My house was built in 1971. After removing a think layer of popcorn, I found cardboard behind it. Does anyone know what that is? Is it safe to just paint over it?enter image description here



Technically, JACK has the correct answer.

Realistically, here's the issue. The reason why all these holes appeared is that I didn't spray enough water at a high pressure onto the ceiling in one go. The bond between the popcorn and the ceiling was too strong for me to use a knife to separate them. To make it worse, I subsequently sprayed more water with low pressure (little by little) and try to scratch. So you see some of the ceiling is totally wet and some lost the drywall paper.

What I should've done is to use a 1 gal. pump sprayer (cost $10 in HD/L) to spray pressured water onto the ceiling and then scratch.

After learning my mistake, the rest of the ceiling got scraped off very smoothly.

  • 1
    Do you know what drywall is? It's extra-crumbly chalk sandwiched between sheets of paper (well, light cardboard). Now you don't have to ask "can drywall support my 50 pound TV with just toggle bolts?" :) Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 21:52
  • i hope that you realize that the function of the popcorn on the ceiling is to hide unevenness and imperfections
    – jsotola
    Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 2:40
  • @jsotola, not really. It's called "accoustical" texture because originally it was heavier and served to reduce sound echo. Modern applications are much finer and don't do much for sound, but it's the same idea. No good drywall finisher uses it to mask sloppy work.
    – isherwood
    Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 17:05
  • While popcorn ceilings aren't there to hide a bad mud job the premise is a bit true. I have an incredible drywall crew that works for me. Their pace of install with two guys is maybe on Guiness WR levels. Including edging, tape, mud, finish sanding, and best practices. I will say this - if I want popcorn ceilings it is a discount. They only have to put a first coat of mud and tap on the seam areas. It is way way quicker and it is almost skill free once you get the application thickness down. It isn't hiding bad mud/tape - it requires almost none.
    – DMoore
    Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 18:10

2 Answers 2


What you have is a drywall ceiling that has had popcorn sprayed over it. You can paint over it but you'll have to repair any gouges made from scraping off the popcorn and then prime it. To remove the popcorn, spray water on it, let it soak in for a few minutes and then scrape it off with a mud knife. The larger the mud knife, the less you'll damage the drywall ceiling. It's really a messy job so cover the floor up real good.


Like Jack said this is drywall which is as expected. But let's dig into your picture a little.

It looks like you oversaturated the ceiling and almost put too much water on it. I have taken down many a popcorn ceiling and you basically have two choices that make the job easy.

  1. You water and SAND. There are actually tools that do both. I have seen guys use large steel bristle cleaning brushes, big orbital pads, and everything in between. But they weren't scraping.

  2. You water water water water little by little until the area is ready to just fall off. This is my method - not saying it is the best as I have seen method 1 been done much faster. I use a vinegar and water solution and I fill up multiple spray bottles (because I have two hands). I spray and area with a heavy mist stream. I go to next area then next. After about 15 minutes I go back to first area and hit it again - albeit not as much - and then go through each area. Once I come back to the first area the third time I use my hands to "rub" the popcorn off to test the saturation. If the water has saturated correctly I should see it almost wet down to the drywall and it should pull off a chunk. If it isn't like this I go through and hit each area again until it is ready. Then I use a 24" drywall knife to scrape off everything.

It looks like you oversaturated the ceiling without letting it sit long enough and then scraped it off too hard because the water hadn't loosened it up enough. I have a little expertise here because I made the same mistake on my first 5-6 ceilings.

  • So what happened in my case was that I didn't have a proper pressure sprayer, but rather just a regular sprayer for flowers. I sprayed some onto the ceiling. Thinking that's enough, I started scraping the popcorns. It's hard, but I did get some off. I sprayed a bit more water, then scrape, and repeat. This is very ineffective and what's causing pealing of the cardboard and the water stain in the ceiling. I later bought a proper $10 pressure sprayer from Lowes, added the pressure, and spray to the ceiling. Voilà, scraping afterwards becomes very effortless.
    – ssgao
    Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 2:35
  • The whole point of my answer is to keep layering on moisture until the popcorn is saturated and has "sit" in water for a period of time. You should not be diluging the ceiling with water as this will make the actual drywall wet and you start scraping off all the paper - which is way way more time/work. I am not sure how a pressure sprayer helps this unless you get just the right amount on it. I have never used more than spray bottles. Really hot water and vinegar are way more useful than pressurizing the water.
    – DMoore
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 0:06

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