Ask Candy: How Do I Get Rid of a Popcorn Ceiling and, Well, Should I Bother?

Published November 9, 2011 by Candy Evans

Dear Candy,

I have a home with what they call a popcorn ceiling. My Realtor thinks I should get rid of it, but doing so is going to make a huge mess. And guess what? I am a princess and do not like messes. Do you think I need to follow her advice, sand down that ceiling (ugh, makes me sneeze just thinking about it) or let it go. Don’t buyers have any imagination these days?

Thanks, Lita

Wow, is that really your popcorn ceiling? I’ve only seen one more like it, and that was in San Antonio with sparkles! Someone really liked — pink!

OK in a word, YES, get rid of that damn ceiling. Pretend it’s toxic: it is, to your home sale. Not to be mean, but where have you been these past three years. We are in a RECESSION and it’s hard as hell to move properties. Buyers think of every excuse possible not to buy unless they are IN LOVE with a property. Just think of a buyer who loves your home, but all she can think of is that pink popcorn ceiling and how hard and messy it will be to get rid of, capiche?

I have an argument with my husband daily, he being of the “drop the price and let the buyers do whatever they want” school. I am of the “buyers have zero vision. Period. End of story.” school. Why? Because they don’t, and it’s getting worse: Gen Y just doesn’t tinker in the home much — they  tinker on PED’s! Just go get lots of plastic and cover everything up, get a Miele vacuum (the best, at Capital Distributing). 

Remove all of the furniture from the room before you start. Or move it all to the center of the room and cover it with plastic sheeting. Next, tape plastic sheeting to the corner formed where the walls meet the ceilings. Make sure the plastic hangs to the floor, covering all the walls, windows and doors. Tape the plastic to the floor. Completely cover the floor with drop cloths, not plastic. It’s too easy slip on plastic.

Cover you, too. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a hat or cloth painter’s hood, and grab a respirator and eye protection.

“Popcorn” is the nickname for sprayed-on textured coating. It was “the look” in the 1960s and ’70s. Some ceilings even had sparkles mixed in, and oh my, I have seen those. Eyes still hurting.

Until around 1978,  the sprayed-on coating likely contained asbestos – ostensibly for its fire-retardant qualities. In 1978, asbestos was banned as a carcinogen. Any post-1978 “popcorn” should be asbestos-free. So it’s quite possible that a 1968 (or older) popcorn ceiling contains asbestos.

If you were planning to remove it, first test for asbestos. If positive, you will have no choice but to hire a licensed, insured and bonded hazardous material contractor. If the test is negative, you could save money and do-it-yourself. Remember, asbestos is dangerous only if it is crumbling. …

Experts laud the wet and scrape method, basically wetting the ceiling until the popcorn crap falls off, or peels off with a scraper. Once it’s all off and the ceiling is dry, re-texture whatever your heart desires, then paint and presto — you are all done! Bye bye popcorn ceiling! 

Note: Homes built prior to 1978 require a Lead Based Paint Disclosure to be completed and signed by the seller. The seller must disclose if they have any knowledge or reports of lead based paint on the property. The key words are knowledge and/or reports.

This does not address asbestos. They must note on the standard seller’s disclosure if there have been any repairs or treatments to remediate environmental hazards such as asbestos. There is also nowhere on the seller’s disclosure where a seller must disclose that their popcorn ceiling may or may not contain asbestos.

— Daily Local Real Estate Dish By Dallas Real Estate Insider — Candy Evans at CandysDirt.com