Over the years the popcorn ceiling (over drywall and painted, I believe) in my bathroom has started to "sag" in places. Recently pieces started to fall off and I decided it was time to remove it and repaint it.

Near the sagging areas was super easy - you could just pry a strip up and snap it off (resulting in the rectangular boundary in the image below). The rest, not so much. Seems like anywhere mud was used the popcorn is still firmly attached.

Watched a bunch of videos and have made a tiny bit of progress by wetting it down and scraping but I'm not enjoying the process at all.

  • will take days of effort at this rate
  • not sure if it's bad when I scrape mud off
  • I've damaged the drywall seam tape (?) in at least one place
  • not sure if it's a big deal that I'm staining and marking up the drywall...

Is there any hope of me finishing this job without learning how to mud? If not, I'll just call in the pros now.

(Popcorn and mud on nearby wall tested negatively for asbestos, house built in 1990 in Canada.)

Update: Wetted a test area until it started to drip four times, 20 minutes apart. Adjacent drywall started to look wet. Still doesn't come off easily. I'm thinking I need to go the opposite direction, and add new popcorn to replace the stuff I removed.

enter image description here


It really isn't that hard. Wet it down thoroughly and let it soak for a while (10-15 minutes) Wet it down again if it seems too dry. Then scrape it off using about a 6-9" blade. It should come off easily. Have good floor covering so you can easily dispose of the goop later. There is also the possibility of asbestos if built before the mid-1970s. IMHO, wetting it down thoroughly and scraping it off would produce minimal exposure to asbestos, but you still might want to wear a mask. I might get snipped for this, but the real dangers from asbestos was in industrial settings (ship building, etc.) where workers installing asbestos insulation all day every day, not a rare, low exposure incident. Yeah, I'll probably get snipped for that, but I just don't think the panic over any level of asbestos is justified.

EDIT: Oops, missed the last line of your OP. You said it was tested, but didn't tell us the results of the test. Given that it was built in 1990 it probably came back negative. That's a good thing!

  • This is the way to do it, messy but the only way.... and disposable floor coverings+1
    – JACK
    Aug 8 '20 at 0:20
  • Hopefully "thoroughly" is the missing ingredient. I'll give it at least on more try. Thanks!
    – Raven
    Aug 8 '20 at 1:09
  • Thanks for the resp Raven. I have even heard of using a garden hose with a sprayer on the end to thoroughly and I mean THOROUGHLY wet down the popcorn. Patching afterwards with mud isn't that hard....just try it and I'm sure you'll get the hang of it. Thin the mud enough so it's easy to spread. Just practice and learn. You can do it. Aug 8 '20 at 1:37
  • See update above in the main post; I don't believe any amount of water is going to take it off. Maybe because it was painted/sealed?
    – Raven
    Aug 9 '20 at 0:06

In the end I failed to remove the popcorn, and paid a professional to simply cover it up - some sort of concrete + mud layer that was smoothed and painted over. Popcorn is hidden, ceiling is slightly thicker.

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