Why is popcorn ceiling a thing?
Popcorn ceilings became a thing back in the 1970's when it was discovered that builders could save money on properly finishing ceilings by spraying texture instead. While the glamor of popcorn is gone, there are practical uses for popcorn ceilings besides the aesthetics.
Popcorn is excellent at hiding defects and absorbing sound. Whether that be cracks that can't be repaired, or damage to the ceiling thats too costly to fix properly. Often times, its far cheaper to repair a damaged popcorn ceiling and then paint it, than it is to remove it.
Popcorn Ceiling Repair
Some people like their popcorn ceiling because it helps absorb sound, and hides defects in the ceiling or they like how it looks. This is especially true if the ceiling(s) have cracks or other damage that can’t be fixed. In these cases, they may not want the popcorn removed; they just need some repairs made to it.
We are capable of making any needed repairs to your popcorn ceilings, using the same method which was used when the popcorn was applied initially. Spraying popcorn requires special equipment. You can not duplicate the texture of a popcorn ceiling using a spray can from a big box store.
But is it really cheaper to repair it vs removing?
Yes. Popcorn removal can be quite involved, with substantial cost. Removal is very labor intensive, with substantial set-up and take-down for each step
*Scroll down for some indepth answers to some questions a lot of people seem to have*
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How to repair a Popcorn Ceiling
Applying popcorn ceiling texture demands specialized equipment that many painting contractors are hesitant to acquire. It also necessitates significant upper body strength to manage the hopper without spilling it all on the floor. Popcorn ceiling texture has the consistency of watery oatmeal, so it splatters easily, sticks to everything, and is overall very messy.
If you recently had plumbing work done, or suffered other damage to your popcorn ceilings, we can make the needed repairs, spray popcorn, then paint the ceiling.
Repairing popcorn ceilings is pretty straight-forward, just requires a couple of extra steps. We remove the existing popcorn around the damage to ensure our patches are as smooth and flat as possible. Then we spot prime our patches. Once we are happy with our patchwork, its primed, we require the use of a 20amp outlet for our air compressor (which stays in the truck, its heavy and very noisy). We run airhoses and spray the new texture. As soon as the texture is sprayed, we clean up everything. The ceiling must dry before we can paint it, usually about a day.
Typically, it takes 1-2 hours to set up to spray popcorn, 10-15 minutes to spray popcorn, and then 1-2 hours to clean up
Often times, a new water stain will appear with in a day or two around the newly sprayed texture. This is normal. The moisture in the fresh texture disturbs the dust on the existing texture creating a brown stain. We spot prime the new texture with oil based primer, then paint the ceiling with a high quality latex ceiling paint to ensure a uniform color, sheen, and texture.
Painted ceiling texture has a different texture than unpainted texture.
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Depending on the size of the repair, priming the patches / ceiling, and painting the same may take more than one day. The reason for this is due to the nature of popcorn. Once it becomes saturated, it will peal off the ceiling. Which is why every step must thoroughly dry before moving to the next step. There is no rushing the process.
Can I Paint my Popcorn Ceilings?
Yes! We paint popcorn ceilings all the time. A lot of painting contractors prefer not to paint popcorn ceilings due to the extra work and costs involved. For one, it ruins the roller cover. Also requires more prep, its messy, as it rains popcorn when you roll it. It also requires about 50% more paint.
It can take twice as long to paint a popcorn ceiling vs a smooth ceiling!
The 'cut in' or edging as some call it, must fully dry prior to rolling paint on the ceiling. Which can add significant time to the job. When you roll the ceiling, you roll into the 'cut in', you run the risk of pealing the popcorn off the ceiling (bad). If its fully dry, this typically wont happen. If its at all wet or damp, it can and will peal! We will often run lots of fans to speed up drying, however are limited due to the plastic blowing around.
When you roll paint on a popcorn ceiling, some of the texture does come off in the form of small white gobs that sticks to everything. Its messy. You can clearly tell who rolled the ceiling. For this reason, we ask that the homeowner limit their incursion into the work area as much as possible during the painting process.
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Popcorn Ceiling Removal
Depending on the age of your home, is the biggest factor in determining if your popcorn has asbestos. You shouldn't scrape or sand a popcorn ceiling dry. Not only is that extremely dusty and dirty, but you could make potential asbestos airborne which is detrimental to your health. When we remove popcorn, we use water, and a lot of it, and scrape it off wet. Its messy, but its the safest, easiest way to remove it.
Take note that removing a popcorn ceiling will often impact the walls directly beneath it. Meaning the top corners may need to be repaired where the wall meets the ceiling. Just be aware of this.
While the question is simple, the answer is, complicated.
There are no ballpark estimates in popcorn removal. Same with plaster repair. There are just too many factors involved. Pictures can hide a lot. Its best to get eyes on the work. While everyone claims to not hold contractors to a ball park price, we all do. Its human nature. Which is why we don’t give ball park prices.
There are multiple factors that go into figuring out the cost to remove a popcorn ceiling. While our removal jobs average out to X per square foot, its important for you, the client to understand the process to better understand the costs involved.
What follows are questions that will be answered during the quote
1) Where are you located? Whats the parking situation? Driveway access?
We do not work in the City of Buffalo
2) Where is the job located? Living room on the first floor with 8’ ceilings? Or is it the bedroom on the 3rd floor with 10-12’ ceilings? Maybe the great room or foyer with 18’ ceilings?
Ceiling height plays a big part in the removal of popcorn. Up and down a ladder 500x before lunch makes for a really hard day. If working on extension ladders, the risk of getting hurt goes up exponentially due to the slippery-ness of wet popcorn texture on the bottom of your feet. The setting up, and taking down of scaffolding and equipment also plays a role.
3) What is the floor situation? Carpet? Hardwood? Tile? Marble? Even though we are working on the ceiling, we are literally working on the floor. For instance, a tile or marble floor will need much more robust protection than carpet.
4) Has the popcorn ceiling been painted? This is a BIG question and will directly affect pricing. Painted popcorn ceilings can be EXTREMELY difficult to remove, as the popcorn has been essentially sealed into the ceiling. Paint, is not made to come off. Add popcorn…
- If the ceiling has been painted - that alone, can double the cost of the job.
- A painted popcorn ceiling will not come off cleanly in most cases, and will require the ceiling to be primed, skim coated, primed again, then painted. Depending on the size of the ceiling, that can be quite involved. Often times, a painted popcorn ceiling will leave excess material behind. Its very rough. We prime it, and then skim over it. The issue is that some times, this ‘base layer’ (for lack of a better term) will peal in spots from the primer, leading to more patching.
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5) How BIG is the ceiling?
-We do not give a discount on more ceilings to remove. The removal of popcorn, is the most labor intensive part of the painting industry. There are no bulk discounts. If we are bidding on removing popcorn from the living room ceiling, we do not discount the removal of popcorn from the dining room ceiling. The amount of work is similar per ceiling, just the duration is different.
6) Drywall or plaster? This is important to know, due to the fact that water and drywall do not play well together. Plaster and water doesn’t either, however because plaster is so much harder than drywall, removing popcorn from a plaster ceiling, is usually easier than removing popcorn from a drywall ceiling.
7) Are you painting the walls? Serious question. Often with popcorn removal, the top corner of the walls near the ceiling, will sometimes incur damage.
8) Can we keep the space ‘set up’ over night / through out the job? Popcorn removal requires the extensive set up and clean up, which can take 60-90 minutes per day to set up & clean up. If we are removing it every night and setting everything back up the next day, that will affect the cost of the job.
9) Have you tested the ceiling for asbestos? Ceilings that test positive for asbestos, cost more to remove.
Popcorn removal is EXTREMELY messy and dirty. We remove it wet. It sticks to everything, especially our feet! We track it everywhere. After the job is complete, ladders, scaffolding, planks ect. often require cleaning prior to the start of the next job.
-There is also a considerable amount of dust that is created with popcorn removal due to skim coating requirements (if your popcorn ceilings arent painted, we typically do not have to skim coat the ceilings). While we do our best to contain the dust, it can and will travel, everywhere! We do clean up daily, and as we go, due to how messy popcorn can be.
In most scenarios, it costs less than $10 a square foot. With out seeing the job itself, every painting contractor will give you a very high estimate as to the costs associated with removal. To get the most accurate costs associated with popcorn removal, its best to get a couple of quotes. Our popcorn removal quotes are free, and our schedule is pretty flexible.
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Sometimes it may be easier, and possibly cheaper, to just go over the ceiling with new drywall. It needs to be noted that putting new drywall over an existing popcorn ceiling may not rid the ceiling of defects. Meaning that the waviness of the existing ceiling may be exacerbated with new drywall. This is especially true with plaster ceilings
We do not install new drywall ceilings at this time.
Popcorn Ceiling Specialists
Popcorn Ceiling Questions and Answers
Why is popcorn coming off while painting?:
If its coming off in sheets or large clumps its too wet. You need to stop painting. We like to cut in the popcorn ceiling first, and then we wait about an hour, before we will roll the ceiling to give the cut in enough time to dry. Also, we limit our back rolling and limit our pattern to a smaller area at a time while taking care to limit over lap.
If its 'raining' popcorn, welcome to popcorn ceiling paining. Thats why we cut in first, and then roll. Limits the amount of time we are walking in it.
How to touch up popcorn ceilings?
Popcorn texture in an aerosol can you buy at the big box stores, is garbage. How we loathe that crap. It really is. Like expecting oatmeal and getting cream of wheat. Its that bad! First, You can shake it til your arm falls off, will not thicken it. It needs to be watery to get out of the can. The other problem is that it dries extremely hard. Harder than paint. So in the future if you decide to strip the ceiling, that spot is going to be a real problem. Same goes if you decide to hire someone to do a professional repair. Did we mention how bad that stuff is?
Take 20 easy-sand drywall compound (white bag, blue lettering) mix up a little bit in a disposable cup, and using a crappy paint brush, lightly dab it onto the surface. Remember, a little texture is better than too much texture. A little goes a long way. We use 20, but any drywall compound you have on hand will work. Use a paint brush.
Unfortunately, you really can not duplicate the texture of popcorn, unless you do it the right way.