Extremely popular in the 1990s, the popcorn ceiling style is coming back into favor again nearly thirty years later. But do you know what a popcorn ceiling is?
Well, essentially, if you have little bubbles or texturing across your ceiling it means that you have a popcorn ceiling.
It looks like there’s popcorn stuck up there, which is where it actually got its name.
And it can actually be a little difficult to paint because those little pieces stick out in strange ways.
If you don’t get the paint all the way around them it could mean areas that aren’t even painted, and that definitely looks strange.
In this guide, we will, therefore, walk through detailed information on how to spray paint the popcorn ceiling.
And later on with a few advantages and disadvantages of painting a popcorn ceiling.
So, let’s dive in…
How to Spray Paint Your Popcorn Ceiling?
If you’re looking to spray paint your ceiling decoratively and you know you have popcorn up there your only options are to paint over it or to tear it down.
And that’s definitely going to be a whole lot more difficult than you might have thought it would be.
With our step-by-step instructions here, you can hopefully complete your home improvement project fairly easily.
Step 1: Check for Paint
The first thing you need to do is find out if the ceiling has already been painted once.
To do this, all you need to do is spray just a little bit of water onto the ceiling.
Do this in a spot that’s not going to be noticeable and make sure you aren’t saturating it too much.
If the texture of the ceiling gets soft that means it’s never been painted.
If it doesn’t then someone has beat you to it. All that means is you don’t need to use spray paint if you don’t want to.
That’s because your ceiling is already not going to absorb too much moisture.
Unpainted popcorn ceilings do need spray paint.
This is because they don’t have enough moisture in them already and when you use a roller (or a brush) you’re just going to absorb that moisture right into the ceiling.
In a process, the texture can then come off on your roller and it’s not going to look the way you want it to.
Also, it’s going to take a whole lot more paint. That’s definitely not something that you want.
By just spray painting these areas you’re going to take care of the problem because you’re not going to have as much moisture getting into the texture.
Step 2: Remove & Tape
First, remove anything that you don’t want to paint, and that can be removed.
This includes most light fixtures and any type of decorative accents that are able to be removed.
You then want to tape anything that you can’t remove but that you definitely don’t want to get paint on.
Remember that you’re spraying the paint, which means it’s going to be in the air.
You’ll need to do more than just tape the edges the way you would with standard painting. You also need to cover the bulk of the items.
When you put the tape down make sure that you’re sealing it well.
Remember, paint can easily bleed outward from where you put it and if you’re not careful you could end up with bleed under the tape.
Instead, make sure that you’re sealing the tape down well so nothing is going to get under it.
This may mean using the back of a spoon to help flatten it against the wall and get a good fit.
Also, make sure that the edge of the tape is at the furthest spot you want the paint to be able to go so that you don’t miss any spots either.
Step 3: Protect Yourself
The right safety gear is going to be extremely important when it comes to spray paint because you’re going over your head.
You’re also using an aerosol-based product, which can easily get into your mouth, nose, and airways if you’re not careful.
That’s why you want to be sure you have a painting face mask, gloves, eyeglasses, and protection for your arms and legs.
The last thing you want is to breathe in that paint or get it into your eyes. The right protective gear helps you stay a whole lot safer.
Step 4: Fix the Ceiling
Is there any kind of defect or problem with the ceiling? Do you have a crack or a chipped area?
Is there a paint spot where you need to touch up the popcorn design?
Well, if any of these things need to be done make sure that you do them before you paint.
Skim coating and priming the popcorn ceiling before painting can help you get better adhesion for the paint.
Applying a good stain-blocking primer like Kilz can be a good way to hide the old stains, especially if you have an old ceiling.
It’s going to look a whole lot better to have that paint over the top of any repairs rather than trying to make changes after and then having to go through the painting process yet again.
Or at least doing some touchups once it’s already been done.
Step 5: Fixing The Popcorn Itself
Now, if the fix that you need to make is to the popcorn itself then you need to take a closer look at the area you need to fix.
a) Fixing Small Blemishes
If it’s a small section of the ceiling you’re probably going to be best off using something called ‘spray acoustic texture.’
This is basically going to be exactly what it sounds like, a spray-on texture product that will make it look like your texture is completely flawless.
Also, you can consider using a popcorn ceiling patch by Zinsser which works perfectly for covering small blemishes.
It’s basically a ready mixed ceiling texture that you can apply using a brush or knife to repair small popcorn sections.
No one will be able to notice that you had repaired the section because it’s going to blend right in with the rest.
b) Fixing Large Section
On the other hand, if you need to fix the popcorn and it’s a larger section you’re going to have a bit more hard work and effort involved.
For this part of the process, you need to remove the powder texture with water and create the texture again, so that it’s going to look right.
Just using a spray product is generally not designed for these larger areas.
And you could find yourself struggling to get just the right look and longevity if you do attempt to use one of these products instead of doing it yourself.
Step 6: Choose Your Paint
When it comes to actually apply the paint, you first need to know the type of paint that you’re going to use.
a) The Type
You will generally have your best results with either a matte or a flat paint, rather than anything too shiny.
Keep in mind that shiny paints will draw attention and you don’t want that attention on your uneven ceiling.
Instead, use a flatter paint that’s just going to cover what’s going on with the ceiling.
People may notice it, but they’re not going to be completely blown away by what’s happening on your ceiling, so why try to draw their attention there?
b) The Color
When picking the paint for spraying popcorn ceiling, you should choose a color and a texture to your paint that also reflects just what you’re looking for.
White will actually help you to make your ceiling look higher and it’s going to make the entire room bright and vibrant, but it’s not the ideal color for everyone.
So, make sure you’re thinking about the color that you want and that you’re choosing a paint that has the right consistency to get the job done.
c) The Pricing
High-quality paint is an important step as well. Don’t just opt for the cheapest paint that you can possibly get.
Instead, you want to make sure that you have something that’s high quality and that’s going to mean spending a bit more money.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to go with the most expensive option every time.
Some of the best paints are going to be the middle-of-the-road ones, which are valuing themselves and their product, but they’re not looking to take you for every dollar that you have.
Step 7: Spray It On
Remember, acrylics can be hard to spray and therefore you should thin them properly before applying them to your ceiling.
Make sure that you do not dilute much and thin out your paint a little with about ½ quart of water alongside every 1 gallon of paint that you use.
A good option is to add about 6-8 ounces of water and check the viscosity by passing it through the funnel.
If it passes away through the funnel very quickly you may not need to add more water.
if it’s thick and does not pass consistently you may consider adding more water to thin it further.
Also, you can test its performance on a corner. If you feel it’s too thick you can add a bit more water.
a) Choose A Right Sprayer
Now it’s time to actually start painting the ceiling and to do this you’re going to need the right sprayer.
In essence, you want an airless and vibrator-type sprayer. This combination is going to ensure that the paint is spread out evenly without dripping.
Keep in mind that some additional features you may want to look for include paint storage and even a suction set.
These are going to make it easier for you to paint your ceiling and not have to worry about the paint getting everywhere, or running out of paint and having to do something different to get going again.
b) Test The Tip
Choosing the right size tip on your paint sprayer is key to completing your paint project successfully.
Since you will be using thinned acrylic paint, it is good to choose a tip size of 415 or 515.
Test it by spraying it on the cardboard and examining the desired patterns you are getting.
Make sure that you also check the condition of the sprayer tip you are using. Do not ever use a worn-out tip.
If it shows the sign of rounded grooved edges maybe you need to get them replaced before spraying.
c) Spraying The Paint
When spraying popcorn ceiling care that you spray it in a single direction consistently.
Starting from one point and being consistent gently move the sprayer in a soft motion without stopping in between.
Make sure that you hold the sprayer perpendicularly to the surface of the ceiling to finish the strip.
This way you will be getting fine results with better coverage.
Now that you have completed spraying the strips allow the paint to dry (go check your FB, play in your backyard or have a coffee – it usually takes an hour or two to dry completely).
Once the paint is dry, examine if you need to get a second coat. If it needs a second coat, spray over in the opposite direction this time.
Again let the paint dry off completely. And you are done!
But wait, before you clean your tools and pull down all your coverings (from floors and furniture) it’s time to look closer to the finished project once again.
If there are any kind of imperfections seen, just try to fix them up quickly.
Or else, once you pack the tools, you will need to get them out again which will be much more time-consuming.
At last, make sure that you wash your rollers, paintbrushes, sprayers, and empty cans before they dry out.
That’s all there’s going to be to it.
With those 7 easy steps and tips above, you’re going to have your popcorn ceiling totally painted and you’ll be able to enjoy the room again.
Pros and Cons of Painting Popcorn Ceiling
Popcorn Ceiling (also called acoustic ceilings, stucco ceilings, or cottage cheese ceilings) has been a household favorite for generations.
But is the popcorn ceiling the right style for your project?
Whether you’re looking to build for your home or office, it’s important that you get the style that best represents you.
That’s why we’ve put together the pros and cons of painting a popcorn ceiling!
Keep these in mind as you plan your perfect project!
1- Noise Reduction:
Does your room require a bit of privacy? Are you building an office or study space where quiet is a necessity?
Then the popcorn ceiling may be for you.
Because of its rough, rugged texture, the popcorn ceiling actually absorbs sound, helping noise-proof your room.
2- Different Aesthetic:
Let’s face it: flat ceilings can be a little … boring.
The good news is that every ceiling doesn’t have to look the same.
With a popcorn ceiling, you can change the flavor and atmosphere of the room with a few simple steps.
Because the popcorn ceiling provides a different look and a variety of different textures, it can be a great way to add a little spice to your room.
3- Covers Flaws:
When painting a flat ceiling, it can be difficult making everything look even.
This can cause a lot of frustration if you’re wanting to make your ceiling look perfect.
That’s where the popcorn ceiling can help. Because it has a naturally rugged texture, it doesn’t have to be even across the board.
This makes it an incredible way to cover flaws and give your room the look it deserves.
4- You Don’t Have to Make the Ceiling Perfect:
This leads us to our last point … a popcorn ceiling takes the pressure off doing your room.
Because you don’t have to worry about all the fine details, you can get your project done in a stress-free manner. And that’s priceless!
That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t some drawbacks to using a popcorn ceiling.
Let’s look at a few so that you can be sure that popcorn ceilings are right for you.
1- They Trap heat:
While their thickness can reduce the amount of noise in a room, it also makes your room hotter.
This can be a particularly bad drawback if you’re living in hot environments or don’t have access to proper AC.
2- They’re Messy:
As you may have guessed, cleaning a popcorn ceiling isn’t as easy as cleaning a regular one.
Not only is it hard to reach all the cracks and crevices, but too much pressure can have some of the “popcorn” flake off the ceiling into the floor.
Finally, be sure that if you’re living in a house that already has a popcorn ceiling that it wasn’t installed before 1977.
These ceilings contain asbestos and can be damaging to your health.
Modern popcorn ceilings don’t contain this dangerous chemical.
With all the above being said, popcorn ceilings can be a great addition to your project … but they’re not right for everyone or every room.
For this reason, consider the above pros and cons to decide if they’ll work for you!
Can You Scrape Off Your Popcorn Ceiling? If So How?
If you do not want to have that old popcorn texture on your ceiling anymore, you can scrape that off or can cover it with ceiling panels or ceiling planks.
Covering your popcorn ceiling can be relatively easy.
However, if you want to scrape off or remove the popcorn ceiling you will need to do this properly so that you do not damage the ceiling or create a whole lot of mess.
- First of all, spray your ceiling with warm soapy water
- After waiting for about 15 to 20 minutes, scrape it using a floor scraper
- You may use any other blade tool, in case the scraper is not available
Remember, removing a popcorn ceiling can increase the value of your property to some extent.
Especially if you have an old property that may have an asbestos popcorn ceiling.
Depending on the overall size of your property the additional estimates can add anywhere between $2,500 to $35,000.
How to Tell if Your Popcorn Ceiling has Asbestos?
You will need to test for this.
Carefully scrape a piece of a small sample and get it tested at an EPA-accredited lab near you.
While you can do the scraping work yourself, it is recommended to get the help of a professional asbestos remediation company to get the job done.
The Bottom Line
If you hate the way the ceiling looks right now and the rest of the room, then you probably don’t like to spend a whole lot of time in that room.
By going through this process, you can make sure that your ceiling is going to look the best it can, rather than the paint getting caught on the cracks and divots that are natural in this type of texture.
Overall, you’re going to want to take a close look at each of these tips and see just how you can get them initiated in your home.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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