The first room on our long list of renovations (which you can read about here) was the living room. However, just as my handyman husband was getting ready to start the demo, I surprised him with a change of plans. I wanted to remove the popcorn ceiling from the entire main floor! I’m sure you can imagine the reaction…anyone who has googled removing popcorn ceilings can tell you that this is no small feat. However, I plead my case over the course of the next couple of days and finally won him over with the argument that this was meant to be our forever home and I would forever be unhappy with the popcorn (yes, I tend to bring the dramz to our negotiations)!
So how do you remove popcorn ceilings? Well as it turns out, the removal is actually quite easy. Messy. But easy. The tools for this project are also really minimal: a handheld sprayer (we found one at Home Depot for $29.99), a ladder, and a drywall trowel.
Before getting started, we turned off our air exchange and covered all of our vents.
We also used plastic sheeting to close off the kitchen and upstairs. What we did not do was cover the floor. Remember that line from Pretty Woman, “Big Mistake. Huge!”? Well, that’s us! In our minds, we figured we didn’t need to drape plastic over the living room, dining room or entry because we had no furniture in these rooms and planned to replace the floors in the future. Well the future is just that and for the next year or so, we have hardwood floors with a lovely accent of white in between most of the joints. Lesson learned.
Once we were ready to go, we started by spraying the ceiling with the handheld sprayer (which was filled with water) in about a 5ft by 5ft section at a time, making sure to adequately cover the space with water, but not soak it through to the drywall. Once it was sprayed, we let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then began skimming the ceiling using the drywall trowel. For this part, it is important to hold the trowel at a low angle toward the ceiling, skimming off the popcorn.
From start to finish, this process took approximately 3 hours, however a great deal of that time was spent cleaning the mess off the floors. If you are lucky though, you can get a tiny assistant to help out!
The next day (once the ceiling had fully dried), we worked on patching any flaws in the ceiling, cracks that had been the result of the house shifting over the years, as well as any scratches from the skimming the day before.
This process took a few days and the sanding made more mess than the first step. We strongly recommend purchasing masks for anyone who will be in the house while this is going on.
Finally, we were ready to paint! I had spent some time at our neighbourhood Benjamin Moore store deciding on the perfect white (yes, it sounds crazy but trust me, it’s important to take the time to consider how the white will look when paired with the wall colors going in the room). In the end, I chose snowfall white, as it stayed pure white when paired with stonington gray (our chosen wall paint), whereas some of the other whites I was considering were reading as a bit pink.
This is the point in the project where my handyman started to get a bit discouraged, and if you decide to take this project on at home, prepare yourself. Once we got the first coat on and let it dry, more flaws became visible. Remember, there is a reason why most builders do popcorn ceilings in the first place! So it was back to mudding and sanding again. This took another couple of days but once it was finished it looked absolutely amazing! Sometimes, I will just stand in the middle of the main floor and stare up at the ceiling – I just love how it turned out!
We are now moving on to the originally planned living room renovation (starting with the demo of the existing mantle and tearing out all the trim) but having gone through the experience once, we are now totally committed to removing the popcorn ceiling on our second floor when our renovation project moves upstairs!