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How Much Does It Cost To Remove Popcorn Ceiling?

National Average Change Location | View National
$1,578
Typical Range
$808 - $2,350
Low End
$300
High End
$4,000

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On average, the price to remove a popcorn ceiling is anywhere from $1 to $2 per square foot, with the average homeowner spending around $1,578. Most homeowners spend between $808 and $2,350 on the project. Texture, painting or other options like decorative tiles will add extra to the overall budget in addition to getting rid of the original finish.

Whether for a remodel, before selling a home or when buying a home, individuals may want to get rid of 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 present in the home. Consider consulting a licensed professional for a safe and successful removal. Use this guide to learn more about what you can expect to pay for the project.

On This Page>

  1. Removing per Sq Ft
  2. Cost Considerations
  3. What’s a Popcorn Ceiling?
  4. When & How To Remove It
  5. Ways to Save
  6. Hire a Pro or DIY?

Average Cost of Removing per Square Foot

The average amount you can expect to pay for removal is only one piece of the puzzle. Understanding everything involved in this project can help you build a more accurate budget. It’s also important to know that these prices vary among contractors and locations.

Basic labor, including scraping and disposing of the debris, planning, area preparation, and cleanup will generally run homeowners between $15 - $40 per hour when hiring a professional. It could take up to 20 hours of work for a 500-square foot space, averaging between $300 to $750.

Additional costs to consider include,

DescriptionAverage Per Square FootAverage Per 500 Square Feet
Supplies, including a scraper, ladder, protective gear$0.10 - $0.15$65 - $75
Debris disposal removal$0.30 - $0.354$148 - $168
Ceiling painting$0.808 - $2.151$440 - $1,055

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Cost Considerations & Options

As you plan for the project, it’s important to consider all your options and potential for hidden problems that could affect your bottom line. For example, if your popcorn ceiling contains hazardous materials, you could be looking at a more complicated and expensive project. Additionally, if budget allows, you could opt for something other than a simple scrape job to give the finish a super-smooth or subtle look.

Estimates for Scraping Ceiling with Asbestos - $3 - $7 per sq. ft.

When you’re budgeting for this project, it’s a good idea to leave extra room in case your ceiling tests positive for asbestos. The extra work required will typically run you anywhere from $3 to $7 per square foot, up to $2,750 in additional fees depending on the extent of the problem and size of the space.

Asbestos is an insulating, fire-retardant material that provides acoustic and thermal insulation. Because research has shown that the tiny fibers can be easily inhaled and create serious health risks, disposal of this building material requires special safety procedures and standards. Before 1977, it was both legal and common to use asbestos throughout the home. If your home was built before that time, there is a good chance that it might have been used. Before removing the finish, it is important to test for asbestos, which will influence the process. To do so, the homeowner needs to spray water onto a portion of the area, remove a small sample and send it to a testing facility such as EMSL Analytical, a nationwide laboratory that offers convenient test kits, and lab fees start around $100. You can also contact an asbestos testing pro in your area for help.

Replacing with Paint - $1 - $3 per sq. ft.

One popular option for this project is having a contractor scrape the lumps and bumps off, lightly sand the surface and then paint over it for a smooth look. Expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $200 in materials to do this yourself with a scraper, primer and new paint. Hiring a professional typically runs $1 to $3 per square foot for labor and materials.

Replacing with Knockdown Texture - $1 - $2 per sq. ft.

a background of sponge painted, knockdown textured white ceiling in a home

Removing a popcorn ceiling and replacing with knockdown averages $1 to $2 per square foot in labor, materials and equipment, like an automatic texture sprayer. Depending on where you live and the square footage of your ceiling, you can expect to pay an average of $500 to $1000. Although, if you need to have any patching done the final cost will be higher.

The whole point of the popcorn finish is to disguise surface flaws like warps, cracks or uneven areas. But, if you're like many homeowners and the dated look just isn’t for you, finish with a texture sprayer loaded with unaggregated spray texture. The knobs and bumps catch dust and make the room feel smaller. Scraping the heavy texture and replacing it with a lighter knockdown finish will give you all the benefits of camouflaging imperfections without the dated look of popcorn. To apply the new finish, you or your contractor will need to scrape off all or most of the original finish, lightly sand the new surface and then apply the new, lightly textured knockdown.

Other Types of Textures

White plaster texture on the wall of a building

There’s a world of options that go beyond simple scraping and painting or adding knockdown. Examples of what you can do include:

  • Skim Coat Over the Popcorn – about $1/ sq. ft.
  • You’ll still have texture, but it’ll be much smoother, which makes it popular among homeowners who want to capture the history of an older home. This is fairly easy to DIY, but it does create additional weight, which could compromise the ceiling's structure; so, you should consult with a contractor before starting. Rates typically average $1 per square foot.

  • Smooth It Over with Drywall - $1.50/ sq ft
  • If you want a fast, smooth finish, you could always cover it up with drywall. Rates for this project average $1.50 per square foot with standard 8-foot by 4-foot drywall panels selling for about $10 to $20. Other necessary materials include compound, $5 to $9, and rolls of drywall joint tape, $3 to $5.

  • Install Santa Fe Textured Drywall - $1 - $1.50/ sq ft
  • For a textured look with more subtlety, consider asking your contractor for something like a Santa Fe finish, which has a low profile with an appearance like two smooth layers with the lower layer showing through sporadically. Average rates for this type of project range from about $1 to $1.50 per square foot.

  • Decorative Tiles - $5 - $7/ sq ft
  • Ready-to-hang tiles and panels sold at most home improvement stores cover your existing surface while giving it a whole new look for approximately $5 to $7 per square foot, depending on the materials you choose.

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What is a Popcorn Ceiling

popcorn ceiling

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

Pros & Cons

Believe it or not, this was once a home trend for practical and design reasons. Spraying on the 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 made from drywall or plaster, the texture hid nail holes, screws, uneven seams and any spots caused by water damage. Today, people are far more familiar with the various cons associated with this finishing style, like how repairs are expensive and time-consuming, and how its rough appearance makes it difficult to clean properly. The look is also outdated and may discourage new buyers.

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When To Remove

The texture should be eliminated from the home if it is cracking and in need of serious repair, causes the home to look outdated, 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 can be expensive, it often makes sense to replace them altogether. 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 these finishes can lower the value of a home and decrease the interest of potential buyers. Finally, asbestos may be a health concern for residents, and a complete removal may be the only solution.

Whenever possible, try to tackle this project before you move into your new home. That way, you won’t need to cover or remove your possessions to protect them from dust and falling debris.

How To Remove

How these ceiling covers get removed has a lot to do with whether they contain asbestos. If they do contain this hazardous material, professionals should be brought in to seal off the space and safely scrape the paint. Otherwise, the process can be half the price, and some homeowners might even tackle the job on their own. The 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 a simple removal won't be enough to update the look of the home. Once it's 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 it, sand it down for a flat and more modern surface, prime it, and then paint it in a color that fits in with the room's style and decor. Only after all these steps are completed, many of which are time-consuming and require professional equipment, can the ceilings be considered modern and stylish once again.

Ways to Save on Cost

A primary concern for many homeowners is that removal will be a big expense. On average, popcorn ceiling removal comes with a price tag that ranges from $1 to $2 per square foot, with the average homeowner spending around $1,570. Having the finish textured and painted afterwards could certainly add to that amount. Some ways to reduce expenditures include removing furniture before professionals arrive, testing it 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.

Hire a Pro or DIY

In a perfect world, this would be a messy, but relatively simple DIY project. After all, you only need a ladder, scraper, elbow grease and time to physically eliminate the old finish. However, it's a very messy project that involves a lot of dust and debris, and several potential hazards. If you have any doubt about whether your ceiling has asbestos, structural issues or if you lack of time and experience with this sort of project, it's well worth the cost of hiring a professional.

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