Pass on the Popcorn (Ceilings)


ON TELEVISION SHOWS about home remodeling, the experts all offer the same advice: The popcorn ceilings have to go. 

Charlotte homeowners agree.

“We get a ton of calls from homeowners who want the popcorn gone right away,” says Rick Smith, owner of Popcorn Squad, a local company that specializes in ceiling restoration.

Popcorn ceilings, also called cottage cheese or textured ceilings, are created from a mixture of drywall mud and Styrofoam beads that is sprayed on the ceilings. The finish is common in homes built in the 1990s, although Popcorn Squad has removed the textured surface from homes built as recently as 2006, because it was quick and inexpensive to install.

“It took a few hours of spraying to finish an entire house (with popcorn ceilings), compared with at least a week of meticulous finish work for smooth ceilings,” Smith says.

Although the texture hides imperfections in the ceiling, it also traps dirt and dust and, over time, the texture can fall off. From a design perspective, Smith believes popcorn ceilings make a house look dated.

Want to get rid of your popcorn ceilings, but have no idea where to start? Here are five things you need to know.


Preparation Is Everything 
Removing popcorn kicks up a lot of dust. Serpaco Painting has its crews cover or remove all the furniture and cover the floors and walls with plastic. “It can take an entire day just to set up,” says area manager Mason Cossette. 


It Takes Time
Each technique for removing popcorn ceilings—moistening the material before scraping, dry scraping, or sanding—is equally time-consuming. “It’s a labor-intensive process and there are no shortcuts,” Smith says. Once all of the popcorn has been scraped off, it’s time for the drywall to be repaired, taped, mudded, sanded, and painted.


It Takes Skill
Removing popcorn exposes all of the flaws on the ceiling. “You can see all of the joints and seams and nails when the popcorn comes down,” Smith says. Companies such as Popcorn Squad hire professionals to finish the drywall.


DIY Is Possible But Difficult
There are countless blog posts and YouTube videos about removing popcorn ceilings. Smith believes homeowners can do the job themselves, but warns that it’s harder than it looks.

“Some DIYers can’t get all of the popcorn off or hold the (scraper) wrong and put gouges in the ceilings; others scrape all of the popcorn off but don’t have the skills to mud the joints and seams so all of the cracks are visible,” he says. “We get a lot of calls to fix DIY jobs that someone else started.”


It's Worth the Hassle
No one wants to have furniture moved and the house encased in plastic, but trading popcorn ceilings for smooth ceilings is worth the effort. 

On one job, a real estate agent told Cossette that removing the popcorn ceilings added $10,000 to the value of the house. Plus, he says, “Smooth ceilings look so much better.”

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