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DIY: Remove Popcorn Ceiling for an Orange Peel Look

Julie Battern

"Popcorn" ceilings which were popularized in the 1970s and '80s have fallen out of vogue. Anyone with a few basic tools and ability to do physical labor can remove a popcorn ceiling. Then you can create an "orange peel" look with a special texture sprayer.

Asbestos Caution

Determine if asbestos was used on your ceiling. When "popcorn" ceilings became widely used in the 1970s, contractors sometimes added asbestos to the spray mixture. Removing material containing asbestos is a hazardous task and it is highly recommended that it only be undertaken by professionals. If you decide to proceed yourself, first check for any state regulations on the removal of asbestos. You may have to purchase a permit for both the removal and disposal of the material. All precautionary guidelines of the regulations must be carefully followed. Determining if your ceiling contains asbestos involves removing a 1-inch square sample and having it tested by a laboratory. This is a relatively inexpensive test and well worth the investment. Find a laboratory by doing an online search for "asbestos consulting and testing." Even if the sample is negative, it is advisable to have one or two other samples tested as a precautionary measure.

Remove Popcorn Texture

Removing the "popcorn" ceiling is a messy, labor intensive job, though no specialized skills or tools are needed. All furniture and decorations should be moved out of the room. Cover electrical outlets with masking tape to prevent dust from getting into them. The floor and the walls should be covered heavy plastic sheeting. Always wear a dust mask and safety goggles when removing texture. You can use a garden sprayer to wet down the texture. The idea is to wet the texture without soaking through to the sheetrock. Several light passes will work better to accomplish this rather than one heavy spraying. Use a wide blade scraper to remove the texture. This process of wetting and scraping may result in damage to the underlying sheetrock and you will need to be prepared to repair any damaged areas. The wetting process also may loosen the joint tape or uncover the nail heads used to attach the sheetrock to the joints. Use joint compound to repair any damage.

Apply Orange Peel Texture

You can apply orange peel texture with a texture sprayer that you can rent at most rental shops or purchase at most lumberyards. These sprayers work best when combined with texture created specifically for sprayers. Follow the instructions which come with the sprayer and the texture carefully. Operating a texture sprayer is similar to using a garden hose. It is a good idea to do a test sample of a scrap piece of sheetrock to determine how heavy of a coat you want to use before proceeding to spray your ceiling. You may want to spray several sample areas differently to compare the final look of each. Normally a thin, light coat creates the best appearance. Once you have mastered the technique on your sample board, you are ready to spray your ceiling. There is no one "right" look when it comes to orange peel texture. What is important is what looks good to you.