Home & Garden

Ask Angie: Who can I hire to remove a popcorn ceiling?

A MESSY JOB: Use a scraper, such as a stiff putty knife, to remove the popcorn texture.
A MESSY JOB: Use a scraper, such as a stiff putty knife, to remove the popcorn texture. TNS File

Q: Who can I hire to remove a popcorn ceiling? How is it done and what will it cost?

Jonathan H., Woodland Hills, Calif.

and Marcia E., Altamonte Springs, Fla.

A: Pity the poor popcorn ceiling. We get frequent inquiries from people wanting to get rid of this once-popular option.

Acoustic ceiling texture, commonly called popcorn, appealed to builders on budgets starting around the 1950s. Today, it seems to lack appeal for almost everyone.

Removing popcorn texture involves scraping high spots, then covering the ceiling with multiple coats of drywall mud. If you’re sure your ceiling texture doesn’t contain asbestos, a drywall contractor is the best service provider to contact for removal. Though other types of providers could do the work, drywall pros have the experience to provide the best finish.

However, if your home was built before 1980, the ceiling may contain asbestos, once used in many home and industrial building products. If inhaled, asbestos can cause serious respiratory problems.

The Clean Air Act of 1978 banned its use, but asbestos was commonly used in popcorn textures before then, especially during the 1950s and ‘60s. If you own an older home, have an asbestos abatement company test your ceiling before drywall workers potentially release asbestos particles into the air.

An asbestos test costs around $75 to $100. If asbestos is present, hire a qualified asbestos mitigation service to remove it. To avoid a conflict of interest, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests, consumers should be careful about hiring the same company to test and remove asbestos.

Removing asbestos involves containing the affected area so particles don’t spread through the house, and scraping off the texture or removing the drywall itself. Asbestos removal can cost $3 to $10 a square foot, depending on many variables.

An asbestos removal project usually won’t include replacing damaged drywall and/or retexturing the ceiling. These are separate projects.

Depending on the type of texture you choose, say highly rated drywall companies, it can cost $1.50 to $3 per square foot to scrape, skim and retexture, depending on the ceiling height. This doesn’t include priming and painting.

Inexpensive texture options include what’s called “knockdown,” a mottled finish that doesn’t require the drywall finisher to smooth each imperfection. Smooth ceilings, however, are popular, and they cost more, because the last coat of drywall mud requires sanding and likely a little bit of touch-up.

When hiring drywall and/or asbestos mitigation pros, consider contractors who are appropriately licensed, insured and bonded and who have positive reviews on a trusted online site.

Angie Hicks is founder of www.AngiesList.com, provider of consumer reviews and services. Send questions to askangie@angieslist.com.

  Comments