The First and Worst Project: DIY Ceiling Scraping

Day 3: November 1, 2012

Another task high on our priority list was to tackle the popcorn ceilings.  We wanted to remove the popcorn ceilings on the entire upper level before painting the walls.  We thought we’d give this a DIY-try first.  I mean, how hard can scraping ceilings really be?  Um, it’s really hard.  I would describe it as the worst thing I have ever volunteered to put myself through.  Here’s our story and advice to others looking to remove the popcorn ceiling for the knockdown effect:

DIY Popcorn Ceiling Removal Steps

  1. Put on your ambitious pants
  2. Gather tools needed
  3. Prep the space for the messiest project. Ever.
  4. Play your ceiling-scraping playlist (leave your music OUTSIDE of the room to avoid damage)
  5. Let the slave-like work commence

1. Here we are suited up and ambitious to start (ambitious pants under the good-lookin’ white coveralls)

Photo by Jolene-
Photo by Jolene-

2. Gather tools

  • Various size scrapers with long and short handles
  • Rolls of construction paper/kraft paper
  • Sheets of plastic
  • ladders
  • painters tape to secure paper and plastic
  • shop vac
  • work lights
  • Safety googles (think Chemisty-class-type googles)
  • Renovation coverall
  • Disposable shoes covers
  • Gloves
  • Large trash can
  • Broom and dust pan
  • Adult beverages

3. Prep your space for the soon-to-be disaster

The more coverage you have the better off you will be when it comes to cleaning up.   Luckily, we did not have anything moved into the house yet so this made it easier to prep for and cleanup after.  First, we laid the paper down around the perimeter of the room, using tape to secure to the floor and baseboards.  I would recommend having excess paper around the edges so you can fold up against the wall and cover the baseboards.  This creates a “bowl” effect with the paper catching more of the debris.

Next, cover your windows, door openings, vents and light fixtures (if you plan to keep them) with plastic sheeting.  Use more tape to secure to walls, trims, floors, etc.  This will help keep the debris in the room you are currently working on. We taped over outlets, vents and other small crevasses to help keep dust out.  Finally, lay down plastic over the floors (already covered with paper) to make clean up MUCH easier. Aren’t those curtains GREAT?!

Photo by Jolene-
Photo by Jolene-
Photo by Jolene-
Photo by Jolene-

 4.  Play your ceiling-scraping playlist (leave your music OUTSIDE of the room to avoid damage to your equipment)

I don’t recall what playlist we were listing to while doing so, I just remember the good tunes helping keep up our motiviation. We probably had a rockin’ station playing on the iphone via Pandora.

5. Let the slave-like work commence

We had three rooms to tackle. With each room our technique changed and improved.  Once the room was prepped we suited up and started scraping away the popcorn.  Our attire consisted of light and comfortable clothing underneath the coverall- you are going to sweat a lot in this barely-breathable suit.  Disposal booties to cover your shoes (remove when you leave the room to avoid tracking the dust around the house).  Goggles to protect your eyes and a face mask to keep you from inhaling the popcorn debris.  Gloves are helpful, too.

The art of scraping the ceiling is not too difficult.  I did most of hand scraping since the larger scraper with the extendable pole was very heavy.  I worked my way around the perimeter of the room with the hand scraper and ladder.  Mr. Muscles, Paul, used the larger scrapper to tackle the inner ceiling space.   The one piece of advise we can share is to keep the scrapper as flat as possible.  If you start angling the scrapper too much, you risk making divots in the ceiling or removing the paper layer of the sheetrock.  We are perfect so this never happened.  I am joking of course. Why else would I give you this piece of advise?! 😉

Here is a photo of the first and smallest room after scraping the popcorn away.  You can see a heavy layer of dust on the floor.  The first time around, we did NOT lay a sheet of plastic on the ground which ended up requiring more clean up, so we highly recommend laying that plastic over your paper.  We used a combination of the shop vacuum, brooms and shaking off the plastic into the garbage can for clean up.  We had plans to spray the ceilings with fresh paint so we only cleaned up the ceiling dust and left the paper and plastic sheeting in place.

Photo by Jolene-
Photo by Jolene-

On average, it took us about 1 hour per room just to skim off the popcorn layer with a few much needed breaks taken.  Overall, it took us about 6 hours from start to finish.  When it was all over we decided the rest of the popcorn ceilings would remain as is.  It’s a very do-able task, but far from being our favorite.  If you are brave enough to tackle this project I would suggest starting with one room and see how it pans out.  And that my friends, is the story of the first and worst project at the new house.   Thanks to the well stocked fridge we survived; thank goodness!

Photo by Jolene-
Photo by Jolene-




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