Popcorn Ceilings: The Mullet of My Home

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Guys, I hate popcorn ceilings... Like hate-hate them. Something about them gives me the heeby jeebies! They always look dirty, wet, dusty, and just.... bumpy. It honestly makes my skin crawl when I see them so they must be triggering my fear of tiny holes or something because I know it's not rational.

Aside from grossing me out, I've always felt like popcorn ceilings just scream 1980's, too. I can walk into any home and guess a range of when it was built based on the presence of popcorn ceilings. It's just a trend that had it's day in the spotlight, and looking back, we can all collectively agree now that it really shouldn't have.... like the infamous mullet. Hence, popcorn ceilings are the mullet of my home.

Thankfully, some of the rooms in our new house had been previously scraped, but the bedrooms and hallways upstairs had not. Because of said ick-factor for me,  I got a few quotes from painters for removing them, and they told me it would be close $2500 for a professional to do it- AKA not in the budget.  Thankfully, since our house was built in 1986, we don't have to worry about asbestos, so I felt like this was a project my husband and I could tackle ourselves.  We didn't know anything about scraping popcorn or painting ceilings, but to save $2300, I would damn sure figure it out.

This is what our ceilings looked like before in 3 bedrooms, the upstairs hallway, and the stairs (we are leaving the stairs for a professional because neither of us wants to fall and die). To some people, the popcorn look may not bother them (like my husband), but for me.... it's a mullet. I just can't.

Before we committed to doing this, I wanted to be sure I wasn't going to do irreparable damage. I watched a ton of Youtube videos, read everything on Pinterest, and eventually felt sure that this was something we could handle and I wasn't being overly optimistic. We figured since the new floors hadn't been installed yet, this would be the perfect time to make a huge mess, so we gathered our supplies.

Here's what we used to get started: 

1) A garden sprayer
2) A 10 inch scraper
3) Protective masks & eyewear
4) A box cutter (not pictured). This came in handy when we needed to score the edges where the popcorn was attached to drywall tape.

I think we spent $100 on all this.

I definitely recommend the mask and goggles. The popcorn came off super easily, but once it was on the floor, it pretty much disintegrated into dust, so we were glad we had our mouths and eyes covered!

The garden sprayer was the MVP of this whole project. We found that as long as the popcorn was wet, it came off super, super easily. You could tell right away when you'd hit a dry spot, so we would just give it a quick spritz, wait a second, and boom, came off like butter.

We didn't lay any floor coverings for these rooms, since we are having the carpets removed next week. That said, it was reaaaaaaaally messy and even though they're getting taken out, we probably should have laid something over them. We wised up when we got to the hallway, which I'll get to in a minute.

We found the best technique to remove the popcorn was to:

1) Remove all light fixtures, air vents, anything on the ceiling so you can get around it.

2) Spray the ceiling completely, and then double back over the area you are starting on so it's really wet

3) Keep the scraper as straight as possible against the wall. Angles tended to ding the drywall. Some of the comments I read about DIY'ing this project warned that you wouldn't have a smooth ceiling afterwards. We agreed it was a risk we were willing to accept, because we (I) would rather see a few mudding spots or tape lines than the popcorn everywhere. We wanted to save money, so we accepted our work wouldn't be "professional grade," but to be honest, it looks pretty smooth to me. I'll get more to the finished product in a minute!

4) Score the edges where the wall meets the ceiling before scraping. This helped get the pieces that were stuck to tape off. They didn't come off as easily, but still wasn't difficult.

You can see below our ceiling is wet and there's water dripping down the walls. This was unavoidable for us, and we plan to paint the walls anyway, so we didn't stress about it. I don't know how you'd do this project if you currently live in your home. It'd be a nightmare! We also let the ceilings dry out for a couple days before we primed them to be sure they are really dry.

Here's why we wished we had laid down a drop cloth... yeesh. While the popcorn came off the ceiling in strips, it turned to crumby dust as soon as it hit the floor. We picked up what we could, ShopVac'd the rest, and then left the carpets imperfect since they're being removed. 

After finishing the first room, I had 2 takeaways:
1) It was way easier than I expected.
2) It was way messier than I expected.

We finished one room in under an hour, which surprised both of us, but we spent just as much time trying to clean up after ourselves, so it would've been faster to lay down tarp. Once we finished a room, we decided to let the rooms air out and dry completely before we put any primer or paint on them.  

Once we got to the hallway, we wised up, and decided to lay a tarp down. That made clean up a breeze! We just folded it up like a burrito -- sides in, top down, sides in, top down, over and over again until it was all gone. We still had some left to sweep up, but it was a lot less work than the carpeted rooms. 

Scraping the three bedrooms and a hallway took us about 4 hours of work. Like I mentioned, we can't do the staircase, foyer, or dining room because the guys were working on our floors, so I'll leave those for now and figure something out later. But, once we had scraped the bedrooms, we left them to dry out completely overnight. We didn't like the idea of priming them if they still had moisture in them. 

Before priming, I got back on the ladder and sanded all the ceilings with a small sanding block. We went over all the seams where the walls and ceilings meet (some of the popcorn clumped in the corners, so this was important), and then sanded over any areas we felt were uneven or we hadn't gotten the popcorn off all the way. I didn't get any pics of this because I was doing it by myself while Spenser was at work, sorry! I'm sure the ceiling texture isn't as perfect as it would be from a professional, but you really have to look for it to notice any bumps -- especially once it was primed! 

You guys - this primer is MAGIC. Ceiling primer is thicker than a regular primer, so it stuck really well to the ceiling and smoothed out sooo much of the texture. I used this primer recommended by the paint department at Lowes, and it was such a great recommendation. I think it had some self leveling properties to it, because it really worked hard to hide imperfections. The other tool I decided to try was this ceiling paint roller below:

This roller was awesome - it's long, so you don't need a ladder, has a cover on it that did a good job catching drips (not perfect, but good), and it holds paint *in the handle* so you don't have to constantly dip your roller! I was able to do the whole ceiling twice over in about 30 minutes. By that time my neck and shoulders were exhausted from sanding & painting, so I was really grateful when Spenser came over after work to finish the other rooms.

We did two coats of primer for each room, just to be sure we had a good thick base, and to help smooth out any imperfections from DIY'ing this. Guys, I am soooo happy with the results. Honestly, unless I was lying on my back with a flashlight looking for imperfections, I don't think I'd ever notice them. We haven't even painted the ceilings yet, but the primer did such a great job covering everything. It looks so good!! The pics below have some streaks because it was still drying, but it was totally smooth by the next day. 

We won't be able to get to the painting until next Tuesday, since our floors are being stained today. We can't walk on them for 5 days so we're going to focus on packing and patching holes at the old house so it's in good shape for the new owners! 

Overall, I'm super glad we started this now, so I never have to lay in my bed thinking those little bumps are going to fall in my mouth while I sleep  (Maybe I need therapy 😂), and we were able to knock this out before we had any furniture or flooring to protect!

I am so, so happy with the difference and can't wait to get scrape the last hallway so this house can finally be mullet free!

Here's to hoping this post gives you the courage to take on your own home's mullet, whatever that may be for you!

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