Home & Garden

Ask Angie: Who to hire to remove a popcorn ceiling

Angie Hicks
Angie Hicks MCT

Dear Angie: Who can I hire to remove a popcorn ceiling? How is it done, and what will it cost? — Jonathan H. of Woodland Hills, Calif., and Marcia E. of Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Answer: Pity the poor popcorn ceiling. We get frequent inquiries from people wanting to get rid of this once-popular option.

Acoustic ceiling texture, commonly called popcorn, appealed to builders on budgets starting in the 1950s. Today, it seems to lack appeal for almost everyone.

Removing popcorn texture involves scraping high spots, then covering the ceiling with multiple coats of drywall mud. If you're sure your ceiling texture doesn't contain asbestos, a drywall contractor is the best service provider to contact for removal. Other types of providers could do the work, but drywall pros have the experience to provide the best finish.

However, if your home was built before 1980, the ceiling might contain asbestos, once used in many home and industrial building products. If inhaled, asbestos can cause serious respiratory problems.

The Clean Air Act of 1978 banned its use, but asbestos was commonly used in popcorn textures before then, especially during the 1950s and '60s. If you own an older home, have an asbestos abatement company test your ceiling before drywall workers potentially release asbestos particles into the air.

An asbestos test costs about $75 to $100. If asbestos is present, hire a qualified asbestos mitigation service to remove it. To avoid a conflict of interest, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests, consumers should be careful about hiring the same company to test and remove asbestos.

Removing asbestos involves containing the affected area, so particles don't spread through the house, and scraping off the texture or removing the drywall itself. Asbestos removal can cost $3 to $10 a square foot, depending on many variables.

An asbestos removal project usually won't include replacing damaged drywall and/or retexturing the ceiling. These are separate projects.

Depending on the type of texture you choose, highly rated drywall companies say, it can cost $1.50 to $3 a square foot to scrape, skim and retexture, depending on the ceiling height. This doesn't include priming and painting.

Inexpensive texture options include what's called "knockdown," a mottled finish that doesn't require the drywall finisher to smooth each imperfection. Smooth ceilings, however, are popular, and they cost more, because the last coat of drywall mud requires sanding and probably a little bit of touch-up.

When hiring drywall or asbestos-mitigation pros, consider contractors who are appropriately licensed, insured and bonded, and who have positive reviews on a trusted online site.

Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com.

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