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How Much Does it Cost to Remove Popcorn Ceiling?

Remove Popcorn Ceiling Costs
Average reported costs
$1,557
based on 1,798 cost profiles
Most homeowners
spent between
$808 - $2,335
Low cost
$300
High cost
$4,000
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Whether for a remodel, before selling a home or when buying a home, individuals may want to remove popcorn ceilings from an existing structure. While the process can be relatively straightforward in some cases, it can be more challenging if there is asbestos in the ceiling. Use this cost guide to learn more about what popcorn ceiling is, what options there are for removal, when it should be removed from a home, whether a home is at-risk for asbestos, how to test for asbestos and what kind of costs are associated with each step along the way.

What is a Popcorn Ceiling?

A popcorn ceiling goes by many different names, including cottage cheese ceiling and acoustic ceiling, but all the terms refer to an outdated, interior ceiling covered with a textured look and feel similar to popped kernels of popcorn. It sprays onto the ceiling, and it was incredibly popular throughout much of the 20th century. Today, however, many potential home buyers find popcorn ceilings unattractive and out of date.

Pros and Cons

Believe it or not, popcorn ceilings were once a home trend for practical as well as design reasons. Spraying on the textured material was a stylish way to update the home between the 1930s and the 1980s, but it was also a way to cover up anything unsightly on the ceiling itself. Whether the ceiling was made from drywall or plaster, the popcorn texture hid nail holes, screws, uneven seams and any spots caused by water damage. Today, people are far more familiar with the various cons of popcorn ceilings, like how repairing an existing popcorn ceiling is expensive and time-consuming. Its rough texture makes popcorn ceilings difficult to clean properly. The look is outdated and may discourage buyers, and some popcorn ceilings may have asbestos.

When to Remove

Popcorn ceilings should be removed from the home if they are cracking and in need of serious repair, if they cause the home to look outdated, if there is a health concern related to asbestos or if the homeowners are planning to sell their home in the future. Since repairing and even repainting existing popcorn ceilings can be expensive, it often makes sense to replace them altogether at that stage. Some homeowners may not have any real problems with their popcorn ceilings other than their look, but that is as good of a reason as any to replace them, budget permitting. This is especially true if the owner plans to sell the home in the future as popcorn ceilings can lower the value of a home and decrease the interest of potential buyers. Finally, asbestos may be a health concern for residents, and the complete removal of popcorn ceilings may be the only solution.

Testing for Asbestos

Prior to 1977, it was both legal and common to use asbestos in popcorn ceilings. In homes built before that time with popcorn ceilings, there is certainly at least the risk of asbestos in the home. Unfortunately, asbestos can cause respiratory disease and even cancer. Before removing the ceiling, it is important to find out whether there is any popcorn ceiling asbestos, which can influence the removal process and the safety standards adhered to along the way. To test for asbestos, the homeowner needs to spray water onto a portion of the popcorn ceiling, remove a small sample and send it to a testing facility.

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How to Remove

How popcorn ceilings get removed has a lot to do with whether or not they contain asbestos. If they do contain this hazardous material, professionals should be brought in to seal off the space and safely remove the textured paint from the ceiling. If there is no asbestos present, the removal process can be half the price, and some homeowners might even tackle the job on their own -- just make sure you learn how to remove a popcorn ceiling safely. The popcorn texture simply has to be scraped off, and laying down a sheet of plastic on the floor makes cleaning up relatively simply as well.

After Removal

It is important to keep in mind that just removing the popcorn ceiling texture won't be enough to update the look of the home. Once the texture is scraped off, there may be visible marks, stains, nails and more that age the ceiling. The best course of action in this case is to re-texture the ceiling, sand it down for a flat and more modern surface, prime the ceiling and then paint it in a color that fits in with the room's style and decor. Only after all of these steps are completed, many of which are time-consuming and require professional equipment, can outdated ceilings be considered modern and stylish once again.

Ways to Save on Cost

A primary concern for many homeowners is that removing popcorn ceilings will be a big expense. On average, popcorn ceiling removal costs anywhere from $1 to $2 per square foot, with the average homeowner spending around $1,557. Having the ceiling textured and popcorn ceiling painted after removal could certainly add to that amount. Some ways to reduce costs include removing furniture before professionals arrive, testing the ceiling for asbestos first to determine whether removal can be done safely without assistance and handling the post-removal projects such as painting without professional help.

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