Posted by conrad
05 August, 2011

Say Goodbye to that Popcorn Ceiling

The 70s and 80s brought us a lot of great innovations, but two that might have worn out their welcome are popcorn and textured ceilings. If you have an old Avocado or Harvest Gold appliance from that era, updating your kitchen is as easy as having someone haul it away when they bring your new appliance — unfortunately it’s not quite that easy with an outdated ceiling.

There were a couple of reasons why popcorn and textured ceilings were so popular with the builders of yesteryear, but the primary function of the finishes was to hide bad framing and sheetrock work.  Light at certain times of the day can highlight every bowed joist or roof truss behind a smooth ceiling and the same can be true of improperly finished or sanded drywall joints. Builders were looking for a solution to the numerous warranty calls from new homeowners concerning their ceilings’ cosmetic issues — popcorn and textured finishes were the answer.

Popcorn could hide a lot of problems -- photo from

These decorative finishes were applied thick enough that they hid just about any ceiling imperfection and their rough surface could be a good disguise as well. Unfortunately, no one thought much about what might happen when the ceilings became old and dated — they just wanted the warranty calls to end.

Fast forward 30 years and now you’re wondering what to do with your dingy and dated popcorn or textured ceilings to bring them into the 21st century. You can try spray painting them, but the best you might achieve is a dated ceiling with a fresh coat of paint. Scraping the finish off and skimming with dry wall mud to create a smooth surface is an option, but ending up with a decent looking  product normally requires the skills of a very experienced sheetrock finisher — the odds are better that you’ll have a surface with more defects than the original framing and sheetrock had 30 years ago.

Cover your popcorn with decorative ceiling tiles -- photo from

One of the best solutions to your dilemma can be to install decorative ceiling tiles in the room — you’ll end up with a fresh new look, but all those cosmetic issues the popcorn or textured finish were hiding will now be covered by the tiles. You’ll still need to scrape your ceiling before installing the new ceiling tiles, but the services of a skilled sheetrock finisher should no longer be required. Just about anyone including a beginning DIYer can scrape a ceiling — just remember to put plastic sheeting or a drop cloth down first.

The new tiles can be glued in place in just a weekend depending on the size of the room.  You’ll finally be able to say goodbye to that old popcorn ceiling and hello to the 21st century. One note of caution — some older popcorn ceilings contained asbestos, you may want to have your ceiling tested before you start scraping.

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