Popcorn is great with a movie or possibly for stringing around an old-fashioned Christmas tree, but it’s a little less universally loved when it’s applied to the ceiling as a texture. “Popcorn ceiling,” a type of texture that looks a lot more like cottage cheese than popcorn, was widely used in homes from the 1950s through the mid-1980s, regardless of architecture style.
A Warning About Popcorn Ceilings
Many popcorn ceiling treatments were manufactured using asbestos fiber, which was legal until the mid-1970s in most states. However, the asbestos-containing compound was still legal to sell until all stores were depleted, so if your home was built prior to the mid-1980s, there’s a significant chance your popcorn ceilings contain asbestos.
Just having asbestos bound up on your ceiling doesn’t pose a significant health risk by itself. The problem occurs when these ceiling materials are disturbed. Dust particles containing asbestos can be inhaled, which is really bad for your lungs. Because of this, it’s important to have an asbestos test on your ceiling materials if you’re considering cutting into or removing portions of it. It’s also vital that you invest in filtration respirators that will capture asbestos particles. And in some locations you may need a permit or licensed professionals to remove asbestos containing materials.
Your Popcorn Ceiling Options
Ceiling work can be a huge pain even under the best circumstances, but when you have to add in the risk that popcorn ceilings can represent, it gets even more troublesome. However, you have several different options for refreshing your popcorn ceilings without adding significant risk to your household. Consider:
Simply repainting. Sure, popcorn ceilings are hard to clean and can really date your home, but for many houses, popcorn was the original ceiling texture. Regardless of how you may feel about it, it’s period appropriate. If it’s holding well to the ceiling and you’re not experiencing any issues (besides cosmetic ones), repainting your popcorn may be the best way to refresh it. It’s a cheap, simple solution for a ceiling that doesn’t need any patches or repairs.
Encasing it in drywall. Choosing thin drywall that’s made for ceilings can give you a brand new ceiling to work with. Not only will this encase any asbestos between two layers of ceiling material, but you can also start fresh with very little mess, unlike scraping popcorn with all its hassle and risks. Fresh drywall can be used on popcorn ceilings that are less than perfect, even if they contain holes, but you’ll need to make sure the attachment surface is consistently level. This may require you to shim out missing bits of drywall.
Installing a new ceiling system. Several lightweight ceiling systems exist that can be used to cover popcorn or other texture ceilings. They generally consist of tongue and groove segments that work with a rail system to create a seamless new ceiling with a pattern. Several popular choices include systems that mimic wood ceilings, tin ceilings, or even bead board.
Removing the popcorn texture. You can often remove a popcorn ceiling by scraping the material off with a trowel. Depending on how it was applied, you’ll either do it while it’s dry or after it’s been wetted. If you do decide to remove it, be aware that it will create a substantial mess; you’ll need to remove everything from the room and protect the walls to avoid unnecessary mess and damage. It’s a very complicated process, and you’ll definitely need to wear proper respiratory protection.