings the color of the paint is irrelevant. In fact a hideous color may be your best option because it is likely to be cheaper. What does matter is the consistency of the paint.

Behr paints are very thick and are best suited for this project. Though you will need to use more paint than if you were using Glidden, for example, the Behr paint will seep into your popcorn ceiling, thoroughly saturating it until it almost removes itself. Make allowances for this absorption of paint and plan to use twice the amount you would use if you were painting an ordinary wall.

Step #2. Protecting the Room Before You Start Removing the Popcorn Ceiling

Even with the use of paint instead of water, removing a popcorn ceiling is a messy job. Therefore cover the floor and any furniture with a plastic sheet, such as Husky's high density painter's plastic roll. Take your time to cover every corner and use a strip of painter's tape to attach the edge of the sheet to the wall, covering any gaps that might otherwise form. This is tedious work, but it will make cleanup a cinch in the end.

Step #3. Painting the Popcorn Ceiling

The paint is most easily applied to the popcorn ceiling with a roller. You can either use a ladder or attach a stick to the roller arm to reach high enough. Begin at the center of the room and work your way to the sides. If you do not intend to repaint the walls later, then be careful not to paint over them. Use paint lavishly to cover every inch of the ceiling and don't worry when the roller becomes full of clumps of popcorn ceiling. This is a sign that the saturation with paint is already starting to work.

Step #4. Remove the Popcorn Ceiling

While the paint is still wet, get on a ladder to begin removing the painted popcorn ceiling. Use a joint knife, preferably one that you blunted a little with a file to prevent gauging into the ceiling as you work. Because the popcorn is so saturated with paint, you will be able to gently scrape it off the ceiling in long festoons that will fall to the nylon-covered floor.

The process is incredibly easy, and you won't have to keep spraying as you go along since the entire ceiling is already wet with paint. Best of all, paint doesn't dry as fast as water, so using paint to soften the popcorn ceiling allows you to work at your own pace. Even though this method produces far less dust during the scraping process than the traditional use of water, it is still best to wear protection over your eyes. Even your sunglasses will do.

You may also want to hang a garbage bag on your ladder as you work, to trap the fallen strips of popcorn as they come down. This will minimize the mess that you will need to pick up later.

Step #5. Easy Clean Up

Now that your ceiling is bare, it will look unfinished, with the joint compound showing in white lines against the wallboards. It's important to fill in any holes that you may have accidentally gauged into the ceiling while scraping it clean. Simply use joint compound, which you can easily find at your local Home Depot, Lowe's or paint and home improvement stores. Once you are done, sand the ceiling with sandpaper. It's easiest to use a sanding pad that attaches to a long pole. This way you will not need to use a ladder.

Once this is done, you will need to cover the wallboards that make up the ceiling with a special primer (which looks like a thick white paint). You can easily buy this primer at the same time that you buy the returned paint cans at the beginning of the project. For best results, give the ceiling two coats of primer and wait for the first coat to dry before you apply the second.

Questions? Comments? Drop me a line.
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