We have a stomped ceiling on the first floor in our new home (built in 1969) that we want to get rid of. Every contractor we've talked to says that scraping it off isn't an option because it's been painted over, so we are opting to install another layer of drywall over the existing textured ceiling. We could also rip down the ceiling, but that seems like more work than we want to do right now, but if that's the ideal scenario, please comment on that.

Since I have the opportunity, I want to install recessed lighting because I can cut into the current ceiling and run electrical and cut as many holes as I need to in the drywall since the ceiling will be covered over.

My question is: Would it be better / easier to use remodel or new construction fixtures?

Here are the scenarios I am currently envisioning as options.

  1. Install remodel cans into the existing ceiling and then drywall over this with the new ceiling and cut holes for the cans in the new 1/2 inch drywall. This would mean that the lip of the remodel can is stuck between the new and old drywall and the trim that I attach to the can would have 1/2 of drywall between it and the actual can. This is what I'm leaning toward, for ease of installation, but is it a problem to have the trim 1/2 in away from the can, with the trim against the drywall?

  2. Cut bigger holes in the old drywall and use new construction cans. This seems like it'd be more work, but I could lower the edge of the can down to the edge bottom edge of the new drywall, so the trim is right up against the can.

  3. Install remodel cans into the old drywall and wire them up, then take them down when the new drywall goes up and then cut new holes in the same places and re-install them so the lip is flush to the new drywall (but I would have to modify the clips so they can accommodate 1" thick drywall).

  4. Bring down the old ceiling completely and use new construction cans. (seems like a lot of work)

The only other concern I have is that 1-2 rooms are additions to the house where there is no attic access, but I believe (hope!) there is insulation above them. Do either the remodel or new construction install lend themselves to making sure that I get adequate insulation above the cans if I can only access them from below? I am using IC rated cans even when there's no insulation.

Thanks for your input and advice!

EDIT: I did remove the ceilings and it was a good thing too, found several issues including HVAC vents cut off without being replaced so that a few rooms didn't have heat or cooling!

  • Comment as I'm not answering your direct question: Note that popcorn texture can contain asbestos. You should get yours tested. naturalhandyman.com/iip/infpai/popcornoff.html
    – Tim B
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 13:45
  • @TimB Actually it's a stomped ceiling, I just edited it. Is that a possibility to contain asbestos?
    – Drewsonian
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 14:50

5 Answers 5


Scenario #4

I would just remove all the old drywall and use new construction fixtures. It may seem like a lot of work but all these other problems go away. Plus my "drywall guy" would throw a hissy fit trying to finish a layer over another layer with a texture. The drywall won't lay flat like it should and finishing will cost you more money or it won't look right.

Pulling down old drywall goes a lot faster than you think, especially if it is nailed instead of screwed. Once you get started large pieces can be pulled down.

One problem is the ceiling drywall is usually installed first so the wallboard is supporting it (trapping it) at the edge of the room. While pulling it down the wallboard could be damaged if it is not cut loose. Replacing it will require inserting the new ceiling drywall above the wallboard.

Good luck!

  • 2
    +1 And it makes wiring the new cans much easier and saves time/money.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 11:32
  • Thanks! The drywall installer said no problem to hanging and finishing over the existing but I'd prefer not to lose 1/2 in of ceiling on my 8' ceilings... I just wonder what my insulation looks like over the addition part of the house. We remediated mold in the main attic so it may be a really good idea to get above the addition to see if there are any problems there too.
    – Drewsonian
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 11:37
  • Is it usually a problem to get the ceiling board out from on top of the wall board? Do I need to cut the ceiling along the walls and then pull out the leftover board from above the wallboard?
    – Drewsonian
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 11:39
  • 2
    It is no problem, Many people cut the tape in the corner, I prefer not too, since it will aid in removing the old tape and give room for the new tape to go in and not allow the joint to grow thicker by adding more tape over the existing. I know it is a small detail it it should not matter, but when left to my own devices, it is what I do. A drywall worker will not see this type of detail through, too time consuming.
    – Jack
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 17:00
  • Jack may have a better idea especially if you wet the tape at the corner and it peels clean.
    – ArchonOSX
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 1:32

I was going to suggest you find a better contractor, as painted popcorn can be scraped. (Though it is more work than raw popcorn.)

But when you started talking moisture/insulation concerns, I came around to the 'tear down the old and put up new' option. As noted, it'll make wiring easier along with the other benefits. Don't worry about the ceiling drywall pinched at the top by the wall drywall -- just cut it flush.

  • Actually, I misspoke and it's stomped ceiling that has been painted semi-gloss (can't believe they used semi-gloss, it makes it pop so much. And actually one contractor said they could scrape it, but it would be just as much labor as removing and replacing.
    – Drewsonian
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 14:37

Recessed lighting which penetrates your building envelope can be a huge source of energy loss (both for cooling and heating). In your case, any penetration into your attic may have that effect because the ceiling is probably serving as the air barrier.

I cite some good articles below. But in brief, the cans require (obviously) huge holes in your ceiling which unwanted airflow. However, you can do this right and seal it properly and avoid that issue. I believe that really good installers would build an airtight, foam-sealed box around the can in the attic, as well as insulating properly.

Note that there are some nice LED options which look a lot like cans but are not actually recessed; these may cause fewer problems. But personally I prefer traditional screw-in fixtures using LED bulbs. These seem easier to me to maintain in the long run, since you can just replace the bulb if needed, rather than the entire fixture.

This is not an issue in ceilings which are between interior floors.


  • 1
    I've done a ton of reading on this issue and thankfully most of the cans are between the first and second floor. I will definitely air seal the others as well as possible.
    – Drewsonian
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 12:00

I vote for #4, tear down. It is not that much more work. just the time to do the demolition (and i like demolition but thats me.) You are already doing a complete new drywall and have an open space give you a chance to inspect everything for problems and rewire, insulate, vapor barrier and new construction boxes attached to structure. I also vote for LED LIGHTS.

What is "stomped", dancing on the ceiling? , textured with mud? the answer to that does not change my answer.


Whenever dealing with ceilings and you need to get rid of texture, do major repairs, rescrew, electrical, any kind of major work...

It is always faster, cheaper, and better to take down drywall. Been doing this work for years. This is a hard and fast rule because there is always "something else" that comes up or you want to do.

The only reason to not take down the drywall is if you are living in that space or worried about collateral damage.

  • 1
    Yep! There definitely were several things that needed to be fixed! Including two cold air returns and a supply vent that were completely cut when they put in a doorway and never replaced! 😕😕
    – Drewsonian
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 11:58

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