Motherfucking Popcorn: Part I


  • 1 gal. economy sprayer ($10)
  • 3 step ladder ($45)
  • Eye protection ($4)
  • Respirator ($20)
  • Blue painter’s tape ($7)
  • Plastic sheeting ($18)
  • 7″ Putty knife ($10)
  • Ceiling texture scraper ($18)
  • Total Project Cost ($132)

Estimated Project Time: 4 hours per room

Actual Project Time: 2.5 hours per room

One of the drawbacks of this beautiful home of mine are the popcorn ceilings. They aren’t the super obnoxious, 1/2 inch monster puffs, but they’re still pretty pronounced and ugly. When I had first viewed the house, they didn’t strike me as that big of a deal, and I just figured it would be something that I got to eventually, no rush. However, while the house sits vacant for five days before the move, and three days before carpet cleaning, it occurred to me that now might just be the right time to knock out a couple of rooms worth of popcorn ceilings. Since at this time I only have enough furniture to fill up the master bedroom and the living room, those would be my first two targets; of which, the master bedroom seemed the more appealing choice, due to the carpet cleaning scheduled three days from now.

People thought this shit looked good in the 80s?

After doing a bit of research on the intertewbz, I decided to try my hand at scraping the ceilings. Some of the more common tips included spraying the ceilings with a solution of vinegar and warm water, to loosen up the ceiling texture before scraping. Since the whole house already smells like a litter box, I figured that the stench of vinegar might actually be an improvement. After browsing the Home Depot’s website for materials, I decided to try out a purpose built ceiling scraping tool, which has a convenient bag attachment thing which supposedly catches the ceiling material as it falls off (spoiler alert: this shit didn’t work). I also decided to get a wide (7″ blade) putty knife for the edges and corners. Additionally, I picked up a respirator and some safety glasses, a step ladder, and some plastic sheeting for damage control.

Safety first

My first order of business was to lay down some sheeting and test a small section in the corner of the master bedroom with the vinegar cocktail. I figure worst case scenario, I scrape the shit out of that one spot and nobody knows the difference, I’m out a hundred bucks of materials, and I slink home a pathetic failure (it’s happened before). Miraculously, it worked, the scraper was a bit awkward to use at first, but after letting the water soak in for about 10 minutes, a beautiful sheet of popcorn came right off the ceiling, revealing the drywall paper underneath.

Test scrape, revealing the drywall paper underneath

Having successfully tested a portion of the ceiling, I laid down the plastic sheeting, and taped it off about 2 feet above the baseboard. Important note: preparation has never been my strong suit, and this came back to haunt me later, as I only successfully collected about 90% of the ceiling material on the plastic sheets, next time I will be spending a little more than eight minutes prepping the room.

It was at this point that I realized that this fancy ceiling scraping tool was a real piece of shit. I pulled out the putty knife to scrape the edge of the ceiling and slid off a beautiful two foot sheet of ceiling material in one foul swoop, from this point on I ditched the ceiling scraper, and just did the rest of the room with the wide putty knife. I’ve always been good with a knife, I attribute this to my rough upbringing on the streets of South Orange County, we had to fight for everything.

Shoddy prepwork

At this point, I was both excited and terrified. Excited because I could actually scrape these fucking ceilings myself, and save a shitload of money. Terrified, because I was going to have to fucking scrape these ceilings myself, and this shit is exhausting work. Especially when the most exercise you’ve gotten this week is going from the couch to the refrigerator. Anyway, at this point I proceeded to take turns spraying the ceiling, and then scraping them off, each time in sections of about five square feet. Sometimes I got a little greedy, and tried for more. Another point of note, next time it would be wise to remove the motherfucking ceiling fan, and any ceiling mounted vents or smoke detectors, as hitting one with a putty knife leads to a fairly reasonable chance of electrocution.

Somewhere between two and three hours later, I finished up the entire room. There were a couple of places where some water damage had been repaired, and some asshole slopped texture directly onto some plywood, which refused to come off. I did the best I could and will likely have to smooth these areas out with some spackle before texture/paint. As you can likely see from the pictures, I did a shoddy job of prepping the room and ended up with pieces of the ceiling everywhere after picking up the plastic sheeting.

This shit gets everywhere
Sorry carpet

Another interesting footnote, I didn’t think about texture or paint at all before I scraped these ceilings. I was told by a reliable source, that spray on texture was both easy and cost effective, but it was later determined that this information was unreliable. Needless to say, after I finish writing this garbage I will be spending the next hour researching texture and paint.

The finished product, not bad for my first go.

At this point I have one more working evening before carpet cleaning to get the master bedroom in order, I’ll likely pick up a shop-vac and try to get what’s left of the ceiling out of the various nooks and crannies in the room, and hopefully those guys can take care of the rest. Part II of this horrible fucking post will likely include my attempt at mudding/painting the ceiling and eventually repeating this horrible process in the living room.

To be continued…