Scraping a stipple ceiling

Pimples. It’s not even a nice word.

Popcorn. That’s a much nicer word.

Stippled ceilings have come to be known as popcorn ceilings. However, in my opinion, popcorn is much too nice of a word to be associated with these ugly ceilings. Not to trigger any traumatic teenage flashbacks, but stippled ceilings are closer to pimples than popcorn.

Popcorn ceiling

Step one in the master bedroom makeover was to help the ceiling grow up from its ugly adolescence into beautiful adulthood–and I couldn’t just make like a fashion magazine and airbrush.

It was gonna take muscle, and it was gonna be messy.

So, armed with an all-clear on my asbestos test, trowels, a spray bottle of water, pole sander, extra sandpaper and a dust mask, I went to work.

Tools for scraping popcorn ceiling

In the basement where we also had stipple ceiling, I actually sanded a lot of it off. This technique gave me a really nice smooth finish, even if it did generate a tonne of dust. In the bedroom, I found soaking in water and then scraping with the trowel worked best. As much as the big yellow trowel would have been faster, I liked the control of my little trowel.

It was still a lot of work. Scraping a stipple ceiling is not fun. However, fueled by ju-jubes, I got it done. (My skin may have progressed from its teenage years, but my diet has not. The orange ones are still my favourite).


Underneath the stipple, the drywall was smooth and painted, which leads me to ask why? Why finish a ceiling smooth, paint it and then cover it in pimples? I just don’t understand.

We all know the prep work is most important to get a good paint job. I spent more time on prep for the bedroom than I ever have before. Scraping the ceiling, scraping the caulking from between the crown molding and the ceiling (ugh), patching hundreds of little chips in the ceiling (they were just minor chips of paint, but there were truly hundreds of them), patching one bad ceiling seam and one crack in the wall, sanding and pasting over again.

Ceiling after scraping the popcorn

It took days.

Thank goodness I was off work for the Christmas break. Although it wasn’t the most restful holiday.

In the end though, my ceiling is all grown up and pimple-free. Much nicer to look at when I’m lying in bed in my new master bedroom. (Apologies for the really bad photo, but I think you can tell it’s nice and smooth. Oh, and there’s a sneak peak of the blue walls).

Finished ceiling after scraping the popcorn

Have you ever scraped a stipple ceiling? Any techniques to share? Any insights on why people stipple ceilings? And most important, what colour ju-jubes are your favourite?


16 thoughts on “Scraping a stipple ceiling

  1. I read somewhere that it can work to paint the popcorn material with a paint roller and water. My grandmother’s apartment has that material sprayed really heavily on the ceilings to hide the fact that they are unfinished concrete slabs. We just let it go. If I had that stuff in my house I’d be tempted to just put another layer of drywall on top, but I know we don’t all have the benefit of living next door to crazy Irish carpenters who can hang drywall really fast.

  2. Ugh. Popcorn ceilings are the worst! Our method, although not the least bit enjoyable, is to cover the popcorn with 1/4′ drywall. It’s not fun. I absolutely HATE working over my head screwing the drywall up, then mudding, then sanding.. but that is usually our method. Every ceiling in our house had popcorn at one time, now we are down to one room left, and that will be tackled this Spring.

    • Wow! Good for you to almost abolishing all your pimples. I would have considered new drywall, but I didn’t want to mess too much with the crown molding that was already in place. Scraping the ceiling let me keep the crown.

      Plan for a neck massage to celebrate finishing your last ceiling!

  3. Hi Julia! I feel your pain – and your technique is the best I found. Only one room has some scraping needed – that’s because I ripped down all the other ceilings – except for one small stairwell section that I covered with 1/4″ drywall. So the most effective way to remove popcorn ceilings? Remove the ceiling 🙂 Smartest way to remove popcorn ceiling – scrape if you like torture.

  4. Hey Julia,
    Let me be the first to answer your question about ju jubes. I am looking forward to a bag of them tonight as a matter of fact! My favourites are the red, then the yellow, then the black, and last the orange.What I really like to do is pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds or so. It makes them nice and soft.

  5. We rid our home in California of the dreaded popcorn ceiling. We did all the rooms except for the living/dining room since it was a large space. I hired that out so it would look perfect. 🙂 We used a pump pesticide sprayer like this: It covered a wider area, and it saved our hands from carpal tunnel.

    The ceiling junk sticks to everything when it is wet, so we covered our shoes with the painter’s shoe covers which we removed when we left the room. That way, we didn’t track it through the house.

    Your ceiling looks great!

  6. My favorites are the red ones, probably because of some really unhealthy food dye or something that gets me addicted. My favorites of any kind of candy are always the red ones!
    Wow, what a huge job. I’m very impressed with your dedication, and the end result looks gorgeous, as does that colour! I can’t wait to see the master bedroom in its totality.

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