Can Popcorn Ceilings Be Sanded Down?

Popcorn ceilings are somewhat outdated today, and it’s no surprise that many new homeowners want to get rid of it. If you’re here, you’re probably considering removing some popcorn ceilings yourself, and you’re probably thinking of sanding them down too.

So, can popcorn ceilings be sanded down? Sanding is NOT the most effective way of removing a popcorn ceiling and many times, the sanding process will not work because most popcorn ceilings are often painted. If a popcorn ceiling has not been painted or has been painted minimally, a sander may work.

Can Popcorn Ceilings Be Sanded Down

If you want to get rid of your popcorn ceiling, there are several methods you can use. And if you were itching to use your sanding machine, then it may also come in handy during the process, depending on which method you use.

Read below to get all the details about removing your popcorn ceiling!

Safety First – The Asbestos Factor!

Popcorn ceilings were popular in the mid-’90s. At the time, many builders used asbestos, which we now know poses serious health issues. Asbestos has since been banned in many countries, but some existing popcorn ceilings do contain the dangerous substance.

Because many popcorn ceilings may contain asbestos, you will need to perform an asbestos test before starting with any work on your ceiling. Any disturbance to a ceiling containing asbestos can cause harm to you and your family. The main concern is expelling asbestos particles into the air and you or anyone else inhaling those harmful particles.

You can perform the asbestos test yourself (with the help of a test kit), or you can hire a professional to test it for you.

Test kits are conveniently available online. I found an example on Amazon where an actual lab is selling the kit. They provide instructions on how to perform the test, and then also instruct you where you need to ship it. The reviews are excellent and you can check it out here on Amazon.

If you prefer to rather hire a professional to do the test for you, then check out this article at for more info.

If your ceiling is found to contain asbestos, then I HIGHLY recommend you hire a professional asbestos specialist to help you remove it as it can be dangerous to do it yourself!

Getting Rid of a Popcorn Ceiling: 3 Methods

Before we dive into getting rid of popcorn ceilings – I also wrote an article “So what’s the point of popcorn ceilings anyway?” that you can check out.

I mentioned that sanding down popcorn ceilings is not the best removal method. Further down below is a video I wanted to share of someone who has removed 500+ popcorn ceilings, telling you why sanding is not the best way to go.

There are three common ways to get rid of that unsightly popcorn ceiling and finally get a smooth looking ceiling. The preferred method is scraping (which is also reinforced by the professional in the video further down below).

We’ll start with the preferred method – scraping.

Method 1 – Scraping

One of the most popular fixes for a popcorn ceiling is scraping. Scraping is exactly what it sounds like and you can even use a putty knife to scrape the popcorn texture off your ceiling.

However, for best results and quicker turnaround time, I highly recommend using a quality ceiling scraper tool. For even more convenience, I would use a long scraper (with an extension arm). You can check out the current pricing of this excellent one over at Amazon.

Scraping is a simple and straightforward way to get the job done, but it can be time-consuming, messy, and tedious if you haven’t done it before. I decided to detail a quick step guide to scrape your popcorn ceiling, seeing that this is the preferred method!

So if you would like to take on a DIY scraping project, you will need to do some prep and also gather a few tools, many of which you may already have on hand:

  • A garden sprayer (optional)
  • Putty knife or preferably a ceiling scraper
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Painter’s tape
  • A ladder (you don’t need one if you have an extension arm for your scraper)
  • Safety goggles
  • Protective mask
  • A sander (optional)
  • Paint and primer

The scraping process is just a few quick steps to execute. You can follow them below:

Step 1 (Optional)

Use your garden sprayer to wet a small portion of the ceiling that you would like to begin with. Be careful not to use too much water as that can potentially cause water damage to the ceiling.

Please note that this step is optional, and it is completely up to you whether you want to wet the ceiling before beginning the scraping process.

Many people find that the added moisture helps loosen up the stubborn spots on your ceiling, but others feel that spraying a ceiling with water prior to scraping just makes the job messier.

If you do this step, you have to wet a new portion as you go. If you wet the entire ceiling at the beginning then the middle or end may already be dry by the time you reach it.

Step 2

Start scraping your ceiling using your putty knife or ceiling scraper. This is admittedly a long process and you may need to go over certain areas twice to ensure that the texture is carefully removed.

You will also need a ladder if you’re using a putty knife or you don’t have an extender arm for your scraper.

Step 3 (Optional)

Sand the ceiling. Now is the time to use that sander!

Sanding will help give a smooth appearance, which I am sure you will appreciate after spending so much time looking at that bumpy popcorn ceiling.

Step 4

Prime and paint. This will bring a freshness and a brightness to your ceiling.

Below you’ll find the video I told you about. (The video will start at the 1:15 mark because the stuff mentioned before that is irrelevant to the topic)

Method 2 – Drywall to Cover Popcorn Ceiling

The second method is to use drywall to cover up the popcorn ceiling. This is a quicker fix than scraping, especially if you hire professionals or enlist a few friends to help you do it yourself.

It may, however, be a pricier project as one 4×8 foot sheet of ceiling board can cost in the $10-$15 range.

Method 3 – Skim Coat

Finally, you may choose to skim coat over your popcorn ceilings. Skim coating is a technique used to smooth over textured surfaces.

Skim coating requires drywall mud, a bonding agent, and a knife to help you create a brand-new texture for your ceiling. Skim coating may be a good option for those who wish to preserve the old, historical feel of their home without having to keep the unappealing popcorn ceilings.

Additional Tips

Here are a few additional tips to ensure that your project goes smoothly, whichever method you choose:

  • Clear the room of all furniture and remove ceiling fans & light fixtures before getting to work.
  • Prepare your space for a mess. All these methods can get messy and it is best to anticipate and prepare for this mess rather than scramble to clean it up afterward. Cover the floors and walls with plastic sheets.
  • Open the windows to ensure good circulation in the room. You may be there for a while and you want to be comfortable.

Cost for Professionals

What if you are not proficient with DIY home projects? Hiring a professional to remove your popcorn ceiling is certainly an option.

The specific cost of your project will depend on the size of your ceiling, but you can generally expect to pay $1 to $3 per square foot. This comes to about $250-$900 for a 15’x20’ room (~27m²) or $1200-$1400 for a 1600 square foot home (~149m²).

However, there is one caveat. If your ceiling contains asbestos, the removal price goes up. You can expect to pay $3 to $7 per square foot to remove a popcorn ceiling with asbestos, which comes out to the $900-$2100 range for a 15’x20’ room (~27m²) or $4500-$11,500 for a 1600 square foot home (~149m²).

Increase Resale Value

You may also be curious about whether removing popcorn ceilings will increase the value of your home. It most likely will add resale value, especially if any gathering or entertainment spaces in your home has popcorn ceilings or if you have a lot of popcorn ceilings throughout a large home.

Popcorn ceilings are noticeable and outdated, so most homeowners would prefer to avoid them. Potential buyers may hesitate to put in an offer or may put in a lower offer if they anticipate the expense and labor of eventually fixing the ceilings themselves.

I hope this article helps you with your popcorn ceiling removal!

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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.