Popcorn ceilings were popular for a good reason: the texture is easy to put on, and the ceilings last a long time. Of course, popcorn ceilings are outdated now and you might want to get rid of them, but removal can be difficult, time consuming, and expensive—not to mention dangerous, as some come with asbestos risks. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to deal with popcorn ceilings that won’t require demolition and can often be a straightforward DIY project.
The first thing to know about popcorn ceilings is that the texture compound or the ceiling under it can contain asbestos if your home was built between the 1950s and 1980s (or if the texture was applied in those years). If you don’t know for sure that your texture is asbestos-free, contact an abatement professional before proceeding. Popcorn ceilings might be unsightly, but asbestos is dangerous.
The simplest method for getting rid of popcorn texture on the ceiling is using ultra light gypsum board, and because it’ll just cover the existing surface, it’s okay to do over asbestos. So, if you know that your ceiling might have older popcorn texture, this is a way to safely deal with that dust-collecting ceiling style without exposing yourself to asbestos.
You’ll need a drill, drywall screws, a tape measure, and a saw, as well as some drywall knives, mud, and tape. Attaching wallboard to your existing ceiling is done by screwing the sheetrock into the studs above the current ceiling. If you’re not confident to measure, attach, and tape your drywall, hiring a pro is a good idea—working overhead and keeping the panels lined up while you attach them can be challenging if you’re not used to working on a ladder.
If you don’t like the look of drywall ceilings, you can cover your popcorn ceiling with shiplap instead. For this project, you’ll need a nail gun as well as a miter saw—and, of course, your shiplap planks. You’ll also need a hole saw or jigsaw to cut around openings for lighting fixtures.
To install your planks, you can nail them straight into the ceiling joists over top of the texture. To avoid having one continuous seam all the way across the ceiling between the ends of the boards, trim every other board before installing it so that the seams will be offset.
You can use a new texture to cover over the existing popcorn if your ceiling contains asbestos. Applying the new texture over top is called “encapsulation,” and it’s one of the better ways to deal with asbestos because it keeps the texture from flaking and peeling, protecting you from the hazard caused by particles small enough to inhale.
The process of applying a new texture can be done with a mud knife and drywall mud applied directly to the ceiling. You can also add texture to your mud to get a different look. Unfortunately, this method won’t achieve a totally flat surface, but it will produce a different texture—hopefully one more to your liking.
If your ceiling doesn’t have asbestos, you can skimcoat and sand the ceiling to get a flat surface. This can be a DIY project if you don’t mind using your drywall mud and knives for a long while and then sanding overhead for a while after that. If you decide to go this route, know that it’ll be an intensely dusty project and will require the proper safety equipment, such as a respirator, goggles, and gloves. While messy, this process will get you a smooth surface for paint, assuming that’s what you’re after.
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