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An In-Depth Cost Guide to Removing Popcorn Ceilings

May 5, 2023
An In-Depth Cost Guide to Removing Popcorn Ceilings

Removing popcorn ceilings throughout your property is definitely a worthy investment. Since their tiny pieces can easily chip off and fall, they can endanger the health of you, your family, and your furry friends.

That’s why, in this guide, we’ll walk you through the cost of removing popcorn ceilings to help you plan and budget correctly for the project.

What is a popcorn ceiling?

What is a popcorn ceiling

A popcorn ceiling (also called an acoustic ceiling) is a type of ceiling whose surface has many small and random bumps made of thermoplastics and a certain mineral called vermiculite.

It was widely used in houses and offices from the 1930s to the 1990s because it’s quick and inexpensive to install.

Its main purpose is to hide the imperfections of the ceilings and absorb and reduce outgoing noises from the area.

What is the average cost of popcorn ceiling removal?

What is the average cost of popcorn ceiling removal

The average cost of getting popcorn ceilings removed by a pro is $1,853 or between $898 and $2,847.

The overall service price that the homeowner will pay can vary based on several factors like the ceiling height, number of rooms, and job complexity.

Which factors influence the cost of popcorn ceiling removal?

Which factors influence the cost of popcorn ceiling removal

Below are the factors that can affect the cost of popcorn ceiling removal:

1) Room Size

Room Size

The size of the room has a direct influence on the total cost of popcorn ceiling removal. 

This is what a ceiling removal specialist first looks at before they give the homeowner a quote. 

Contractors may calculate the cost of the service according to the ceiling size, which is equal to the room size.

Scraping off the popcorn ceiling may cost $500 to $1,000 per 500 sq. ft. of the ceiling.

2) Ceiling Height

Ceiling Height

Ceiling height and repair type also contribute to the total cost of popcorn ceiling removal.

Usually, ceilings are about 8 or 9 feet high in most houses. Given this, the contractor will only need to use an ordinary ladder to reach and work on them.

But, for some properties, especially offices and luxury hotels, the ceilings can be much higher.

Thus this requires the ceiling professional to acquire a taller ladder or even set up scaffolding, which will take more work and time to do, certainly raising the price.

3) Repair Type

Repair Type

The next cost factor is the repair type you’ve chosen for the popcorn ceiling after removing it. 

The popcorn ceiling can be skim-coated and then painted. In the skim-coating process, a joint compound is applied.

A joint compound is a paste made of limestone and gypsum, which is needed to smooth out the ceiling surface.

The ceiling can also be scraped and covered entirely by new drywall.

Skim-coating the ceiling is normally the pricier option since it must always be painted afterward to prevent scratches, gouges, or other kinds of damage.

Skim-coating and painting the popcorn ceiling should cost the homeowner around $1.10 to $1.30 per sq. ft. and $1 to $3 per sq. ft., respectively.

The second repair type—covering the ceiling with new drywall—typically costs $1.50 to $3 per sq. ft., including the taping, finishing, and labor.

4) Materials


The materials needed for the popcorn ceiling removal project will take a small portion of the whole price.

Some of these things include sandpaper, a scraping tool, a spray bottle, paint, ceiling tiles, a ladder, and protective gear if the contractor needs to deal with asbestos.

Relative to other house improvement jobs, these required supplies are far fewer than them.

5) Labor


Most ceiling professionals charge $1 to $2 per sq. ft. of popcorn ceiling they remove. But others use an hourly pricing model, which ranges roughly from $15 to $40 per hour.

Meanwhile, removing the debris on the floor will add about $0.30 to $0.35 per sq. ft to your expenses.

And, if you need the new ceiling painted by a professional, the cost will range from $1 to $3 per sq. ft. of the ceiling.

If the popcorn ceiling is a painted one, the removal may need an extra step or two. This is because ceiling paint is often water-resistant and will protect the popcorn texture beneath it from your misting.

The specialist will have to cut the paint and texture to overcome this. The water will slip into the cuts and soften the popcorn ceiling material.

As a result, the professional will exert more effort and time to scrape off the surface. This extra effort will add $1 to $2 per sq. ft to the overall price.

6) Location


The location of your house also affects the price of the popcorn ceiling removal. 

Generally, the service cost is lower for places where there are many ceiling contractors because of the competition.

But, the cost is higher in places where there are only a handful of ceiling specialists because they are in demand.

7) Additional Work

Additional Work

Additional work for popcorn ceiling removal may include the following:

1) New Texture

Some people aren’t satisfied with their ceiling’s appearance or finish even after the popcorn ceiling is removed. Thankfully, there are different resurfacing options.

Among these resurfacing choices are smooth drywall, splatter, knockdown, prime and paint, skip trowel, orange peel, and crow’s foot. 

The cheapest texture method is orange peel, costing only $0.13 per sq. ft. of the ceiling. It’s cheap because it doesn’t require much labor compared to the other types mentioned.

On the other hand, the most expensive texture option is smooth drywall. 

What do the different types of ceiling finishes look like?

A smooth texture looks clean, flat, and modern. It requires the use of a joint compound.

Image credit: Bob Vila

A knockdown finish sports streaks made by flattening the peaks of the joint compound with a special knife.

Prime and Paint
Prime and Paint
Image credit: The Home Depot

Prime and paint is the most common and easiest finishing method. It leaves the ceiling flawless and clean.

Skip Trowel
Skip Trowel
Image credit: Hunker

The skip trowel is a unique, semi-smooth finish style for ceilings and walls.

This method involves lightly lifting and pressing the trowel over the joint compound on a surface.

Orange Peel/Splatter
Orange PeelSplatter
Image credit: Drywall Insider

As its name implies, the orange peel finish consists of bumps similar to those of orange fruit skin.

Crow’s Foot
Crow’s Foot
Image credit: Amazon

A crow’s foot finish sports vein-like lines meeting toward the center like a crow’s foot.

2) Asbestos Removal

Popcorn ceilings that were built before or during the 1980s may contain asbestos, which is harmful and dangerous to one’s health.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that occurs naturally in the environment. Its thin and long fibers can’t be seen with the naked eye. 

If a person breathes in these fibers, they become prone to one or more several life-threatening diseases, namely mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

Removing asbestos would drastically make the project challenging, so the price will go up accordingly.

The ceiling contractor needs to wear respirators, goggles, coveralls, and other gear, and they would need to work more carefully to remove and take out the asbestos ceiling.

Generally, though, asbestos remediation costs $5 to $20 per square foot. Converting this into hourly rates—the client could pay an additional $75 to $200 per hour for this service.

3) Ceiling Repair

Homeowners need to allot a budget for unexpected ceiling repair just in case a hidden leak, crack, or other damage is discovered. You have to fix these first before doing any more work on your ceiling.

Usually, professionals charge $45 to $90 per sq. ft. for ceiling repair.

Can I perform popcorn ceiling removal myself?

Can I perform popcorn ceiling removal myself

If you can handle the work physically, have good body balance, and the ceiling doesn’t contain any asbestos, then you can remove your home’s popcorn ceilings alone.

The major risk that comes with popcorn ceiling removal is falling from a height because you’d be working on the ladder most of the time.

You also have to be careful when you’re skim-coating the drywall because the edge of the trowel can easily damage the ceiling.

What’s more, it will be harder for you to remove a popcorn ceiling if it is high. If the ceiling extends over 8 feet, it is more dangerous to remove.

How much does DIY popcorn ceiling removal cost?

How much does DIY popcorn ceiling removal cost

If you want to do the popcorn ceiling removal job yourself, you can spend between $30 and $200 for the things needed for the task, including priming and repainting.

You won’t have to pay for the labor. The only things you need to spend on are the project supplies such as a scraper, primer, paint, spray bottle, ceiling tiles, ladder, and protective gear.

How can I save money on removing popcorn ceilings

Here’s how you can cut down the price of getting a licensed pro to remove your popcorn ceilings:

  • Move the furniture and ceiling fixtures aside – To make the job easier for the ceiling professional, you can start moving aside the furniture, ceiling lights, and/or fragile items so they won’t be in the way or become damaged.
  • Get an asbestos pro to test the ceiling – Rather than wait for the ceiling pros to test the ceiling for asbestos, you could do it yourself to save money and hasten the popcorn ceiling removal process.

Asbestos test kits are sold in hardware stores or online, starting at about $100. This price also includes the lab evaluation cost, so you don’t have to worry about that.

But before you test your ceiling for asbestos, wear protective gear such as a face mask, goggles, and gloves.

  • Clean the debris yourself – Place tarps all over the floor and do the cleanup after the pro has scraped the popcorn texture. Afterward, dispose of the popcorn ceiling particles properly.
  • Paint the ceiling yourself – Once the pros have removed the popcorn texture, you can choose to do the painting yourself. This should save you around $1 to $3 per sq. ft. of the ceiling.

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