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, which definitely looks strange.
In this guide, I will, therefore, walk through detailed information on spray paint popcorn ceilings.
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 redo your ceiling decoratively and you know you have popcorn up there; your only options are to spray paint over it or tear it down.
And that’s definitely going to be a whole lot more difficult than you might have thought it would be.
But worry not! With my step-by-step instructions, you can hopefully complete your 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, making 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 beaten 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 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
Remove anything you don’t want to paint. This includes most light fixtures, wall paintings, furniture, and any type of decorative accents that can be removed.
Then tape or cover the items you can’t remove but that you definitely don’t want to get paint on.
Remember that you’re spraying the paint, which means some will go into the air no matter how careful you are. So, you’ll need to do more than just tape the edges the way you would with standard painting.
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. So, when you put the tape down, ensure you’re sealing it well.
You can do this by using the back of a spoon to help flatten it against the walls (or other areas) 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
Safety gear will be extremely important when it comes to spray painting ceilings – because you’re going over your head.
The last thing you want is to breathe in that aerosol-based paint or get it into your mouth, nose, airways, and eyes.
So, have a painting face mask, gloves, eyeglasses, and protection for your arms and legs. These protective gear will help you stay a whole lot safer.
Step 4: Fix the Ceiling
Is there any kind of defect or imperfections 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 redone and fixed, make sure that you do them before you proceed to paint.
Skim coating and priming the popcorn ceiling before painting can help you get better adhesion for the paint.
So, apply a good stain-blocking primer like Kilz to hide the old stains and flaws, 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 do 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 (like Homax) will make it look like your texture is completely flawless.
Alternatively, 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.
After using these products, no one will be able to notice that you have repaired the section because it’s going to blend right in with the rest.
b) Fixing Large Section
In case you need to fix a larger section of the popcorn ceiling, you’re going to have a bit more hard work and effort involved.
Using a spray product is generally not designed for fixing these larger areas.
For this part of the process, you will need to remove the powder texture with water and create the texture again so that it’s going to look right.
Step 6: Choose Your Paint
When it comes to applying the paint, you will need to check the following…
a) The Type
For popcorn ceilings, you will generally have the best results with either matte or flat latex paint rather than anything too shiny.
Shiny paints will often draw attention, and you don’t want that attention if it’s an uneven ceiling. So, use a flatter paint that will cover what’s going on with the ceiling.
People may still 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
White will actually help you to make your popcorn ceiling look higher.
Not only will white ceilings make the entire room look brighter and more vibrant, but it will also tend to draw attention away from the popcorn ceiling.
But plain vanilla white isn’t the ideal color for everyone.
So, if you want something other than white, think about other lighter shades with variations of white, like Sherwin-Williams Grays or Off-Whites by Benjamin Moore, which comes with undertones of red, orange, blue, green, and yellow.
c) The Pricing
Picking high-quality paint is an important step as well. Don’t just opt for the cheapest paint you can possibly get.
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 value themselves and their product, but they’re not looking to take you for every dollar that you have.
Step 7: Thin and Spray It On
Remember, water-based latex and acrylics can be hard to spray, so 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 quickly, you may not need to add more water. But 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 one corner. If you feel it’s too thick, you can add a bit more water.
a) Choose A Right Sprayer
When it’s time to paint the ceiling, you’ll need the right sprayer.
In essence, you want an airless and vibrator-type sprayer. This combination will ensure that the paint is spread out evenly without dripping.
A few additional features you may want to look for include paint storage and a suction set.
These will make it easier for you to paint your ceiling and not 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 popcorn ceiling paint project successfully.
Since you will be using thinned acrylic or latex paint, it’s good to choose a tip size of 415 or 515.
Test it first by spraying it on the cardboard and examining the desired patterns you are getting.
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.
Also, ensure 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, 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 a second coat. If it’s needed, 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), look closer to the finished project once again.
If there are any imperfections seen, try to fix them quickly.
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 seven 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 I’ve put together the advantages and disadvantages of popcorn ceiling and refinishing it often. Keep these in mind as you plan your perfect project!
1- 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, especially if you paint them good.
2- Noise Reduction:
Does your room require a bit of privacy? Are you building an office or study space where quietness 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 if you can add sound deadning paint on it.
3- Covers Flaws and Imperfections:
When painting a flat ceiling, it can be difficult making everything look even and perfect, which can cause a lot of frustration.
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:
The reason why so many people hate popcorn ceilings is that it traps heat to a greater extent compared to regular ceilings.
While their thickness can reduce the amount of noise in a room, it also makes your room feel hotter.
This can be a particularly bad drawback if you’re living in hot environments or don’t have access to a proper AC unit.
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, however, don’t contain this dangerous chemical.
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 tiles, 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 for popcorn removal, 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
Popcorn ceilings can be a great addition to your project … but they’re not right for everyone or every room.
If you hate the way your popcorn ceiling looks right now, you probably don’t like to spend a whole lot of time in that room.
By going through the above spray paint 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.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.