We removed popcorn ceiling from our 1980s condo by spraying water and scraping. We sanded it smooth, but now the paper is peeling in spots when we paint it with Zinsser primer/ceiling paint with a roller. Any idea what we can do besides having new drywall professionally installed?


  • Skim coating or re-texturing the ceiling will give the best results but that's not an easy job for a novice. Try using a surface sealer like Gardz and then prime over that.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 26 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


The entire reason why popcorn ceilings exist is to minimize the time, money and callbacks for new ceilings.

When popcorn ceilings are prepped they are taped with a very very minimal amount of drywall mud. If the installer is really good they don't even sand it. It just needs enough to cover. The popcorn is then blown in and this secures the tape.

When removing it is all about how the original install went. If they used hardly any mud you will surely loosen the tape. If they mudded well then sometimes you can get by with not having to redo the tape. I can't remember one popcorn ceiling I have removed where I did not go back and mud anything at all.

So it is very very normal to have to redo some or even all seams. It isn't a long job and can be done in 2-3 coats. If you get quick drying (40 min set) it is possible to have all 3 coats sanded in one day. We don't even think about cleaning up the popcorn fully until we are sure we are done sanding. And no you do not need new drywall but you do have to get the tape mudded correctly. Often the quicker and less mud you try to put, the longer the job. Because when it gets wet again (paint), it start peeling and often in certain spots which makes the mudding after botchy and take even longer.

  • Hi, thanks for your reply. It doesn't seem to be the taped joints that's the problem, it seems actually to be the paper layer on the drywall. The popcorn was removed 3 or 4 weeks ago, but the AC was turned off and the condo was sitting with a few windows open. The condo is on the coast of South Carolina, so it's not super hot yet but it is fairly humid. I wonder if the dampness is the problem.
    – Eric
    Commented May 26 at 19:19
  • If that is the case you need to skim coat the whole ceiling. I have done this many times. One of my least favorite things to do in the world.
    – DMoore
    Commented May 26 at 19:25
  • We went to scrape where it was peeling and it appears that it's the combination primer / ceiling paint that's peeling when we try to apply a second coat, not the paper. I'm thinking the paint isn't sticking well due to the humidity and the type of paint we're using. Thinking we'll scrape the little lose stuff off and then let it cure for a couple weeks with the AC on. Then follow up with more paint that's a primer-only. The primer/ceiling paint has been on for 24 hours and the peeling problems mostly started when we tried doing a second coat after letting it dry for 8-12 hours.
    – Eric
    Commented May 26 at 22:00
  • I could probably tell with a picture. You are saying different things. If you do the wrong thing for the problem it is just a waste of time/money.
    – DMoore
    Commented May 26 at 23:00

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