Tips & AdviceAre Popcorn Ceilings Bad?

Are Popcorn Ceilings Bad?


If you live in a home that contractors built sometime in the mid-20th century, there is a good chance that you have a popcorn ceiling. These ceilings use different materials and spray-on treatments to create a textured effect composed of small bumps.

New homes rarely include popcorn ceilings, and some potential homebuyers may wonder whether they should purchase a home with their kind of treatment. While plenty of factors contribute to their decrease in popularity, popcorn ceilings still have a large group of supporters, and homebuyers should consider their style preferences and comfort levels when deciding how to approach a popcorn ceiling.

The History of Popcorn Ceilings

Popcorn ceilings were trendy from the 1950s through the 1970s. This type of ceiling conveniently hid imperfections and muffled songs. It was also quite affordable, making it popular for bedrooms and hallways.

What are Popcorn Ceilings Made Out Of?

Before and during the 1970s, someone would apply a mixture of different sized particles to a ceiling, then use several layers of spray paint or spray-on treatments to give the top a monotone look. The ceiling’s bumpy surface typically contained vermiculite or polystyrene, which included sound-deafening qualities. Normally, those applying the ceiling would use a white spray on treatment. However, this process utilized materials that contained asbestos.

After a 1978 amendment to the Clean Air Act (1963), homes could no longer use materials with asbestos in their homes. Since 1980, those who wish to add popcorn ceilings must use materials composed of paper and styrofoam. The switch of materials and modern design trends which gravitate towards defined lines and surfaces contributed to the decrease in popularity of popcorn ceilings. Today, homeowners rarely implement popcorn ceilings in their homes.

Pros and Cons of Popcorn Ceilings

Popcorn ceilings previously maintained popularity over several decades but are not as common today. Many homeowners find that the drawbacks outweigh the positive aspects and will typically decide to select a different style should they need to redo their ceiling.

Pros of Popcorn Ceilings

A significant benefit of popcorn ceilings is their ability to easily hide flaws in a ceiling. Imperfections like leaks, cracks, and various other damage aren’t seen as easily on popcorn ceilings as on smooth ceilings.

Popcorn ceilings also provide sound-dampening qualities, making them ideal for places where homeowners have personal and private conversations. Bedrooms, hallways, and basements are popular for this kind of ceiling, as it decreases the volume of sound that transfers between rooms. Households with many family members could use this ceiling because it reduces the overall noise level.

Popcorn ceilings are affordable and easy to install. Homeowners looking to update their ceiling on a budget may decide to use a popcorn ceiling and use their savings to finance other household projects. Furthermore, if someone’s ceiling suffers severe damage and they need a quick fix, a homebuyer may decide to use a popcorn ceiling to save money on an unexpected expense.

Cons of Popcorn Ceilings

The most significant drawback to popcorn ceilings is that ceilings installed before the Clean Air Act amendment contain asbestos. People exposed to asbestos are more likely to develop cancer and lung disease.

Homeowners should know that purchasing a home with an old popcorn ceiling does not immediately expose them to asbestos. When undisturbed, asbestos in homebuilding materials does not pose a risk to those inside the home. However, if the ceiling suffers damage, the ceiling could release the asbestos into the air and immediately endanger those who breathe it in.

Homebuyers may also dislike popcorn ceilings because they are more challenging to clean. These ceilings can often trap dirt, dust, and other debris, and cleaning them can be difficult due to their rough surface. Popcorn ceilings also create shadows that can make rooms appear smaller and darker.

Removing or repairing these ceilings can also be a nightmare. The removal process is difficult and time-consuming. If a popcorn ceiling contains asbestos, homeowners must take extra precautions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure safe and proper removal. From a design perspective, repairing a small portion of the ceiling means that a homeowner needs to match the size and feel of the already existing particles to maintain continuity, which is a difficult task.

Should you buy a home with popcorn ceilings?

Homeowners have varying levels of comfort when engaging with popcorn ceilings. While this ceiling design isn’t inherently bad, it can be dangerous if it contains asbestos. Additionally, it may be more difficult to sell a home with popcorn ceilings down the line as future potential buyers may fear the asbestos or simply dislike the textured look.

You should consider if the other available homes in your local market contain popcorn ceilings. If you’re looking to buy in a market with a high volume of inventory where other available homes do not have this kind of ceiling, it may be to your benefit to pursue those options to save yourself time and energy down the line. However, if you’re purchasing in a competitive market or one with limited inventory, you may decide to put down an offer for a home with a popcorn ceiling. Should you come across your dream property, whether or not it has a popcorn ceiling should not drastically influence your decision to buy.

How much does it cost to remove popcorn ceilings?

If you purchase a home with a popcorn ceiling but want to remove it, you should prepare yourself for varying costs. Ceilings without asbestos cost significantly less to remove than ceilings with asbestos. Before attempting to remove the treatment, you must test them for asbestos. This a professional to come to inspect the ceiling and send a sample for lab analysis. The cost of a home asbestos test averages at $486.

The size of your ceiling will also influence the removal cost. Usually, you can expect to pay around $1-$3 per square foot for popcorn ceiling removal without asbestos and closer to $5-$20 per square foot if the ceiling contains asbestos. If your ceilings contain asbestos, you will need to hire a professional to remove the surface carefully and may need to pay an asbestos removal fee that ranges from $50 to $100.

How to remove a popcorn by yourself

Adventurous homeowners with a popcorn ceiling that does not contain asbestos can cut costs and remove the ceiling themselves. To remove the ceiling, you should prepare your space by removing furniture and items and then covering the floor, as removing this ceiling can be messy.

Before taking on a job like this, ensure you know how difficult and time-consuming it can be, and acquire the right tools and safety equipment. Materials like safety glasses and gloves can help keep the popcorn ceiling out of your eyes and off your hands.

Removal involves simply scraping off all of the popcorn material until it is gone. This task can be difficult, so slightly moistening the bumps with a few water sprays can help. Some products even exist to specifically cater to this type of removal, where you can spray their fluid to help soften the ceiling and make the removal process more manageable. Work in small sections and hold a bin underneath the area you’re working on to ensure you capture most of the mess. Once you’ve removed the entire ceiling, you can proceed with the following steps.  

Next steps post popcorn ceiling removal

After your popcorn ceiling removal, you can proceed with different options. However, you should first repair any damage or scuff marks. During the removal process, it is common to accidentally scrape part of the substrate material, so be sure to take some time to spread some compounds over the impacted areas and sand them down until they are smooth.

You can add a primer and paint the ceiling in your desired color. Another option is to finish your ceiling with texture or molding. You may apply wood paneling or other design features to make your room stand out.


While popcorn ceilings were trendy throughout the mid-20th century, their asbestos-containing particles and the design movement toward modern, sleek finishes weakened their appeal to current homeowners. Homebuyers should consider the pros and cons of this type of ceiling before submitting an offer on a house and realize that removal can be pricey if the ceiling contains asbestos.

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