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Cross post from HomeImprovement subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/HomeImprovement/comments/gphjmr/seeking_input_on_popcorn_ceiling_removal/

So... somebody decided we should undertake the task of removing the popcorn ceiling from her bedroom, even though neither of us has ever done a project like this before. Several people have recommended against it, but some random drywall contractors on the internet said it's easy, so why not try it! 🙄

Before I go on, I'll point out that we tested for asbestos before we started. This is a 33 year old apartment building in Vancouver, Canada. She owns the apartment. We believe the popcorn was unpainted.

We started a few days ago with a wet scrape to remove the popcorn. We sprayed straight water with a garden sprayer, then started scraping within 3-5 minutes. It went well at first, or so we thought, but now we are doubting ourselves. The popcorn seemed to come off easily, except near the walls, where it was more laborious to remove.

How most of the ceiling looks right now

As you can see in the photo, there's a lot of old mud left. At this point, we decided to use the pole sander with 150 grit sandscreen (and the shop-vac kit) to clean it up more. This helped to remove some more old mud, but didn't take much more off (that photo was taken after sanding).

After further research and consideration, we decided it may require more scraping. Most blogs/videos/etc that we've seen show the post-scrape ceiling looking like it is down to clean drywall with mudded seams. Dry scraping wasn't working, so we decided to try wet scraping again, this time letting the ceiling soak for a little longer. We sprayed, waiting 15-20 minutes, and attempted to scrape. It still didn't really work, so we sprayed again, with a drop of Palm Olive dish soap in a gallon of water, let it soak for 10 minutes, then scraped. It still didn't take much more off. The most success I had was pressing the blade to the ceiling at about 45 degrees and putting nearly all my force behind it, causing the blade to eventually buckle, and remove more old mud. I worry that this technique will end up damaging the drywall and joint tape.

The area in the bottom-left has been scraped more aggressively, as I described

Another look at that area

And a zoomed out view

So, here's where we are looking for input.

  1. Should the entire ceiling be scraped to look like this section?
  2. Do the darker patches mean I have damaged the drywall by being so aggressive?
  3. Should we stop scraping and just sand with the 150 grit sandscreen a whole lot more?
  4. Should we sand with something coarser than 150?
  5. Should we forget about further scraping and sanding, and just skim coat/mud over the entire ceiling now?

Additionally, are there any recommendations for a particular joint compound? We originally purchased a low-dust variety, but we have since read that it is a poor choice. We are planning to purchase an All-Purpose variety, which seems to have better reviews and may be more suitable. One resource mentioned that an All-Purpose variety is good for the initial coats, but that we should use something harder for the final coat. Do you advise otherwise?

Finally, there was also one section of the ceiling near the wall that was especially difficult to remove the popcorn from. We worry that we have damaged the joint tape in that spot. I only have one poor photo of it right now, I will add more tomorrow after we take a closer look.

Possible joint tape damage where the ceiling meets the wall (lousy photo, will update tomorrow)

Thanks in advance for any input!

  • are you sure that you have drywall on the ceiling? ... you would not happen to be in a concrete building? – jsotola May 24 at 4:04
  • Thanks @jsotola. It is a concrete building, but we're pretty certain it is a drywall ceiling. We can see nails, which I assume are affixing the drywall to joists. We also hear a considerable amount of noise from the apartment above, which I wouldn't expect if it was concrete between stories. – Dave Hughes May 24 at 4:10
  • If you really want it to be smooth, you could put 1/4" drywall over the mess but that would entail a bit of work. You could google 'ceiling panels' for other options. – Steve Wellens May 24 at 4:45
  • Thanks @Steve Wellens. Yes, the goal is to get it smooth and paint it. I suppose we could add a new layer of drywall, but at that point, I'm not sure it's any cheaper or easier than removing the existing drywall and replacing it entirely. As I understand it, the point of skim coating is to get a smooth surface for painting, but with so much texture remaining, I think it would take several coats of mud to hide the imperfections. This is exactly what I am looking for input on, if we should just start skim coating, or scrape/sand much more aggressively to get down to the drywall first. – Dave Hughes May 24 at 5:14
  • Way to long did not read!!!! Popcorn ceilings on drywall is very simple to remove. Put a tarp down , use a water sprayer and get the popcorn damp , a backpack sprayer or a hose with a fine mist both work well. Use proper PPE , respirator and clothing , scrape the popcorn off it works great with 12-18 wide mud knife or wallpaper blade. Once the texture is moist it almost falls off with a slight rub from the flat blade of a wide mudd blade. Roll up the tarp Put in another he trash bag and dispose as local requirements specify. My location a dump is ok if it goes to a reload may need triple bag – Ed Beal May 24 at 5:51

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