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I am removing non-asbestos popcorn ceilings on a 2200 sqft house. All walls in the house are knockdown texture.

After the popcorn comes off, I can either smooth out the drywall or apply knockdown texture to match the walls. Either way I don't really have a preference.

My question is how do these two compare in terms of cost, labor, and skill required? Assume that all specialty tools would need to be purchased/rented and the entire interior will be repainted after.

Also, if I smooth out the ceilings, will it look unusual with the knockdown walls?

  • please consider adding photographs of your finished work and any lessons learned – gatorback Jul 18 '17 at 13:35
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If you remove the popcorn texture with as few gouges and mars as possible than a smooth ceiling is the faster and least costly. Of course this is completely dependent on your skills with repairing and patching drywall. The extra step taken to apply a knockdown texture (which is a challenging task) will add to the total investment for the job when compared to skim coating. Skim coating the ceiling is patching and filling any irregularities so that it's appearance is uniform and smooth. It is not a substantial difference in labor and materials, approximately less than half if texture is removed attentively. Conversely, if the ceiling has many divots and uneven sections than applying a textured knockdown would be faster because it would hide these imperfections that add to the labor of skimming coat them. Lastly, having a contrasting (smooth) ceiling finish, although completely subjective, is perfectly acceptable in any style motif.

  • I am going to remove the popcorn as carefully as possible and then apply a skim coat. If it seems like the mud job under the popcorn is really sloppy I will consider the alternative. Thanks. – Andrew Marshall Nov 19 '15 at 18:56
  • Good on ya. 2 tips, if I may. Thin coats are better than thick coats, in terms of sanding mess. (Though you might need one more coat...) And if you want to see where all the inconsistencies are while you're working, shine a bright light at the ceiling sideways. – User95050 Nov 20 '15 at 0:23
  • @User95050 Thanks for the good information. I will keep the first trial coat as thin as possible and see how it does. – Andrew Marshall Nov 20 '15 at 13:30
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If you're approaching this from a diy perspective, smooth ceilings require more skill and are more time consuming, as the mud job has to be better. (Think 2/3 coats with sanding between.) The mud job under texture can be a little more rough and still produce decent results. (Chances are you could do one touch up coat after scraping and be done.) Texture requires 1/2 day rental of a compressor, hopper, and mixing drill. The rest of the necessary tools are similar. Texture isn't hard to shoot, but you will need to plastic off all walls/floor. (Do this before you start the rental clock ticking.) One of the joys of texture is that if you do a really crappy job, you take it off before it dries and do over.

So, long story short, texture easier and faster but slightly more expensive in terms of pure outlay. (But not if time is money -- then it's much cheaper.)

If you opted for smooth ceilings with textured walls, that'd look fine.

  • Both of these answers make assumptions about the quality of the mud job underneath the popcorn. One seems to assume it's pretty good; the other seems to assume that it's pretty basic. Maybe do a quick exploratory scrape on a long seam (8') to see what you've actually got. (If it's an 18" wide swath of mud, it'll become smooth really easily; if it's 6" wide, you'll have a lot of work ahead to make it smooth.) Personally, I've never seen a stellar mud job under popcorn. – Aloysius Defenestrate Nov 19 '15 at 15:18
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You would not be losing anything, by trying to skim one room, as a trial.

Skimming will take a lot more time, to get acceptable results, but is not impossible - I've done it - the hard part is all of the sanding, and moving your lights around. Not a job for someone with neck problems - you will get sore from all of the looking up.

In most cases, the original finish under the texture, will be of low quality (rough sanded only), and may show through, once you start scraping off the texture.

Any kind of texture, will go on much more quickly than skimming (no sanding), but not necessarily be cheaper (more mud).

For a knockdown, it helps to have a helper, to roll on the base, while you knock or stomp/knock. You could stomp right out of the bucket too, but it won't hide as much, or be as easy to keep consistent (thick/thin... water content as it cures, etc).

  • I am going to do the garage as a trial run since I don't care if the ceiling is perfect in there. If I can't get it smooth or if it is taking an unacceptable amount of time, then I will use that ceiling to practice the knockdown and then continue it throughout the house if results are acceptable. – Andrew Marshall Nov 20 '15 at 13:36
  • For scraping, try to use as wide a blade as possible (12-15" should be good), to keep from gouging. A long handled knife, will give more control too - as you can you two hands, and more of your upper body, to control your angle of attack (i.e. easier). – tahwos Nov 23 '15 at 2:54
  • CLICK>>google search long handle drywall knife – tahwos Nov 23 '15 at 2:57
  • The flatter you keep it to the ceiling, the smoother, and less likely to gouge, it will go. – tahwos Nov 23 '15 at 2:59

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