Smoothing a Painted Popcorn Ceiling

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Posted by: from Newmarket
2/5/2013 at 8:31:43 PM

As we all know, smoothing out an unpainted popcorn ceiling is quite easy (albiet messy!). However, I have had a few requests recently to smooth out a popcorn ceiling that has been painted!

Any ideas as to what is the best way to smooth out such a ceiling?

I know that no matter what, it will take a lot of elbow grease! lol


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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 9:14:29 PM

Soak the ceiling with water, let it soak in a bit soak again and then scrap. A garden hose with the mist setting works well. It comes down pretty sloppy so enjoy


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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 9:18:39 PM

Try spraying the ceiling with warm water from a garden pump sprayer. Do this three times over 15 minutes then try to scrap it with a 4 inch putty knife. If it comes loose easily continue,

If it was painted with oil base paint it wont work. If it doesn't come off after a good try this way then you need to call a good taper/muder to fill in all the popcorn until the ceiling is flat again.

Good luck.


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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time2/5/2013 at 9:25:40 PM

Rent a machine that will do it for you. I know a guy here in Oakville that just bought one as he does it a lot... about $500 I think.

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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 10:18:03 PM

All depending on what the ceiling was painted with?

If its latex, it should be fairly easy just to scrape off with a putty knife, no water needed. Then use a sanding pole with 80 grid to remove the additional texture residue. Prime the ceiling, then do your touch ups, and prime it again.

Oil base paint. With an oil base paint, no matter how hard you scrape, or damage the drywall by soaking the ceiling, you will end up replacing it.

Best thing to do in this case, is apply a skim coat of drywall compound, let it dry, then give it a rough sanding. You may see some cracks from shrinking (normal). Then apply a second skim coat over the ceiling. Let dry. Sand and prime, do your touch up, then apply another coat of primer.

If you use a light flat paint on the ceiling, you will see a lot less mistakes.

Hope it works out for u.

Nothing worse then fixing someone else's mistakes. A pro will charge u a lot, if you call him after you tried, and failed.

Good luck

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Marc from Finishes By Hahn in Ajax
Date/Time2/6/2013 at 7:03:11 AM

We have done a couple like this. We prefer to work with non-painted stucco as it scrapes off easy. Once there has been oil paint applied it becomes rock hard. We cover the floor with plastic, wear safety glasses and dust masks and go to town with scrapers and LOTS of elbow grease.

Try different tools until you are comfortable with results. You will not make it perfectly smooth. You will require a couple of skim coats of compound and sanding.

We always touch the ceiling before quoting and price accordingly. Not really a fun nor clean job. Do the best you can.

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Date/Time2/6/2013 at 9:00:05 AM

Most of the replys are correct. But I find more often than not durring a reno, there is a desire for new ceiling lighting. And if we run into Oil paint over stucco, we just tear the drywall down. That allows us to do all the wiring and mounting of fixtures etc we want. And in the end, you end up with a new smooth ceiling.


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Date/Time2/6/2013 at 10:48:59 AM

Hi Bret,

in case the ceiling is not painted or has a latex paint, you could just scrap it without even water!

In case there is an oil paint over the stucco ceiling, then it would be much easier to replace the drywall itself?



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Date/Time2/6/2013 at 6:22:38 PM

Hey Bret,

The most efficient way I have found to smooth out a textured ceiling is to tape and polly your walls and use a textured ceiling sprayer to spray over the existing textured ceiling, but trowel it out as you spray, this filling in the recesses.

Steaming/scraping is too much labor, and loading the ceiling by hand is also pretty labour intensive.

Hope this helps!


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Date/Time2/6/2013 at 7:28:06 PM

Seeing it has been painted you can do 2-3 skim coats of 45 sand prime and paint or re board which is cheaper.

Soaking with water only works on unpainted popcorn. And the only way to paint virgin stipple is with oil unless it was sprayed with latex.

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Date/Time2/6/2013 at 8:07:31 PM

Thanks everyone. I appreciate your feedback and ideas.

I will review with the customer what he wants done: smooth out what exists or simply install new drywall.


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