How to Remodel a Popcorn Ceiling

You got rid of your leisure suit and disco ball years ago, but popcorn ceilings still lurk throughout your house. This material was popular for ceilings throughout the 1970s, but is easily removed. Before you give your house the update it deserves, test the ceiling for asbestos. If the house was built before 1979, the popcorn ceiling probably contains asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. You'll need to hire a contractor or take extra precautions to avoid contaminating your home.

Remove the popcorn ceiling and replace it with stucco or orange peel.
  1. Remove the furniture from the room and cover the floor with plastic sheeting. Tape plastic sheeting over the doors, as well, to keep the dust in the room.
  2. Stand on the ladder and spray a 4-by-4-foot area with the spray bottle until it is wet, but not dripping. Wait five or 10 minutes until the popcorn ceiling darkens slightly.
  3. Scrape the ceiling with the putty knife to remove the popcorn texture. It will fall to the ground, where it can be removed later.
  4. Spread a thin layer of joint compound over the ceiling with the putty knife. The joint compound will fill in holes and imperfections, readying the surface for stucco.
  5. Sand the ceiling with sandpaper to smooth it. Cover the ceiling with a layer of stucco or spackle. There are several ways to accomplish this. You can spread it on in thin layers with a putty knife, creating swirls similar to the process of frosting a cake. Or, use a textured brush specifically for texturing walls and ceilings. Another option is to spray "orange peel" texture on the ceiling for a smooth, modern look.

Things You Will Need

  • Ladder
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Tape
  • Spray bottle
  • Putty knife
  • Joint compound
  • Sandpaper
  • Stucco or spackle


  • To test the ceiling for asbestos, moisten a small area with water from a spray bottle. The water will help reduce the amount of dust. Cut a 1-inch chunk of the ceiling with scissors or a knife and place it in a sealed bag. Wear rubber gloves and a mask as you work. Send the sample to a certified lab for analysis. If the results are positive for asbestos, consult a specialist for recommendations.
  • If you decide to texture the ceiling yourself, practice on a sheet of plywood until you're happy with the design. Work quickly with thin layers of spackle.

About the Author

Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."

Photo Credits

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