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Is Removing a Popcorn Ceiling Worth It? (6 Factors to Consider)

Is removing a popcorn ceiling worth the time, effort, and money?

If you’re tired of looking at bumpy ceilings or preparing to sell your home, it might be time for a change.

But should you do it yourself, hire a professional, or let the next owner worry about it?

In this guide, I break down the advantages of removing popcorn ceilings. I also cover six factors you need to consider before starting the project.

By the end, you’ll have the facts necessary to decide if removing your popcorn ceiling is worth it.

Use the links below to navigate the guide:

Popcorn Ceiling vs. Textured Ceiling

Before I get into the advantages of removing a popcorn ceiling, it’s important to understand the difference between popcorn and textured ceilings.

A popcorn ceiling is made up of a collection of small bumps that stick out and resemble popcorn or cottage cheese. The bumps are made of vermiculite or polystyrene particles and are often different sizes and shapes.

Popcorn ceiling
Popcorn ceiling

A textured ceiling has more of a flat, spattered paint effect. It may even have designs or patterns. The textured pieces are more subtle than the bumps on a popcorn ceiling.

Textured ceiling
Textured ceiling

Popcorn ceilings, also known as acoustic or stucco ceilings, have been around for decades.

Builders favored the popcorn spray paint effect because it was easy to do, cheap, and time-effective. They also hid imperfections in the ceiling drywall.

Some popcorn ceilings made before the 1970s contained asbestos fibers. Today, paper or styrofoam pieces produce the popcorn effect.

Popcorn ceilings are much easier to scrape off. With textured ceilings, you’ll need to either plaster over the texture or cover it with another layer of drywall.

Pros of Removing Popcorn Ceilings

The most obvious benefit of removing popcorn ceilings is the improved aesthetic. But there are several others you might not know.

Removing a popcorn ceiling can:

  • Update the look of your home — Newly constructed homes don’t feature popcorn ceilings anymore, so their presence automatically dates a home. Builders installed popcorn ceilings from the 1930s through the 1990s. Removing them transforms the room’s look. The chart below shows the search trends for “remove popcorn ceiling.” As you can see, popcorn ceilings are a thing of the past, and more and more people are trying to get rid of them.
Google Trends Chart of the Term Remove Popcorn Ceiling
Google Trends Chart of the Term “Remove Popcorn Ceiling”
  • Rid your home of possible asbestos — Since asbestos fibers were in older popcorn ceilings (before the 1970s), depending on the age of your home, those fibers may still be present. While they pose no threat when undisturbed, removing the popcorn texture can release toxic material into the air. Test the ceiling for asbestos before removing it.
  • Boost the resale value of your home — If you are selling a home with popcorn ceilings, know that potential buyers see them as a red flag. They are likely thinking about the expense of removing them. Taking them down will make your home more desirable aesthetically and eliminate the financial burden of removal or asbestos health concerns for interested buyers. More on this topic in a minute.
  • Make your ceiling easier to clean — The popcorn texture is difficult to clean. Dirt and debris can get lodged into the crevices, and when you try to remove it, pieces of the ceiling can break off.
  • Cut down on dust — The tight crevices and popcorn texture make the ceiling a dust magnet. A flat ceiling is easier to clean and has no crevices for the dust to cling.
  • Reduce mess — Over time, small pieces of the ceiling can fall on the floors below. It is a considerable concern if you have pets or children that play on the floor. They could pick up or eat the pieces.
  • Make your ceiling easier to paint — The popcorn texture makes it difficult to paint. You’ll need to dab the paint into every tiny crevice —  a time-consuming process.

Factors to Consider Before Removing Popcorn Ceilings

Before attempting to remove a popcorn ceiling, there are a few things you need to consider and questions to ask yourself.

1. Should you choose DIY or a professional?

Removing popcorn ceilings is a labor-intensive process. Not only do you have to remove the crumbly texture, but you need a plan to safely capture all of the debris.

You can get the job done on your own, but you need the right equipment and a lot of time. Plus, if your popcorn ceiling is in an older home (built before the 1980s), you’ll likely have asbestos in the “popcorn” pieces.

A professional will be more efficient and have a plan for removal, but it will also cost more.

2. Do you need to test for asbestos?

If you suspect asbestos in your popcorn ceiling, do not attempt to remove it without a test. According to studies published in the National Library of Medicine, exposure to asbestos via popcorn ceilings is linked to a high risk of severe illnesses.

If your home was built before the 1980s, there’s a good chance the ceiling material contains asbestos.

Regardless of the build date, it’s good to err on the side of caution and have a test done. According to Home Advisor, asbestos testing can range from $230-$800, but the actual cost depends on your home’s size.

You can also buy asbestos testing kits online on sites like HomeDepot.com and Amazon.

Asbestos Test Kit 1 PK- Includes All Lab Fees - Test Popcorn Ceiling, Tile, Insulation, Adhesive, Mastic, Drywall and Other Materials for Asbestos (72Hr Turnaround)

If the ceiling contains asbestos, you need to hire a professional to remove it. Doing it yourself is too great of a risk. The pros will have the proper safety equipment and the experience to remove it without disturbing the asbestos fibers and releasing them into the air.

3. What materials will you need for a DIY removal?

If you decide to remove the popcorn ceiling without professional help, you need the following materials:

  • A wide putty knife or floor scraper
  • A spray bottle, preferably heavy-duty
  • Popcorn ceiling remover or water (either works well)
  • Sandpaper
  • Drop cloths to cover the floor
  • Plastic sheeting to cover the windows and doors
  • Painter’s tape to secure plastic sheeting and cover holes for light fixtures
  • Safety equipment to protect your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Gloves

A ladder is necessary to reach the ceiling comfortably. You’ll also want a vacuum that can handle dust and debris. It’s better to rent a shop vac or wet/dry vac instead of a standard vacuum. Shop vacs and wet-dry vacs are built for heavy-duty messes.

4. How long will the room be unusable?

According to Architectural Digest, it can take around 20 hours to remove a popcorn ceiling from a 500-square-foot room. This estimate is based on a professional or someone experienced in DIY home projects.

Based on that, you can expect the room to be unusable for about three days or more, assuming you work in shifts and reserve time for cleanup.

5. How will you handle the mess?

Lay down drop cloths or plastic sheeting to catch most of the debris. Afterward, roll up the plastic sheeting with the debris and discard it. You can shake the debris into disposable contractor bags if you don’t have throw-away drop cloths.

Removing popcorn ceiling
Removing popcorn ceiling

However, if the ceiling contains asbestos, the debris must be properly bagged and disposed of in a landfill permitted to accept hazardous and asbestos-containing waste. Every region has different rules, so contact local authorities for instructions before starting the project. 

6. How will you fix any potential damage from the removal?

If you are removing the popcorn ceiling yourself, you need to consider how you will fix gouges or cracks resulting from scraping the texture off.

Plus, you don’t know what shape the drywall was in when the popcorn effect was applied. Make room in your budget and timeline for unexpected repairs.

Is It Worth Paying a Professional to Remove Popcorn Ceilings?

Hiring a professional is the easiest and safest way to remove popcorn ceilings, but you need to have the budget.

Professional popcorn ceiling removal costs about $1-$2 per square foot, according to Angi and HomeGuide.

On average, HomeAdvisor reports that homeowners spend between $900 and $3,000 on a project. The Bob Vila home improvement website provides a similar estimate.

The range in pricing can be due to the following:

  • Room size
  • Drywall repair
  • Asbestos testing/removal
  • Repainting
  • Cleanup

To get an accurate estimate for your job, fill out this quick form on Angi.com. You’ll get several free quotes from licensed professionals in your area. You can compare prices, ask questions, and, based on that, decide if hiring a pro is worth it.

Is It Worth Removing a Popcorn Ceiling Yourself?

Hiring a professional to remove popcorn ceilings costs between $900 and $3,000. If you want to get it done for less, it could be worth it to do it yourself.

To make this decision, ask yourself:

Do I have time to complete the project?

Do you need to remove the popcorn effect from the ceiling in one room or multiple? You can expect to spend at least 20 hours on a 500-square-foot space (and that’s if you are an experienced DIYer).

For the best results, experts recommend working in small areas, spraying a small amount of water, and scraping as you go. If you over-saturate the ceiling, you can damage the underlying drywall.

If you can set aside a few days to get it done and you’re certain the ceiling does not contain asbestos, doing it yourself may be worth it. If you’re pressed for time, and asbestos testing comes back positive, hire a professional.

Do I have the energy to get it done?

This project requires long hours standing on a ladder and holding your arms up as you scrape the ceiling.

Furthermore, before you can start, you need to prepare the area by covering the floor and blocking off the room to avoid dust from traveling through the rest of your house. You’ll also need to remove vents and light fixtures.

After you complete the job, it’ll take time to clean up. You’ll use your arms and legs for hours at a time, so don’t attempt this if you tire easily or have weakness in those areas.

Can I afford the equipment and materials?

Price out the supplies, including tools for removal, floor coverings, safety equipment, a ladder, and anything else you might need (like renting a shop vac). Depending on what you already have versus what you need to buy, it might cost a few hundred dollars.

Hiring a pro could actually be more economical when you add up the cost of the material plus your time. 

Will Removing Popcorn Ceilings Increase Your Home’s Value?

Popcorn ceilings date a home. Prospective buyers may also have concerns about whether the ceiling contains asbestos and whether they will need to spend money to have it tested or removed.

Removing a popcorn ceiling in favor of a smooth ceiling with a modern look will increase a home’s value. Expect the value to increase by at least the removal cost, but likely more.

Room with a smooth ceiling
Room with a smooth ceiling

It’s impossible to say exactly how much removing popcorn ceilings will increase your home’s value. However, a local real estate agent will know what’s acceptable for the area and can help you estimate that figure.

For example, popcorn ceilings may be part of the charm of an older neighborhood, so buyers would expect to see them. But in other areas and price ranges, popcorn ceilings will put your listing at a significant disadvantage.

They can guide you on which home improvements will have the highest return in a buyer’s or seller’s market.

The bottom line is that buyers don’t want popcorn ceilings. Almost no one is searching for “install popcorn ceiling,” and searches for “remove popcorn ceiling” continue to increase. Smooth ceilings will only improve your home’s value and attractiveness to buyers.

Google Trends Chart of the Term Install Popcorn Ceiling
Google Trends Chart of the Term “Install Popcorn Ceiling”

Bottom Line: Is Removing a Popcorn Ceiling Worth It?

Now that you know the key considerations, the question remains:

Is removing a popcorn ceiling worth it?

To help you decide, let’s recap the main points:

  • Removing a popcorn ceiling can instantly update your home and increase its resale value.
  • Most popcorn ceilings installed before the 1980s contain asbestos, so it’s essential to remove it safely. If pieces break off, it can cause issues with breathing and respiratory functions.
  • It’s easier to clean and paint a flat ceiling.
  • The process can be time-consuming and messy.
  • Hiring a professional may be costly, but it will save time and is the safer option.

Bottom line — removing popcorn ceilings is worth it in most cases. Even if you don’t plan to sell your home, you’ll enjoy the modern look of smooth ceilings that are safer and easier to clean.

If you can afford it, hire a professional. They have the experience to get it done safely and efficiently. You can get free, no-obligation quotes on Angi.com.

However, if you’re trying to save money and have the time, removing popcorn ceilings yourself is doable. Make sure the ceiling does not contain asbestos, and you have the right supplies and a solid plan before getting started.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He began his career in marketing, managing campaigns for dozens of Fortune 500 brands. In 2018, Andrew founded Prudent Reviews and has since reviewed 600+ products. When he’s not testing the latest cookware, kitchen knives, and appliances, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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