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Remove or Cover Popcorn Ceiling | Which Is Better?

Popcorn ceiling was a popular trend during the mid to late 1900s, but now it is outdated and may even be dangerous for your health. For these reasons, many people are looking to get rid of the popcorn appearance.

You can choose to remove or cover a popcorn ceiling. Here is your one-stop guide to deciding which is the best option for you.

If the popcorn ceiling contains asbestos, the best option is to remove it because then the danger is completely eliminated, although the removal must be done with proper safety precautions. If it is a non-asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling, covering is often the best option.

Asbestos Popcorn Ceiling

As you may know, popcorn ceilings made in the early days of the design trend were made using asbestos. This is not the only place in the construction industry where asbestos was used.

Its particular set of characteristics, along with the inexpensiveness of the mineral, meant that it was used abundantly until the discovery of its toxic potential.

Asbestos is incredibly harmful to your health, causing respiratory disease and cancer.

It can be difficult to identify whether a popcorn ceiling has asbestos, so the best thing to do if your house was built or remodeled before around 2005 is to get it tested.

When it comes to dealing with asbestos popcorn ceiling, you have two options. You can completely remove it or you can cover it with other materials.

Popcorn ceiling

Removing Is the Safest Option

Removing popcorn ceiling is the safest option in the long run as you will be eliminating, not just mitigating the risk.

If you are considering removing your asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling, you will need to hire a professional to do it.

This is because if you disturb an asbestos-containing ceiling in any way, you can cause the release of asbestos fibers into the air from where they can be inhaled.

Although it may be costly to hire someone, it’s still a great option because it ensures your safety and that of your loved ones and pets.

Getting the popcorn ceiling removed can also positively affect the future sale of your home and the things you’ll discuss with potential buyers. There are many people who will balk at buying a house with asbestos ceilings.

Removing the popcorn ceiling appearance is also a plus as this trend is outdated and may decrease the overall appeal of the home.

Downsides to Removal

Although removal is the best option, there are still some downsides that come with choosing to remove it.

For starters, the process itself is highly intensive and will be disruptive to your day-to-day life while it is occurring.

When asbestos is removed, everything in the room needs to be moved elsewhere or covered in plastic, and any pets and people must be kept out of the room.

To avoid spreading any contamination throughout the home or beyond, the doors and windows of the room must be sealed off and all HVAC systems in the home must be deactivated.

If something were to go wrong during the removal process, the cleanup would be even more extensive and costly.

Scraping of a popcorn ceiling using a scraper

On top of the complicated removal process, you must hire someone to do this, which is more expensive than just covering the asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling

Covering Is the Easiest Option

Because the removal process for asbestos is so extensive, it is definitely easier to just cover it up with other materials.

For covering up the asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling, you have two main options for how you can accomplish it safely.

The first option is to cover the popcorn ceiling with drywall ceiling boards. Please note that these must be airtight to prevent exposure.

This option works well, as it helps protect against further exposure and entirely covers up the popcorn ceiling look.

Your other option is to purchase a specialized paint that will help seal in the asbestos and apply it to the popcorn ceiling.

The good thing about using sealing paint is you won’t need to worry about any dust escaping from the ceiling and harming your health.

You are able to safely cover up an asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling on your own, provided that you are careful to take precautions such as wearing PPE.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of covering the popcorn ceiling as opposed to removing it, the cost is much lower than it would be to hire a professional. The only thing you’ll pay for is your supplies.

Downsides to Covering

It may be tempting to jump at the opportunity to spend less money on dealing with an asbestos-infected popcorn ceiling, but there are downsides to covering it up that you must consider first.

The overall problem with choosing to cover the popcorn ceiling is that the asbestos is still there, and you may not be fully exempt from the consequences that come with it.

For example, if you ever want to have any repairs or changes made in your home down the road, such as installing a new ceiling fan, you will need to consider the asbestos that remains in your ceiling because it can prevent you from doing things like drilling into the popcorn ceiling.

In addition, if you plan on selling your home in the future you will need to disclose to any potential buyers that asbestos is present, which can discourage people from buying the home.

A downside linked to the paint cover is that it does not remove the texture of the popcorn-ing.

Non-Asbestos Popcorn Ceiling

If you have a popcorn ceiling that doesn’t contain asbestos, there are more options available. What you do ultimately comes down to your preferences and priorities.

When you are choosing between covering and removing a popcorn ceiling, what is best will depend on the methods you are considering.

Covering Popcorn Ceiling

There are many benefits that come with covering a non-asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling.

For starters, the process of covering a popcorn ceiling is much less messy than the process of removing one.

In addition, while there is some overlap depending on what method you use, it is generally cheaper to cover rather than remove a popcorn ceiling. The cheapest method is installing lightweight ceiling tiles.

In my opinion, it is better to cover your popcorn ceiling if there is no asbestos.

Here are your options.

Fill in the Popcorn-Ing With More Plaster

You can try to even out the plaster by adding more to fill in the spaces between the popcorn-ing.

Smoothening the plaster using a plastering trowel

Since this project can be done on your own, all that will cost you is the supplies. This method will cost you around $15-$30 on average for plastering materials, depending on the room’s size.

In addition, you will need some household items such as a bucket, stool/ladder, tape, and supplies for cleanup. If you don’t have these things, it will cost you more.

  • This can be done DIY (it’s the cheapest DIY option)
  • It is a fairly low-cost project
  • The process is less messy than removal
  • It can be time-consuming, especially if you do it in multiple rooms
  • The look may be unappealing to some
  • The repeated movements can be hard on the wrists

Conceal With Wooden Planks

If you like a more rustic, farmhouse look in your home, it may be a good option for you to cover the popcorn ceiling with wooden planks.

The cost of this can essentially be anything you want, as it will depend on how high-quality your planks are. You can expect to pay anywhere from $40 all the way up to $300+, depending on what you choose.

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  • There are many options of planks to choose from to fit your personal style preferences
  • This can be done DIY
  • You have some control over the cost of the project
  • If there is trim or excessive ‘popcorn’ paint on your ceiling, the project may require extra work
  • This project can be time-consuming, especially if you plan on painting your planks
  • If you opt for lower-quality planks, there is a higher risk of issues occurring down the road

Cover With Drywall

Another method you can use is covering up the popcorn ceiling with drywall panels. This method is one of the fastest in this article for covering up popcorn ceiling.

The price of installing drywall is typically low, as drywall panels tend to be inexpensive. You can expect to pay around $36-$72 in total based on the average cost per panel and average ceiling size.

In addition, the other materials you will need add extra costs to the project. The exact amount depends on what you still need.

  • This method is very fast
  • Costs for this project are fairly low
  • You can paint the drywall to add a pop of color to the room
  • If you paint the drywall, it can take a long time to dry
  • This project can get pricey if you need to buy extra supplies
  • Installing drywall can be messy

Cover With Ceiling Tiles

You can also cover up popcorn ceiling with tiles, which come in a variety of materials and styles that can fit any aesthetic of your choosing.

The main factors making up the cost of this project are the adhesive and the tiles themselves, which will cost about $40 and $168 on average, respectively.

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  • There are many types of ceiling tiles you can choose from
  • The adhesive takes about an hour to dry, so there is plenty of time to adjust the tiles if you make a mistake
  • The project doesn’t require many supplies
  • You will need to remove and reinstall any light fixtures while placing the tiles
  • The process can be tedious and difficult to complete alone
  • If you choose heavier ceiling tiles, you may need to use screws instead of adhesive to attach them
  • This method is slightly more expensive than others covered in this article

Install Drop Ceiling

It may come as a surprise to you that you can install a drop ceiling in your home to work around and cover the popcorn ceiling.

On average, it costs $1,976 to install a drop ceiling in the United States. This cost can fluctuate based on many factors, such as the size of your ceiling and if you hire a professional to complete the installation.

  • If you have the necessary skills, this project can be done DIY
  • Drop ceilings don’t require much maintenance
  • They allow for easy access to the ceiling they conceal, which is good for maintenance purposes
  • This method is more advanced than the others covered in this article if you lack basic home renovation skills
  • The cost of this method is higher than other options
  • The drop ceiling look may not be appealing to everyone
  • Drop ceilings can make a room appear smaller

Removing Popcorn Ceiling

Removing your popcorn ceiling will be messier than covering it regardless of the removal method, and it is typically the more expensive method, although there is some overlap in price with some of the covering techniques.

The greater cost is because you will pay for the ceiling to be removed and redone, whether it be painting the ceiling boards or installing new ones.

In the end, there are few reasons to choose removal over covering the popcorn ceiling.

Scraping Method

The scraping method for removing popcorn ceiling involves spraying the ceiling with water, letting it soak, then removing it by hand with a paint scraper.

The cost of this method is very low (about $5-$20), as all you will need to purchase is a tool to spray the ceiling and a paint scraper (amazon link). However, keep in mind that this is a very long and tedious process.

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  • The cost of this method is very low
  • This project can be done DIY
  • It is safe to do this as long as your ceiling is asbestos-free
  • This process takes a long time to complete
  • The repeated motion of scraping the popcorn ceiling can be hard on the wrists
  • Scraping the ceiling is very messy
  • The ceiling may still be uneven when you finish, requiring more work to be done

Replacing the Ceiling Boards

If you want to replace your popcorn ceiling but don’t want to scrape it off, you can also just replace the ceiling boards. This is a more advanced project, so you may need to hire help if you can’t DIY it.

On average, it will cost you from $2-$15 per square foot of ceiling boards depending on what they are made out of and how large your ceiling is.

  • If you have been wanting to upgrade some things in your home, this would be a good opportunity
  • You can make changes to the style in your home
  • Your popcorn ceiling will be completely gone
  • Can be expensive if you end up hiring someone to help you do this
  • It will still be messy, as renovations will still be done that disturb the popcorn ceiling
  • Overall, this process is much more complicated than simply covering the popcorn ceiling

Drywall vs Drop Ceiling | Detailed Cost Comparison


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