Popcorn, Acoustic, Stucco, Cottage Cheese, whatever you may call it, removal of this type of ceiling finish is very popular. The temptation to remove this unsightly mess off your ceiling can be strong and you may want to jump right in. But before you start scraping it away there are a couple things you should know so that the project is done properly, looks good, and most importantly you stay safe.
The first thing you need to know is that homes built before 1980 could have asbestos in the acoustic. Asbestos is a fibrous material that was used to help protect against fire. It has since been linked with multiple lung disorders. Testing for the substance is an important first step. Homes built after 1980 rarely have asbestos in the acoustic ceilings but it may be prudent to test anyway. It is important to take responsibility for testing before you proceed with your project. If your test is positive you will need to contact a local asbestos removal contractor. Be sure to sit down before you get the estimate as this can be a very pricy endeavor. In lieu of removing the asbestos-filled acoustic, the acoustic can be painted using specially designed light weight acoustic paints. These products perform best when you spray them on. Often the directions say you can roll them, I would avoid that if at all possible as it may damage the ceiling and disturb the asbestos.
Now you are ready to start. Your first step is to fully mask the floor.
- Cover the floor with plastic
- Lay a second sheet of plastic over the first. (Trust me you will like this step)
- Lay some plastic outside the door of the room where you are doing the removal
- Place an old towel on top of that to help contain the acoustic being removed
Next you will want to wet the ceiling to minimize the amount of dust from the removal process. You can use a garden sprayer or carefully use a hose to do that. Make sure you do not over saturate the acoustic as you do not want the drywall underneath to become too wet. Once the ceiling has been dampened you can use a wide drywall knife, 8’’ or 12’’ knives work well, to carefully remove the wet acoustic. I say carefully because the more nicks and scrapes you inflict on the drywall the more you will have to fix later. Once all the acoustic has been removed roll up that second piece of plastic and haul it to the trash can. Let the ceiling dry overnight. Setting up a fan to keep the air moving is a good idea. The next day sand the ceiling to get any residual acoustic off the surface. Use 100 grit drywall sandpaper or drywall sanding grids for this step.
Next you should skim coat (apply a smooth layer of drywall mud on) the whole ceiling. This can be done by using a 9’’ roller, drywall mud and the widest drywall knife you can handle. Ideally you will have two people for this. The process goes like this…
- Thin the mud just enough to get it to roll out.
- One person rolls out the mud and the second person smooth’s it out with the drywall knife.
- Excess mud from each pass can be put in a drywall pan.
- Turn the fans back on and wait until the mud is fully dry.
- Once it is all good and dry sand the mud again and repeats the process.
Hopefully after letting the second coat dry and sanding it you will have a surface that can be textured using a texture machine or painted as it is depending on the finish you would like to have. Flat paint works best on ceilings as it shows less flaws in the finish. You will also want to caulk the corners in between paint coats to give yourself nice clean corners.
Materials and Tools
- Drywall knives
- Safety glasses
- Hose or Hudson sprayer
- Tape (red vinyl works well when using water)
- Drywall mud
- Sanding pole
- Drywall sandpaper or sanding screens
- Flat paint
- Dust masks
- An old towel
- Texture machine
- Mud pan
Examples of materials you may need
Asbestos Test kit
Dryfall Acoustic paint