Travel far and wide throughout the United States, and hardly anyone will have a kind word for popcorn ceilings. Also known as acoustic ceilings, they were popular in residential construction during the 1930s into the late-‘70s. Occasionally, a builder would add sparkles so the ceiling would twinkle at night in the incandescent lighting. Today, popcorn ceilings aren’t just out of style – they’re proven deal-breakers when homeowners who haven’t seen fit to resurface them list their house for sale.
If you plan to sell your house soon, and it’s in a desirable neighborhood, yes. If you’ve been happily ensconced in your home for decades, you may not realize how truly reviled popcorn ceilings are among contemporary homebuyers. Just watch the numerous home buying shows on cable TV and take note of the reaction when prospective buyers look up and catch sight of a popcorn ceiling. It isn’t pleasant.
Popcorn ceilings – a brief history
Characterized by their textured look by being sprayed on with a hopper gun using a special mix, popcorn ceilings were much more economical than hand-troweled plaster ceilings because the surface was quick to apply and hid imperfections – whereas plaster required painstaking application to achieve a perfectly smooth surface. When drywall took preference over plastering, the popcorn surface easily concealed the seams. The textured surface also provided sound-dampening benefits.
Despite the wide time range of popcorn ceilings (the surface was reportedly still being used at the turn of the 21st century), their heyday was the ‘60s through ‘70s, during the boom of the suburbs.
The bumpy textured ceilings always had issues, however. They trapped dirt and grime, and were difficult to clean without inadvertently dislodging some amount of the “popcorn.” Making ceiling repairs inconspicuous was likewise challenging.
The downfall for popcorn ceilings came when the danger of asbestos became well known.
As described by general contractor Glenda Taylor, writing for BobVilla.com:
“Asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral, was the material of choice for popcorn ceilings until the substance was banned as a health hazard in 1978. Manufacturers switched to paper fiber that year, but suppliers continued to sell existing stores of asbestos-laced material. That means that popcorn ceilings installed as late as the mid-’80s could contain asbestos, and, when disturbed, disperse microscopic fibrils known to cause lung-scarring illnesses and even lung cancer if inhaled.”
How to tell if a popcorn ceiling is safe
A popcorn ceiling that contains asbestos doesn’t pose a hazard as long as the ceiling isn’t disturbed. However, many people don’t want such a dangerous substance in their home, and aren’t willing to take the risk. Also, in Central Florida, homes are more susceptible to structural damage during hurricane season. A tree crashing through the roof of a home with a popcorn ceiling containing asbestos will release it into the air, after which it will settle on interior items and the floor.
To determine if your popcorn ceiling has asbestos, forgo the approach of taking a sample yourself, and call an EPA-certified remediation company to do the job. Should the report come back positive, do not attempt to remove it yourself. This is not a DIY project. Risking your life – and the lives of your family members – isn’t worth saving the expense of professional remediation.
If a popcorn ceiling is safe, but still unsightly
Even an asbestos-free popcorn ceiling can be undesirable simply because it’s outdated. Thanks to changing consumer taste, their advantages are overlooked – much the same as homebuyers expect stainless steel kitchen appliances and turn up their nose at perfectly good white or black appliances.
One advocate for popcorn ceilings is “Steve,” an agent with Crossland Team Real Estate, Austin, Texas. His blog post on the topic is a practical take on their unappreciated positive qualities and the motivation of so many to scrape and resurface them into smooth oblivion.
“People hate popcorn ceilings. But as I look at my own vintage 1978 popcorn ceilings, and how perfect they are, I wonder what all the fuss is about … Please, somebody agree with me and let’s admit that this obsessive neurosis about the texture and appearance of a popcorn ceiling is nothing more than ‘“texture snobbery.”’
Removing an asbestos-free popcorn ceiling is typically recommended for the experts on the basis of labor and time. Such ceilings are throughout the entire house, save for kitchens and baths. Tackling the job yourself may be practical if you’re highly experienced in home renovation projects and bought a “fixer” to rehab, and you don’t intend to move in immediately. For the DIY enthusiasts, YouTube offers numerous step-by-step videos on the removal process.
Otherwise, hiring a home renovation contractor to do the removal and resurfacing is the more practical – and ultimately economical – approach.
The Paint Manager offers experienced popcorn texture removal and replacement with an even, smooth surface that reflects quality craftsmanship. Contact us to learn more and schedule an appointment. While we usually leave our call-to-action message for the end of our blog post, here’s some helpful advice for those who choose to carry on.
Loving your popcorn ceiling
For the “Steves” out there who love their popcorn ceilings – or don’t have the budget to replace them – DIY repair is possible, as long as you’re sure they don’t contain asbestos. Popcorn ceiling repair products are available at any home improvement center.
First, scrap the damaged area about one inch larger than the repair needed. Sand, wipe with a damp cloth, apply a stain blocker and let it dry thoroughly. Then apply the ceiling patch product according to manufacturer’s instructions. Apply only one coat at a time. Let the area dry completely before applying another coat. Keep in mind that no matter how carefully you do the repair work, it is difficult to match the original ceiling texture.
No matter which choice you make about your popcorn ceiling, The Paint Manager is always available to take on the home renovation projects you need, with conscientious, experienced service. If you don’t feel confident in making a DIY repair, we can help there, as well! No job is too small for our home repair experts.