The 4 Ways To Cover Popcorn Ceiling Without Removing It (Step By Step)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

popcorn ceiling

I recently needed to cover the popcorn ceiling in my living room without removing it. We were renovating the house, and only the living room had a popcorn ceiling. We didn’t want to remove the popcorn ceiling as it takes a professional to remove it; it is rather expensive. We spoke to a contractor to find out how to cover the popcorn ceiling.

Here are the four most effortless ways to cover the popcorn ceiling without removing it: 

  1. You can install drywall over it, 
  2. You can install a grid-track system, also called a dropped ceiling, 
  3. You can add more popcorn ceiling and paint over it,  
  4. You can install wooden tongue and groove planks,

After speaking to our contractor, we knew we had made the right decision. Our contractor gave us quite a few options to cover the popcorn ceiling in our living room. However, I thought there might be other people out there who could benefit from our contractor’s expert opinion and the information I gathered on this topic.

4 Ways To Cover Popcorn Ceiling Without Removing It 

When you are fixing your home, the roof is one of the most critical parts to renovate, and the situation gets worse when you are dealing with a popcorn ceiling. Popcorn ceilings were at the height of popularity in the late 1970s. But unfortunately, no one had an idea at the time that the asbestos used in making the popcorn ceiling was dangerous.

They became popular among contractors and builders because it was easy to cover flaws in the ceiling and made the drywaller’s job a lot easier. Unfortunately, these ceilings are a nightmare to clean and paint. The ceiling can crumble and create a thin layer of dust; the dust is a serious health hazard if you breathe it in or your skin comes into contact with it.

Removing a popcorn ceiling is a problem because of the health risk, and you need to hire a licensed professional to get the popcorn adequately removed. However, there are a few ways to cover up popcorn ceilings instead of removing them. Below are a few ways you can do that. 

You must use the proper safety equipment when working with popcorn ceilings. The asbestos in many of these dust particles that might come loose if you accidentally bump it is hazardous to your health. Here is what you will need:

  1. Safety goggles
  2. Dust mask with respirator
  3. Overhalls with long sleeves
  4. Gloves to cover any exposed skin on your hands

1. Cover It Using Drywall


Covering your popcorn ceiling with drywall is one of the best ways to give your ceiling new life, and it’s a long-term solution. It’s affordable and highly effective. It can look intimidating, but with the right equipment, you should have no trouble covering the popcorn ceiling with drywall, and you can change the color as much as you like.

What You Will Need

Here is what you will need to drywall over the popcorn ceiling:

  • Chalk line
  • Caulk gun
  • Drywall saw
  • Drywall sander
  • Framing square
  • Mud pan
  • Knockdown knife
  • Taping Knife
  • Safety glasses
  • Utility knife
  • Metal shears
  • Sheetrock lift
  • 2” drywall screws
  • ½” drywall sheets
  • Painters tape
  • Joint compound
  • Tear-away bead if necessary
  • Mud rings
  • Electronic stud finder (Optional)

How To Install Drywalling Over Popcorn Ceiling

When buying drywall to cover your popcorn ceiling, you should try avoiding drywall butt joints where the lengthwise borders where two sheets of drywall meet. Instead, it would work best if you could find drywall that spans the room’s length. Here is how you do it:

  1. Find the joists in the popcorn ceiling using a joint finder or probing nails; mark the joists with a chalk line. Then, use mud rings to extend the electrical boxes.
  2. Next, you must cut your drywall sheets so the ends meet in the middle of the joists. Then, you can use a framing square to make square adjustments.
  3. You need to use a drywall lift to hoist the drywall up into position, leaving at least ¼-inch gaps between the drywall and the popcorn ceiling.
  4. Make sure the screws line up with the joists and fasten the drywall along the sides and center, using screws.
  5. Measure and cut the tear-away bead to fit the section. With one bead tight against the wall, fasten the tear-away bead to the wall using a staple gun; ensure the staples are at least 8-inches apart.
  6. Use your taping knife, joint compound, and mud pan to mud the drywall edge along with the bead. Also, mud the joints and cover the screw holes.
  7. Leave the mud to dry and sand it down till it’s even.
  8. Paint your new ceiling, then tear off the flange from the tear-away.
  9. Lastly, caulk the gap between the ceiling and drywall and touch up the paint.

2. Cover It Using A Grid-Track System (dropped ceiling)

Using a grid-track or dropped ceiling method is a great way to get a new ceiling that looks good and covers the popcorn ceiling without compromising the safety. These are large acoustic panels quickly put in place using metal clips after the metal tracks are attached to the ceiling joists.

What You Will Need 

Here is what you will need to install a grid-track system over the popcorn ceiling:

  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Stepladder
  • Pencil 
  • Drywall saw
  • Screw gun
  • Caulk gun
  • Circular saw
  • Carpenters level
  • Screwdriver
  • Brad nailer
  • Insulation panel seam tape (optional)
  • Insulation panel adhesive (optional)
  • Foam insulation panels (optional)
  • Grid track system
  • Drywall screws
  • Ceiling box extender
  • Crown mold or trim

How To Install A Grid-Track System Over Popcorn Ceiling

The more modern version of dropped ceilings is grid track systems. They use newer and more stylish panels that look like wood and are more lightweight. They can last for decades. Here is how you do it:

  1. You should use the stud finder to find and mark the middle of the joists. Mark the middle of the joists on the opposite side of the room and mirror the marks a few inches down to be visible after installing the insulation.
  1. If you want to insulate the ceiling, you can use thin insulation panels that you install flush against the ceiling surface.
  1. Mark and measure the joist reference lines to show where you will install the tracks. Ensure you won’t run the tracks over electrical boxes.
  1. Using the grid-plank system instructions, attach the metal tracks to the ceiling joists at the suggested spacing. It is vital that the spacing and tracks are correctly spaced.
  1. There should be a 2” gap between the track and the wall. If you have installed insulation, you need to ensure the screws you use are long enough to go through the insulation and the ceiling.
  1. Install the rest of the tracks. Keep in mind that if the tracks overlap, you can leave it that way; you don’t need to cut it down to size. Ensure the tracks are level and flat before moving on.
  1. Install the first row of panels by cutting the panels to run perpendicular to the tracks. The edge should face the wall. Screw the one side to the metal tracks and then secure the tongue and groove side using the metal clip provided by the manufacturer.
  1. Continue to install the rest of the panels, cutting them to the size where needed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the space between the metal clips.
  1. Make sure the end joists are staggered so they don’t line up. They should be offset by at least 16-inches.
  1. Trim the grooved edge to the correct plank width for the last row, securing them in place on the tracks. Ensure the gap between the tracks and the walls is maintained.
  1. Lastly, you need to add the trim or crown molding. Use your brad nailer to attach the trim and fill the nail holes with wood putty.

3. Cover It By Adding More (Safer) Popcorn Ceiling

popcorn ceiling

It might seem controversial, but you can add a more (safer) popcorn ceiling should you want to keep the look of the ceiling and only make it safer for you and easier to clean. It’s called skim coating, and you use more plaster to smooth out the look

What You Will Need

Here is what you will need to add more popcorn over the popcorn ceiling:

  • 5- gallon bucket
  • Joint compound
  • Mud pan
  • Roller 
  • Taping knife
  • Mud mixer
  • Drywall sander
  • Drill

How To Cover The Popcorn Ceiling With More Popcorning

It is the least expensive way to cover your popcorn ceiling and ensure a smooth-looking ceiling. In addition, you don’t need a lot of materials to get this done. Here is how:

  1. Using the large bucket and drill with a mud mixer attachment, dilute and mix the joint compound until you get a yogurt-like consistency.
  2. Working in small sections, use a roller to apply an even coat of mud to the ceiling. Be sure to scrape the mud smooth before it dries. Then, you can use the taping knife to remove the excess.
  3. Leave the first coat to dry completely. Add another one or two layers until you don’t see any popcorn texture of the original ceiling. Scrape off the excess and leave it to dry. 
  4. Sand the ceiling until the surface is smooth and paint the ceiling.

4. Cover It By Installing Wooden Planks

wooden plank

One of the easiest ways to cover a popcorn ceiling that won’t break the bank is by installing wooden planks. It requires less time, effort, and equipment and is less expensive than drywalling. It is easy enough for a DIY project. 

What You Will Need

Here is what you will need to install wooden planks over the popcorn ceiling:

  • Stud finder
  • Lightweight wooden planks 
  • Chalk line
  • Liquid nails
  • Jigsaw
  • Nailgun
  • Pencil 
  • Measuring tape
  • Nails
  • Lader 
  • Miter saw
  • Stain or paint of your choice

How To Cover The Popcorn Ceiling By Installing Wood Planks

If you decide to use wooden planks to cover the popcorn ceiling, there are two options; you can use plain planks, but there might be gaps, or you can use tongue and groove planks that fit flush together and won’t leave you with gaps. The only downside is tongue and groove planks are more expensive than plain planks. Here is how to do it:

  1. You must find out which way the ceiling joists run because you need to run your planks perpendicular to the joists. Use a stud finder to find them. 
  2. You need to stain or paint the planks before the installation. 
  3. Use a miter saw to create a staggering look at the seams by cutting the edge of every other plank. Next, use the jigsaw to trim the planks near any light fixtures.
  4. Use the liquid nails to install the first row of planks, nailing them into the marked joists to ensure they adhere properly. Leave a small gap along the edge to allow for expansion and swelling (you can cover it with trim).
  5. Snap together the remaining planks one row at a time and ensure they fit together correctly before you secure them to the ceiling.
  6. Use the liquid nails to keep them in place before securing them to the ceiling using nails. You might need to call a friend for help to get it done quicker. 
  7. After installing the entire ceiling, you need to look for any cracks or places where a nail was missed and fill it in. Then, when it’s dry, scrape off the excess to flush with the planks. 
  8. Prepare your trim and paint or stain it the desired color. Install the trim using liquid nails to round off the look. Ensure you round off the edges of the planks where there are light fixtures. 


Why remove the popcorn ceiling in your home if you can successfully cover it. Having popcorn ceiling removed is a pain because you need to hire a professional. They have the required equipment and knowledge to work with a hazardous substance.

It can be much less expensive to cover the ceiling, and there are a few quick, easy and economical ways. For example, you can install drywall, add more popcorning over it, and install dropped or grid ceilings. These are a few ways you can cover your popcorn ceiling without having to remove it.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.