How to Scrape Popcorn Ceilings

How to Scrape Popcorn Ceilings

Popcorn ceilings were popular in the ’50s – ’80s, and now more and more homeowners are scraping them down and adding their own knockdown ceiling texture or doing a flat design.

In all of our renovation homes, the first thing to come down is the popcorn. And, actually, it’s a really satisfying project to DIY.

Scraping popcorn off your ceiling is like that feeling you get when you are scraping wallpaper and you know when you get that big chunk to come off at one time, and it is the happiest moment of your demoing life? Well, that is what scraping popcorn texture off your ceiling is like the entire time! ha!

I’m not kidding. I actually really enjoy it. But…it is extremely messy!

So if you’re going to do it in a house you’re living in, it might not be as much fun and you’ll want to make sure to take the time and do the prep work.

Materials Needed:

  • 12″ + Putty Knife
  • Garden Sprayer
  • Bucket
  • Drop Cloths
  • Poly
  • Ladder or Stilts
  • Trash Bags
  • Broom, dustpan, shop vac
  • A hat or hoodie

How to Scrape Popcorn Ceilings

Prep Work, Cover Floors & Poly Walls

First, you want to cover your floors so that they don’t get ruined. If you’re under a complete renovation like us you may not need to cover your entire floors and walls. 

This will make clean up easier if you do the prep work so determining the state of the rest of the home will help you decide how much you want to do.

How to scrape popcorn textured ceilings | construction2style

When under construction, the guys had a big drop cloth that they moved around with them as they scraped so that they didn’t have to go back and try sweeping up wet plaster. When you’re scraping, the popcorn that comes down is really wet.

remove popcorn ceilings | construction2style

If you have a drop cloth, it’ll be a lot easier to clean up than just leaving it all over the floor. If you leave the popcorn on the floor it’ll either dry and harden to the floor, or it’ll be so wet you can’t sweep it up.

If you have a drop cloth you can just wait until it’s full and then go out to the dumpster and whip it off in there.

But when we were doing our living room, Jamie carried around a 5-gallon bucket as he scraped and then I was quickly following behind him and sweeping as he went.

How to scrape popcorn textured ceilings | construction2style

Spray Water

Next with your garden sprayer, fill it up with warm water. Then pump and start spraying the ceiling and let it sit for about 30 seconds before you start scraping.

You can also just use a spray bottle but using a garden sprayer is so much nicer and you won’t get those hand cramps! Because you’ll be spraying a lot of water.

remove popcorn ceilings | construction2style

When scraping ceilings, it’s nice to have at least two people. So one person can spray water and clean up as the other ways just scrape away.


We used sheetrock mudding knives for our scrapers. They say to let the water soak in for more than a few minutes before you scrape, but if you know me, I don’t have much patience, we sprayed and scraped quickly.

There are lots of recipes out there for the perfect mixture to make the popcorn texture come off easily, but warm water does the trick just fine for us.

remove popcorn ceilings | construction2style

If you have painted ceilings, it might take a couple of coats of water and some extra muscle to scrape it off. It’s not fun once they’ve had multiple paint jobs done to them, but if they aren’t painted, like ours, it’ll come off pretty slick.

Weirdly, it’s actually really therapeutic to scrape popcorn off ceilings when it does come off nice.

You’ll also want to be careful not to scrape too hard or dig into the ceiling. Just let the scraper do the work.

Otherwise, you’ll have gouges in your ceiling and you might be re-taping and mudding. Especially if you are doing flat ceilings, this is a big deal!

You need to scrape your ceilings off perfectly clean so you can get that flat look.

How to scrape popcorn textured ceilings | construction2style

Clean Up

If you want to take it a step further with the cleanup and are doing the scraping where you have nice floors, you can scrape and hold up a bucket while you scrape and it’ll fall right in. That can be hard if you’re balancing on a ladder but you can also set up some boards across ladders to walk on, or Jamie has even used stilts.

remove popcorn ceilings | construction2style

Let Ceilings Dry

Once you’re done scraping all of the ceilings, make sure to let them thoroughly dry before you skim coat or paint them.

Prepare for Paint or Texture

If you’re leaving it flat, then simply sand and paint. If you’re doing texture then you will need a bucket of mud, drill and paddle, hopper, and a knockdown knife.

Mix the mud until it’s a similar consistency to pancake batter, load it into the hopper and spray away. I find it easier to spray texture overhead while staying roughly a foot from the ceiling.

Let the mud dry for 10-15 minutes, not fully, and then use a knockdown knife to finish it off. Here is an additional guide for applying knockdown texture.