update May 2011–I’ve had thousands of hits on this blog post. In fact, it is #1 on Google searches on this topic. So I felt guilty I had not put more information to show people how to do this. I’ve now done all but two rooms of our house and it has made a dramatic improvement throughout. I’ve put more detailed instructions of how to do this technique, along with more pictures on:
Ok–I’m posting this hoping it helps other people. Popcorn ceilings are ugly–or at least unfashionable. They make a house dated. We’ve wanted to get rid of ours ever since we moved in. How to do it? Scraping is the usual way, but ours is painted and may have asbestos (1972) so we were searching for a different solution. I’ve been thinking about trying to plaster over it ever since I re-plastered our bathrooms after remodeling/re-tiling four years ago. Most internet sites I visited suggested it would not work, but I decided to try a small bathroom area. Our popcorn is probably plaster rather than the softer kind which you can wet and scrape. I tried wetting and scraping and it didn’t work. Well, the plastering over did work. I used lightweight joint compound. It took about 4 hours for the bathroom. It would probably take a full 8 hours to do a bedroom ceiling.
I’ve done all of our house now except for two bedrooms which I plan to finish this summer. They all look great. Here is the before:
Here is the after (a different room–I forgot to take the before photo ahead of time):
How? I took the joint compound on my scraping tool and pressed it against the wall then kept on pressing down as I pulled the compound across the popcorn. Then I’d go back and keep on pressing and pulling away in different directions. On one ceiling I did it very fast and used a lot of compound. On another ceiling, I worked more slowly and tried to put just enough compound to cover the popcorn and look all right. The ceiling with a lot of compound did have some small cracks–the paint filled these in somewhat and it does add to the “old plaster” look of our house. The thin compound ceiling sort of has ridges a bit more. I did find that you can go over the plaster and touch up if you want. On my laundry ceiling, I worked harder to press into the corners to make the plaster of the ceiling match better with the wall. It was sometimes hard to make it look good around the air conditioning ducts and lights. The best thing might be to remove these and replace them over the new plaster. After letting the plaster dry for a few days, I painted. One of the paints was a primer/paint, the other one was just a good white. Both look good, but a primer paint probably covers better. This technique wouldn’t work for everyone, but it has definitely been great for us.