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Cheapest Way to Cover Popcorn Ceiling (DIY and Pro sq. ft Price)

While they may have been fashionable fifty years ago, popcorn ceilings can seem outdated. After all, it is 2022, and decor styles have evolved enormously.

If you are looking for a way to add some style and cover up that popcorn ceiling on a budget, this article will guide you to the cheapest options suitable for your needs.

The cheapest DIY option for covering popcorn ceiling is plastering over the texture. It will cost around $1.17-$1.86 per square foot. The cheapest pro option is installing shiplap. It will cost around $3.1-$8.43 per square foot.

Cheapest DIY Option: Plastering Over Popcorn-ing

There are many options to cover a popcorn ceiling, including covering it with shiplap, ceiling tiles, or drywall/sheetrock.

However, these options may require professional help and can be costly. Removing popcorn-ing can also be messy and will require expert work if asbestos is present.

The cheapest way to cover a popcorn ceiling on your own is to plaster over it.

women wearing worker's uniform while plastering the concrete ceiling

The joint compound should be thick enough to cover the old ceiling and hide the popcorn texture.

It might start with building the ceiling up to the thickness of the popcorn-ing and then adding a layer over the whole surface for the smoothest look.

What You Will Need

To plaster over popcorn ceiling yourself, you will need the following items.

These shouldn’t cost you more than $120 (unless you go for some optional extras that will increase the price) and requires a few common items from the house.

Items to Buy

  • About 5 gallons of joint compound (it does depend on the size of the ceiling)
  • Taping knife
  • Roller (with a long handle)
  • Drywall sander
U S GYPSUM 380501-048 380501 Mix Joint Compound, 5 Gallon
  • SheetrockWallboard Joint Compound, 5 Gallon - 12922
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DEWALT 12" Big Back Taping Knife | Stainless Steel w/Soft Grip Handle | DXTT-2-194
  • Premium stainless steel blade for corrosion resistance and perfect, precise flex.
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  • Alloy metal hammer end for resetting nails and improved drop protected.
Purdy 140765014 14 inch Wire Mini Roller System White Dove, 6-1/2 inch by 3/8 inch nap
  • Semi-smooth to semi-rough surfaces
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  • 6-1/2 inch by 3/8 inch nap
63Pcs 60 to 3000 Grit Wet Dry Sandpaper Assortment 9 x 3.6 Inches with Aouker Hand Sander for Automotive Sanding, Wood Furniture Finishing And Wood Turning Finishing
  • INCLUDED ALL YOU NEED - Package comes with total 60 sheets assorted abrasive sheet including 3 sheets of each grit in 60/ 80/ 100/ 120/ 150/ 180/ 220/ 240/ 280/ 320/ 360/ 400/ 500/ 600/ 800/ 1000/...
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Last update on 2023-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Items From Home

  • A large bucket of at least 5 gallons for mixing
  • A small container to act as a mud pan
  • Something to mix the joint compound with (a stick or rod should do the trick)
  • Water

Optional Items

  • Proper mud pan
  • Mixing drill bit
  • Drill to help mix the joint compound
14" Stainless Steel Mud Pan + Ergonomic Contoured Base - LEVEL5 | Pro-Grade | Drywall Masonry Tool Tray Bucket | 5-334
  • PROFESSIONAL GRADE | Designed and built using nearly 20 years of input from professional finishers. Our tools are meant for reliable, daily use on the job site.
  • PREMIUM QUALITY | Rigid 21 gauge (0.0315"), polished stainless steel. Heli-arc welded end caps provide outstanding strength and water-tight seams. Straight, sheared edges for fast, easy and clean...
  • ERGONOMIC | Contoured bottom for a comfortable grip, as well as easy mixing and cleanout. Designed for all-day use with less fatigue.
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Concrete Mixing Rod, Paint Mixing Rod. Paint Mixer Drill bit Accessories, Cement Mixer Tool Drill bit, M14 Electric Brick Mixer Accessories
  • ☞S-shaped spiral blades can easily mix thick compounds. For handymen, this is an excellent cement mixing head, which can be used for mixing materials in various house decoration projects.
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BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill and Driver, 3/8 Inch, With LED Work Light, Battery and Charger Included (LDX120C)
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  • Features integrated bit holder under drill handle that includes double ended bit
  • Variable Speed: Allows countersinking without damaging material

Last update on 2023-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How Long It Will Take

It should take about two coats of joint compound to cover a popcorn ceiling.

The exact amount of time needed to complete the job depends on the size of the room and the time taken to prepare the room (taping corners and the connections between the wall and ceiling) and materials.

It will also depend on climate as the joint compound coats will dry more quickly in warmer climates.

As an estimate, it could take ten minutes to apply one coat to 10 square feet.

A skim coat should dry fully in 12 to 24 hours. It could take less time, but best to let it dry fully before applying the second coat.

Overall, it should take two to three days to plaster a medium-sized room’s ceiling.

How to Do It

You can skim coat over popcorn ceiling in a similar way to how you would skim coat a textured wall using the materials listed above.

Once you have mixed the joint compound, you can use a paint roller to apply it, making sure it is consistent and covers the whole area.

This technique is easy for beginners because the weight of the roller helps to ensure that the joint compound is applied evenly.

All that is required afterward is to smooth the joint compound out with a taping knife, let it dry before applying additional coats, and sanding and painting it according to your desired style.

With a ladder, some masking tape to protect wall paint, and some concentration, you can use the method in the following video to cover a popcorn ceiling.


With the basic materials, it should cost under $120 to plaster a 140-square-foot room.

This amounts to approximately $1.17 per square foot of ceiling.

Buying additional equipment such as a drill, mixing drill bit, and mud pan will add $130 to $140 and make it $1.86 per square foot.

However, doing the job yourself means that you don’t have to pay any labor fees, which will save considerable costs.  

Taping knife$20 to $26, depending on size
Roller$10 to $20, depending on the length
Joint compound$70 to $80 for 5 gallons
Drywall sander± $8
Mud pan$45 to $50
Paint mixing rod± $25
Drill± $60

Cheapest Pro Option: Shiplap

If you decide that you’d prefer to hire someone to do the work for you, using shiplap is probably the cheapest option to cover a popcorn ceiling.

Shiplap is a type of wooden board that is cut such that two pieces can fit together easily.

White shiplap with two wall lamp with black metal accent

It is commonly used in the construction of houses and other structures and is an effective means of covering popcorn ceiling by cutting the boards to size and attaching it to the ceiling.

What You Will Need

To install shiplap over a popcorn ceiling, you will need shiplap planks, the prices of which vary depending on the wood used.

Hardwood shiplap can cost $0.80 to $4 per square foot. Plywood costs about $1 per square foot.

You can expect to pay $2.50 to $4 for pine and $2.50 to $7 per square foot for cedar.

In terms of tools, a miter saw, measuring tape, finish nail gun and finish nails, stud finder, ladder, multi-tool, hole cutter, caulk, spackling, putty knife, sanding block, paint/primer, paint tray, and paint roller will be required.

Hiring a professional means that you won’t have to pay for the necessary equipment, and depending on the contractor, they could buy the shiplap for you, too.

Who to Hire

You can choose to hire a shiplap siding contractor to do the job for you. Alternatively, you can contact a carpenter or ceiling contractor.

While a carpenter will be experienced in handling and cutting the wood appropriately (especially if you have specific design requests), they may be less experienced with installing shiplap in that particular setting.

Ceiling contractors will be familiar with the skills necessary to make adjustments to ceilings but may require you to purchase the materials yourself. Ceiling contractors may also be less familiar with installing shiplap instead of removing the popcorn texturing.

Shiplap siding contractors, on the other hand, will be familiar with installing shiplap on ceilings and should be able to source the shiplap for you.

Due to the rising popularity of shiplap, shiplap siding contractors are becoming easier to find.

Whoever you decide to hire, it will be helpful to get three to five quotes from different sources, keeping in mind that shiplap siding prices will vary between companies due to varying operation expenses and overhead.

In some scenarios, it may be cheaper to source the shiplap yourself and pay the contractor just to install it, but this will require you to take careful measurements of what is needed.

How Long It Will Take

Again, the time needed to install shiplap over a popcorn ceiling depends on the size and complexity of the room and the size of the boards.

It also depends on how many people are working on the project and whether the wood needs to be painted and dried.

Man stepping on a ladder installing a cream colored shiplap on exterior wall

Generally, shiplap covering will take less time per square foot than plastering because the size of the planks covers a larger area at once.

Once measurements have been made, it is simply a case of attaching each plank to the ceiling.  

The more time-consuming tasks will be sanding and painting, but this is not an issue if pre-prepared shiplap planks are used.

Overall, it should take about one or two days to cover a medium-sized ceiling with shiplap.

The first day would be needed to measure, cut, and install the boards, and another day (if necessary) to sand and paint the wood after filling nail holes.


You can expect to pay around $2.50 per square foot for the installation of basic shiplap, but this can increase to $7.88 per square foot for higher-quality materials.

Depending on the company, a carpenter or ceiling contractor can charge upwards of $35 per hour in labor or $1 to $4 per square foot of installation.

For a 120-square-foot area, this amounts to:

  • material prices of $120 to $480
  • installation costs of $252 to $540
  • a total of $372 to $1020

This is $3.1-$8.43 per square foot.

More complex jobs with larger areas will cost more for a hired professional to complete.

Additional materials are likely to be supplied by the contractor.

Shiplap boards$0.80 to $7 per square foot
Labor$35 + per hour or $1 to $4 per square foot
Nails$2 to $6
Spackle$10 to $20
Wood filler$15 to $20
Finishing$22 to 26
Primer$100 to $125

Drywall vs Drop Ceiling | Detailed Cost Comparison


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