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Popcorn Ceilings: Yay or Nay?

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

A popcorn ceiling is slang for a stipple ceiling, a stucco ceiling, or formally an acoustic ceiling. This is a textured ceiling, looking like popcorn, that uses a spray-on or painted-on treatment. Popcorn ceilings were popular in pre-1970 homes so many of them contain asbestos; however, it is possible that popcorn ceilings constructed in the 1980s also contain asbestos. The ban on asbestos came in the 1978 Clean Air Act, but it exempted existing inventories of asbestos-bearing texturing materials. Popcorn ceilings created in later years used styrofoam or paper-based materials. Because of this problem with asbestos, they have fallen out of style.

These ceilings were popular mostly in hallways and bedrooms because they hide imperfections. When painting a ceiling or wall, cracks and blemishes need to be filled; however, when spraying on popcorn ceiling material, that step can be skipped; thus the rise in their popularity.

Another reason homeowners prefer popcorn ceilings is because they absorb sound better. The increased surface area of a popcorn ceiling helps muffle sound.

However, since early 2000, there has been a trend toward sleek and modern, making popcorn ceilings less popular. Additionally, homeowners learned that smoother ceilings reflect light better, harbor less dust and are easier to touch up. But, of course, this is a matter of preference, and some styles are better suited for a popcorn ceiling.

Repairing of Popcorn Ceilings

First, if there is even the remote possibility of your popcorn ceiling containing asbestos, call a professional as asbestos is very dangerous, thus the ban.

If you want to simply touch up an older popcorn ceiling, using modern products is not recommended as they contain water and that moisture can destroy older popcorn ceilings. For the same reason, you cannot paint a popcorn ceiling with a regular paintbrush because of the moisture build-up. Rather it is recommended that you use a segmented foam roller.

It is harder to fix damaged sections of a popcorn ceiling than it is on drywall ceilings. With drywall ceilings, you can simply cut out the damaged piece of drywall and fit a new piece for that space. Whereas with a popcorn ceiling, the area needs to be scrapped and cleaned, the problem addressed and then reapplication of the stipple.

Hiding a Popcorn Ceiling

You can hide a popcorn ceiling with a new ceiling using ceiling planks or panels and the Easy Up track and clip installation system. There are many materials available to cover a popcorn ceiling like beadboard, wood-look ceiling planks, metal tiles and others.

Removal of Popcorn Ceilings

There are 2 processes for this. There is the scraping method. This is a labor-intensive and messy process. But those aren’t the only reasons to hire a professional for this process: the scraping method will most likely require you to smooth and patch the ceiling in order for it to look crisp. Then the ceiling needs to be painted. Ever paint a ceiling, ugh!

There is the re-drywalling process. This is cleaner than scraping. A professional, ideally you would still call one, will remove the pieces of popcorned drywall and replace it with new modern drywall. This is a bit more expensive.

If you have popcorn ceilings in the kitchen, bathroom or any other room with high moisture, you will want to consider removing them. Moisture can damage the stipple causing it to break off and crumble.

Should I Keep My Popcorn Ceiling?

That is a difficult question that only you can answer, especially if it is simply due to style. Consulting with a professional will help you know the intricacies of your project and they can also give you other styles to consider that may go with your tastes.

If you are considering selling your home and have popcorn ceilings, you will want to be able to prove to potential buyers that you can guarantee that it does not contain asbestos. Another consideration regarding selling a home with popcorn ceilings is they are perceived as old and old fashioned. Potential buyers typically want something new and modern.

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