I want to replace the drywall ceiling in my house. It's old and has been painted over a million times. Home was built in the 50s. How do I replace the ceiling without replacing the insulation? Or if I take out the insulation to replace it with new, is there a best way of doing it? Insulation is all blown in cellulose. Thought about just shoveling it into bags and into a dumpster. That would take a while. Home is one story. 950 sq ft. Seattle area.

  • 3
    Unless the old insulation is in bad shape (e.g. mold), there's no need to throw it away. Reuse the old and add some new insulation at the same time. You'll end up requiring much less new insulation.
    – BMitch
    Nov 26, 2012 at 12:08

8 Answers 8


Maybe you should consider putting a layer of 3/8" sheetrock over the existing ceiling. Find the strapping or ceiling joists, mark them on the wall, them go right over the old damaged ceilings. This will save you a ton of work and mess, and not waste the insulation. With the money you save, install extra insulation!

  • 7
    And if you do it yourself, remember to use longer screws since you'll be going through an extra layer of drywall. What I've learned is to take the combined thickness of all drywall layers and multiply that by two to determine the minimum drywall screw length. That always makes me feel safer, especially if it's the ceiling. Nov 26, 2012 at 15:22
  • 3
    Also, trace out the wiring so if you miss the joists with those longer screws, you miss the misapplied wiring that got lazy stapled from below and too close to the bottom edge. Nov 26, 2012 at 16:21
  • Great Comments guys Nov 26, 2012 at 22:06
  • Also, when doing this, consider using extenders for boxes behind ceiling lights and/or fans. They're readily available.
    – jbbenni
    Jul 17, 2015 at 19:04

So here is what I did. I cut 3 ft x 3 ft square holes in the ceiling. Then I made multiple plastic bags, each out of one 10 x 25 sheet of plastic. Used packaging tape to tape up both sides of the "bag".

Then I attached the bag to the hole using lots and lots of staples. In my 1000 sq. foot home I had 5 holes cut at different points in the house. Then I spent three nights in the attic digging out insulation with a small but long rake and dumping it down the holes.

The most time-consuming part was creating and stapling up the bags. I probably spent 10 hours in the attic actually cleaning out the attic. The rest of the time was spent taping the bags and attaching them to the holes. If I'd had someone else with me taping bags while I filled other bags, it would have gone much better.

Also, I would get knee pads for kneeling on joists. And a board about 4 ft. by 1 ft. to sit or lay on while you're reaching for insulation tucked away in corners. I used goggles, respirator, head lamp, and 3m disposable coveralls with hood. Do not attempt this in the summer. I did it at the beginning of December and it was bad.

I did not encounter any rodents, or insect nests. Luckily, I did it right after a home inspector had been through the attic so I was pretty sure nothing was living up there.

When I was done, I cut the bags down, sealed the top with more tape, and rolled them out of the house into the dumpster in my front yard. Just be sure not to fill the bags too full. I had to call two friends to help me get one of them out.

  • Very nice and creative as the ceiling was coming down anyway. Congrats on getting it done. Dec 11, 2012 at 7:13

Basically, a leafrake and garbage bags.

No vacuum cleaner has enough capacity or is clog proof enough. They make cyclone converters for steel garbage cans for use with sawdust removal around woodworking equipment, but keeping the stuff moving through the hose into the can is a major part of the operation. If you attempt to use a plastic garbage can, you will have massive static buildup.

So I got two leaf rakes, removed the handle on one of them for close in operation, and then got one of the smaller flowerbed rakes. Mine was blown in fiberglass, nasty stuff that required a respirator and tight fitting gogles in addition to gloves and thick sleeves. Dust still gets everywhere. Rake it in, ball it up, shove it in the bag.

  • 1
    Fiasco's right, there's no easy way to do it. Remember to wear a mask and eye protection for all the dust if you do decide to pull it all down. If it was me I'd find a way to live with it if possible rather than attack that job!
    – GdD
    Nov 26, 2012 at 10:28
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    It's one of those "once in a lifetime jobs". You start in knowing it's gonna be nasty, after the first hour, realize it's far nastier than imagined and once having completed it satisfactorily, pray you never have to do it again. Also, if your joists are 2ft centers, take a 28" x 18" piece of 5/8" plywood, screw cleats across it that are 3/8" shy of fitting the space between the joists and screw them to the plywood so it stays between the joists when dropped in place. Makes a nice mobile catwalk so you don't die of acrobatic joist walking and knee grooves. Nov 26, 2012 at 16:14
  • I know exactly what you mean! I've had a few like that in the past.
    – GdD
    Nov 26, 2012 at 16:17
  • I've heard of people rigging up a leaf blower in "suck" mode and using that to fill bags. Videos can be found on youtube. Jan 7, 2014 at 21:28

Professional, this is done with a glorified vacuum cleaner.

But why not just slap a new layer of drywall under the existing ceiling?

Or patch it: houses patch really well, and lathe & plaster is reparable even on ceiling and even if sagging.


I know this is an old question but I have taken many a ceiling down and never removed the insulation from the house. Simply push all of the insulation to one area and then do the ceiling of the other area, flip the insulation back over and you are done. All you need is a leaf blower, broom, and hands.


Get hooks and a tarp with rope through eye holes. Hang the tarp with the eye holes, use a huge tarp that hangs enough to turn it in to a big bag.

Go up there with a blower. Put it against a the end so you don't blow past the hole in the ceiling.


Adding a layer of sheetrock is probably the easiest solution in your case, but in cases where you must remove the ceiling (installing AC ductwork or repairing ceiling or attic structure) you can rent an Insulation Removal Vacuum. These are similar to insulation blowers, but in reverse. They use a 20 HP motor attached to a turbine to create suction and 20 ft long bags to capture the insulation. The insulation can either be thrown away or reblown in after the work is complete.


Go to your local insulation distributor and rent a vacuum machine for $50 and suck it all out in 30 minutes into a bag or dumpster and if you choose re blow it or do yourself a favor and ditch the cellulose for better performing fiberglass such as L77 from Owens corning. You can also rent a blower to re blow it back in for about $30. This way it is done right and your insulation is properly installed. A leaf blower will not work and you will no doubt be losing efficiency.

  • Your answer is probably correct, but could be improved via paragraphs, and by clarifying that the efficiency here is insulation R value and not the speed or performance of the blower.
    – gbronner
    Apr 29, 2016 at 23:40

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