Get Rid of ‘Popcorn’ Ceilings All At Once

Inman News

Construction Advice and Handyman Help

by Paul Bianchina

Mr. Bianchina is a writer specializing in the how-to construction field. He has written for such publications as Home Mechanix, Home, Family Handyman, Workbench, Custom Builder, and many others. He is a former contributing remodeling editor for Twenty-One Magazine, and has been a contributor to World Book Encyclopedia on several construction-related topics.

Q: I own a 40-plus-year-old house that has been remodeled from time to time and looks modern and is well-kept. Presently, I need to remove the “cottage cheese” ceiling from one large room. Is it in my best interest to remove this from all the rooms in the house? –Lorna K.

A: First of all, I need to make you aware of the fact that many older acoustic ceiling treatments — commonly called “popcorn” or “cottage cheese” ceilings — contained a small amount of asbestos fiber. Asbestos was common in many acoustic and drywall products until the 1970s and sometimes later, so a home that is 40-plus years old could fall into that category.

Removal of asbestos is governed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and under their guidelines you have some options for professional or do-it-yourself removal. For more information on asbestos and how to have it tested and removed, visit the EPA’s Web site at

There are pros and cons to removing all the acoustic material at one time. On the plus side, you have the mess only once, and if you are hiring out the work, you’ll save money by doing all the ceilings at one time. You also eliminate the asbestos risk, however minor. From a resale standpoint, buyers almost universally seem to dislike acoustic popcorn ceilings, so you will also improve the overall value of your home.

On the downside, scraping, retexturing and repainting all the ceilings in the house at the same time can be disruptive, time-consuming, and, if you’re having the redecorating work professionally done, can be costly. Also, if the ceiling material contains asbestos and you are having it professionally removed, it can be a very expensive undertaking.

That said, if you have the option either way, my advice would be to get it all done at once.

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Copyright 2008 Inman News