Scraping Popcorn Ceilings

At least once a year, I like to engage myself in a project that is utter hell to complete.

This fall, Dave and I will be painting our plywood subfloors, and boy does that sound like quite the hellacious undertaking.

I can’t wait to get started!

Though almost every home improvement project at 402 Rusk has been borderline nightmare-ish, the scariest by far was our FIRST project: scraping the popcorn ceilings!!

Once upon a time, every inch of every ceiling in our home was covered with a nasty popcorn texturing.  Not only does popcorn texturing look cheap, it is also very hard to clean and soaks up every odor imaginable.  Our lumpy ceilings were matted with sticky cobwebs and saturated with a musty doggy/cigarette funk.

From the moment I first laid eyes on those ceilings, I wanted that popcorn gone ASAP!

Fortunately, I discovered that this type of texturing is easy to remove–all I had to do was some simple soaking and scraping…

…among other things.

In the event that you are thinking of ridding your ceilings of this disgusting form of texturing, please read on…

My Guide To Scraping Ceilings

Two days after we signed the dotted line to our home, we arrived at 402 Rusk armed with water jugs, garden sprayers, scrapers and plastic floor covers.

Tip #1: Make sure that you are ready to kick some ass!  I could be more prudent and substitute the word “ass” with the word “arse,” but “arse” is more appropriate for simpler projects such as ironing sheets.

Tip #2:  Make sure that the room you are working in is completely empty!  That is, unless you want smelly, wet goo seeping into all of your possessions.

As if Dave and I didn’t have enough to worry about, the water to the home had not been turned on yet.  This meant we had to fill up whatever empty containers we possessed from our rent house (laundry detergent and wine bottles, milk jugs, pitchers) and bring them with us.  Thankfully, our friends who lived down the street helped replenish our water supply.

Tip #3: Wear protective goggles and a face mask.

STEP #1: Switch off all electricity to the room you are working in.  Spraying water + live wires = No Bueno

Unfortunately, no electricity means no fans or air-conditioning.  (Not that any of our fans or A/C worked anyway.)  Therefore, you will sweat and pant and sweat some more.  I was so hot that my goggles kept fogging up and my face mask began suffocating me.

Tip #4: With one sweaty, grubby claw, seize your goggles and face mask and hurl them to the opposite side of the room.

STEP #2: Cover the entire floor with painter’s plastic.  This will provide an easy-clean-up barrier between the watery mess and your floors.

Now you are ready to start spraying and scraping!

STEP #3: Using a garden sprayer, completely douse a small area with water and allow to soak for 10-12 minutes.

STEP #4: Using a wide scraper, scrape away the soaked section of texturing.

Tip #5: It is best to work in pairs on this project!!  Have one person spray and soak while the other follows behind with the scraper.

Tip #6: Don’t freak out.  Reasons to freak out are as follows:

1.  Your ladder is slippery because of all of the water getting sprayed around.

2.  Whenever you move the ladder, the painter’s plastic gets tangled and wadded up causing all of the watery goo that you scraped off the ceiling to come oozing out onto your carpet.

3.  Thick drops of water teeming with 20 years of dust, smoke and doggie smell are dripping all over your head and body.

4.  The white goo that used to be on your ceiling is now all over your floor.

5.  You step in the goo by accident, mushing it into the carpet fibers.

6.  You step in the goo on purpose and soon your flip-flops become so weighted down with white mud that you can barely lift your feet.

7.  Your mud-encrusted flip-flops make it difficult for you to climb your slippery ladder, but you do it anyway…even though doing so could be the death of you.

8.  Your eyes are burning because water, sweat and texture particles keep dripping into them…but you know better than to put those foggy goggles back on.


FINALLY!  After 2 miserable hours, Dave and I finished scraping the kitchen ceiling!

However, it was hard to feel like we accomplished anything since the floor, countertops and sink were completely covered in soggy, gray plaster.  (Sorry there’s no picture.  That would have been something to see!)

Since we didn’t have a broom with us, our only option was to scrape and scoop the gloppy piles of texturing onto the wadded up plastic sheets with our bare hands.  And since we didn’t have a garbage dumpster yet, we just left the bundle sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor in the hopes that magical dwarfs would whisk it away in the middle of the night.

It took Dave and I four days to scrape every ceiling (with the exception of closets) in our house and with that we celebrated with a Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

Scraping ceilings is one of those miserable projects where the only reward is the fact that you never, ever have to do it again.  Therefore, I give this project the “Boy, Am I Glad That’s Over!” rating.

But don’t let this entry discourage you from getting those clean, smooth ceilings you’ve always wanted.

They are worth the work!

Supply list:

large scraper

garden sprayer


face mask

painter’s plastic



For a more professional guide to scraping ceilings, click here!


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