Love them or hate them, popcorn (or acoustic) ceilings can be found in houses all over the United States. Our house was built in 1982 and has popcorn ceilings in every single room except the two bathrooms and the kitchen-- yes, even the garage! Read on to find out why they exist and why we're choosing to have them removed from our home.
Popcorn ceilings came into existence in the late 1950s and were used for the next 30 or so years in residential construction. Believe it or not, but they were actually once considered quite trendy. Builders loved them because spraying popcorn on ceilings was easier and faster than finishing and painting ceilings, and the rough texture could be used to hide defects and stains. They touted popcorn ceilings to consumers as acoustic ceilings and claimed that the ceilings would help insulate sound in consumers' homes.
When popcorn ceilings were invented, asbestos was one of the main ingredients-- asbestos was what gave the ceilings their rough texture. However, asbestos was banned for use in ceiling treatments in 1977. Builders who continued to use popcorn ceilings after 1977 switched asbestos out for styrofoam. Since our house was built in 1982, we have styrofoam popcorn ceilings. If your house was built before 1979, you should have your popcorn ceilings tested for asbestos before painting them or having them removed. You can read more about asbestos testing here.
The popularity of popcorn ceilings declined considerably after the asbestos ban. In recent years, they seem to be viewed very negatively. Many people dislike popcorn ceilings because they "date" a house-- since popcorn ceilings aren't frequently used in modern construction, you can generally tell how old a house is by whether or not it has popcorn ceilings. This doesn't bother me. What bothers me are the other common complaints about popcorn ceilings, which are complaints that I share: popcorn ceilings trap dirt and dust, are difficult to clean, are easily damaged, and are extremely difficult to patch or otherwise repair. Popcorn ceilings are also difficult to paint if you choose to go that route. The texture can be accidentally knocked off while painting, and it soaks up a great deal of paint.
As you can see in this close-up, the popcorn ceilings in our house were painted with high gloss white paint by a previous homeowner. The paint helps keep the texture intact after it's been painted, but the ceilings still trap dirt and dust, are difficult to clean, and are extremely difficult to patch or otherwise repair. In addition to all of these cons, we simply don't like the way that they look. The high gloss paint made the ceilings shiny and thus draws even more attention to them.
Next week, we will be embarking on our biggest interior home improvement project yet: getting our popcorn ceilings removed. After talking to close to a dozen licensed contractors (as well as our family and friends) about it shortly after we moved into our house last summer, we decided to outsource the labor for this project. There are a few different reasons why we decided to hire someone else to do the job:
- As I mentioned before, our popcorn ceilings are painted with high gloss paint, which is going to make removing them much more difficult. Normally, popcorn ceilings can be sprayed with water and scraped to remove the texture. (You can view a tutorial for this here.) Our ceilings are going to have to be scored so that the water can get under the paint, sprayed with water, and scraped.
- We have over 1,000 square feet of popcorn ceilings that need to be removed-- this is a huge undertaking.
- We have a 10 to 12-foot vaulted ceiling in our great room. We looked into the cost of renting scaffolding and/or ladders, and it was several hundred dollars. This coupled with the cost of all of the other materials was over half of the price of contracting someone else to do the work.
- We have no experience applying spray texture. Anyone who has tried to patch a textured wall or ceiling before can tell you just how difficult it is to do! I have a lot of respect for people who do it for a living and do it well. We're going to have our ceilings lightly retextured to match our walls. You can see an example of what the texture looks like in the picture above on the right-- that is what the ceilings in our bathrooms and kitchen look like. (The picture is actually a picture of the division between the popcorn ceiling over our dining area and the lightly textured ceiling over our kitchen.) The retexturing will help hide any imperfections in the drywall and integrate seamlessly with our walls. We didn't like the idea of having smooth ceilings with textured walls-- it just seemed odd to us.