We Had Our Popcorn Ceiling Removed and Made Smooth – Here’s What Happened

Big Project #1 in Our Move to Florida

 

 

When my husband first saw the house, he was skeptical. It was dark and the rooms felt heavy. Neither of us realized the main culprit of that heavy feeling until later – the popcorn ceiling.

Despite his misgivings, it was in the perfect location and had an enormous yard. I detail the whole experience here.

Needless to say, we bought the house. In the process of renovation, my husband had changed the light in the living room and I realized that the popcorn ceilings were sort of freaking me out. My brain was screaming “Is that asbestos?” every time a flake fell as he was cutting a hole. Some research told us that asbestos was unlikely in our house due to its age and the fact that we are in Central Florida. But, after that, the ceiling just bugged me.

I have to admit, though, there was a certain vintage charm to the popcorn. Our first morning in the house, I woke up and looked at the ceiling and said: “Hello childhood.” My best friend from elementary school also has popcorn ceilings in her house and she loves hers.

I found a delightful discovery in the fact that I didn’t have to worry about echoes when I did my voice recordings in rooms with the popcorn. Sound in the house, in general, was actually quite nice and cozy.

However, I couldn’t stop noticing how much it had collected dirt over the years. I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of asbestos and how much I was going to cringe every time someone cut into that ceiling or a ball hit it or I needed to hang something off of it. It just had to go. Little did I realize what I was in for.

First, it wasn’t a cheap endeavor. Bids were all in the same category for pricing and nearly all of them wanted to leave a texture of some sort behind – generally knockdown or orange peel. I wasn’t crazy about this, because I felt like it would basically look like a popcorn ceiling with the popcorn knocked off and the stems of the popcorn left behind. The price for that was about $1.50/square foot.

To make it smooth would cost about $3/square foot.

If our popcorn had been sealed, it would have cost much more and some contractors said they wouldn’t have agreed to remove it at all. If you’re considering sealing your popcorn ceiling, keep that in mind because it means you’ll probably be stuck with it and so will any buyer that you may have in the future.

None of the contractors were thrilled about the idea of making the ceiling smooth. The biggest risk, they said, was that the ceiling would clearly show every flaw. Just looking at the ceiling in its current state, there appeared to be waves and buckles throughout the house.

You already know that we decided on smooth anyway.

By the way, if you’re worried about asbestos, you can have it professionally tested, or there are DIY Asbestos Test Kits that you can order. Specifically, we have used the Asbestos Test Kit by Seeml Labs and they were great to work with, ensuring we received our results within 3 days by both email and a phone call. The test is about $25, though you do have to pay to ship your sample to them. There are no hidden fees. I was really impressed.

The contractor started by covering each of the walls in plastic. It’s pretty neat stuff. The top has a sticky back that adheres to the wall. Not all of them do this, so if it’s important to you, you’ll want to check. They also wrapped each light fixture in the house and covered the floor and furniture.

 

Then, they methodically sprayed the ceiling with water, waited, then scraped the ceiling so that the popcorn fell down in sheets and chunks. It sounds like a fast process – especially on our little 1400 sq ft house. It took about a day and a half. Even the interior of the closets had popcorn ceilings.

For the most part, it was scraped down to the drywall underneath.

Then came phase 2. There were a couple of spots that needed patching. One was where the roof had leaked in this past and another was where a light fixture was changed. Other than that, all of the buckles that appeared to be in the ceiling were actually apparently caused by the popcorn itself.

Next, during phase 3, they put drywall mud all over the ceiling and smoothed it out. Then, they sanded that smooth.

Finally, they painted the ceiling.

It was done.

It was beautiful. No dips, no valleys. Everything was smooth and lovely under the popcorn.

But, it was messy. So….so…messy.

I’d never recommend a popcorn-to-smooth process to someone that has their house full of furniture. The removal of the popcorn itself is pretty straightforward. The plastic protects everything and the popcorn falls off in sheets and is taken away.

However, the sanding from the amount of drywall mud that has to be put on the ceiling to make it look right is a dust storm. Even with draping the walls, there’s no way to completely contain it.

If you’ve ever dealt with drywall dust, you know it’s fine dust and it flies everywhere. The amount sanded off the ceilings caused clouds that literally billowed out the windows.

No, what you see above isn’t a dirty window or a reflection. That’s a strip of floor located outside of the house. The clean area is what was vacuumed after the smoothing of the ceiling. All the whiteish areas are from the dust that blew outside the house during that process. It’s not even inside the area that was worked on.

When the contractor that did ours was discussing the job with us, he said he wouldn’t even do smooth ceilings in houses that were occupied and had furniture in them.

Despite their dated look. popcorn ceilings do have some positive points. As mentioned earlier, popcorn is acoustic friendly. I think that was part of the appeal of a popcorn ceiling to the folks who wanted them in the first place. Music sounds fantastic in a room with popcorn ceilings and it’s easier to hear the TV at a lower volume. We noticed an immediate difference in sound quality once the popcorn was gone.

The other noticeable change was that the room felt like the walls were taller and more open. That inch or two of popcorn made the room feel strangely heavier.

With step 1 complete with the removal of the popcorn ceiling, we moved on to the next major phase of construction – adding windows to a solid cement wall.

Despite the fact that the mess disturbed me, we definitely felt it was an improvement. While sound did lose its warmth, the ceiling made the room feel lighter and cleaner. Have you removed a popcorn ceiling or are you thinking about it?

 

 

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