How Much Does it Cost to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling?

$1.50 – $3.25 per Square Foot

The cost to scrape, remove and refinish a popcorn ceiling is around $.85 cents per square foot when few repairs are needed and you do the work yourself. To hire a painter or drywall contractor, expect an estimated cost of around $2.25 / square foot to remove the popcorn and finish the ceiling.

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Average Cost of Popcorn Ceiling Removal and Refinishing

The average cost to hire a contractor and have your popcorn ceilings scraped, sanded and prepped with minor repair work is right around $2.25 per square foot. More if there are damaged areas or they find asbestos that was common in the textured ceilings of older homes.

This cost usually includes moving or furniture and covering everything up. Dropping the fixtures on the ceiling like lights and ceiling fans. All labor for scraping the popcorn off the ceiling, prepping it for new ceiling paint with light mud work and sanding, as well as the repainting and complete cleanup afterward.

Average Do It Yourself cost
Average Contractor Installed Cost
$2.20 / Square Foot
Typical Cost Average
$1.50 – $3.25 per square foot
Updated: November 17, 2022

popcorn ceiling removal cost before and after

Overview of Popcorn Ceiling Removal and Refinishing

Popcorn is a name given to any type of textured ceiling, and are commonly called a stucco ceiling or acoustic ceiling as well. Removing a popcorn ceiling is done when updating a home’s décor or when the ceiling needs repair. Perhaps you’re just tired of looking at a dingy ceiling that is impossible to clean and includes crevices and texturing that collect dust. Be prepared though, during the removal process the dust is going to be much worse for a few days.

This popcorn ceiling removal price guide covers all potential solutions and their costs. The table above shows average costs, and they are broken down below. Cost factors and potential extra costs are included. Prices from around the Web are listed below, and homeowners that have hired pros for this project share their textured ceiling removal cost.

There are three basic methods for getting rid of a popcorn ceiling. Their cost ranges are slightly different.

  • Scrape it off: This is the simplest form of popcorn ceiling removal. A 4” to 6” metal drywall taping knife is used to scrape off the texturing. Once removed, a skim coat of drywall compound is applied to create a smooth surface for priming and painting. This is a labor-intensive, messy and time consuming approach.
  • Scrape and Refinish – In some cases, like if someone painted over an existing popcorn ceiling using a latex paint or other type that bonds all the popcorn together, you may need a higher level of scraping and refinishing. In my most recent project pictured above, a level 5 drywall finish was needed due to this exact issue and the cost with a contractor was exactly $2.17 / square foot. I had 1,400 sqft of ceilings done at the time.
  • Retexture it: If you’re restoring a home and want to return it to something like its original appearance, then applying a new texture is an option. Or, you might apply a skim coat to fill in texturing known as knock-down texturing to create a smooth ceiling. Either are labor-intensive. While it can be a DIY project, it takes experience to give new texturing the desired look and uniformity.
  • Cover it with drywall: Lightweight ceiling gypsum board is used to cover the ceiling. Joints are taped and mudded before the ceiling is primed and painted. This is a material-intensive approach, but in some situations with an old wavy ceiling for instance, the preferred way is to just install a drywall ceiling over the old popcorn.

Lead and Asbestos Warning: If your home was built before 1978 when lead paint was banned, the ceiling likely contains lead. Asbestos popcorn was used in paint and ceiling treatments too. DO NOT scrape the ceiling. Either cover it with fresh drywall or have it cut out and removed by a lead/asbestos contractor. Cost will be $3 to $6 per square foot if it is drywall, but $8-$12 if it is plaster. These are extra costs and not factored into the low/average/high costs listed here.

Lead testing kits ($9-$14) and asbestos testing kits ($25-$40) are sold online and at hardware/home improvement stores. They give immediate results or include lab testing in the cost. They are a cheap investment in protecting your health.

Textured or Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost Details

Cost Factors

These cost factors are for ceilings that do not require lead or asbestos removal. They don’t include ceiling repair either.

  • Square footage – Jobs are estimated in part by how much popcorn ceiling there is. Most contractors will charge a minimum fee of at least $200 for small jobs like a bathroom or small bedroom. Larger jobs are priced per square foot with other factors considered.
  • Texture thickness – Heavier texturing and texture with many coats of paint on it can be harder to remove and cause cost to go up.
  • Condition of Popcorn Texture – As mentioned, if a previous painting of the ceiling makes it too hard for the contractor to simply scrape and complete minor repairs, the entire thing is going need to be sanded, recoated with drywall compound and sanded again before painting. This will add to your cost.
  • Method used – While similar in cost, there are small distinctions in the three methods summarized above.
  • Who does the work – DIY jobs include just the cost of tools and supplies.
  • Ceiling height – If the work can be done from the ground, scraping or retexturing, cost will be lowest. Two-story ceilings cost the most because large ladders or scaffolding must be used.
  • Crown molding – If molding must be removed and put back in place, your total cost will be at least average and probably in the high range.
  • Where you live – Home repair prices are highest in AK and HI and on or near the Coasts. Prices are lowest in rural areas and average most other places.
  • Obstructions – If you have ceiling fans, or multiple light fixtures like recessed lighting that need to be removed, the contractor will factor the time to remove and replace those as well. In most cases, they will drop the lighting fixtures but simply tape up the fans and lower the cover where it connects to the ceiling. There is no need to completely remove the fans.

Cost of Supplies

This list isn’t just for DIY homeowners counting the cost of the project. The prices will assist you in understanding costs if you’re planning to hire a contractor for the work. Not all tools and supplies are used in each method.

  • $12-$50 | Safety gear including a mask or respirator, goggles and gloves.
  • $5-$25 | Drop cloths or tarps. Plastic drop cloths are cheap and disposable. Canvas drop cloths are more durable. Vinyl tarps are moderately priced.
  • $20-$30 per day | 8’ to 16’ ladder rental.
  • $6-$15 | Taping knife.
  • $14-$58 | All-purpose joint compound, 1-gallon to 5-gallon. Used for gypsum board joints and for new texturing.
  • $13-$18 per gallon | Drywall primer. Coverage is 250-350 square feet per gallon.
  • $17-$24 per gallon | Ceiling paint, flat finish, 300-400 square feet per gallon when applied over primer.
  • $13-$18 per sheet | Lightweight ceiling-grade gypsum board, 4’x8’ sheets.

Permits, Inspection, , Related Costs and Installation Time

Permits and Inspection Cost

  • $0-$50 | No permit is required for scraping, texturing and hanging drywall. A permit might be needed if lead and/or asbestos abatement is required. Contact your local building inspection office for details.

Related Costs and Installation Time

Let’s look at professional costs for the three methods, scraping, covering with drywall and retexturing. Cost will be determined by the factors such as amount of ceiling involved.

  • $0.75-$1.35 per square foot | Scraping off texturing, cleaning up the job site.
  • $2.15-$2.80 per square foot | Installing and finishing ceiling drywall over a popcorn ceiling.
  • $1.40-$1.95 per square foot | Filling and/or retexturing a ceiling. If the ceiling is scraped first, the cost will rise to $2.00-$3.15 per square foot.

Popcorn Removal Time Schedule

These are not expensive home improvements because the work goes quickly. Timeframe is based on a 2-person crew. Scraping and texturing can be done by a single person, so times might be longer.

  • 1-3 days: Scraping off texturing and cleaning up the site, based on about 1,000 to 2,000 square feet per day.
  • ½-day to 2 days: Texturing a ceiling after or instead of scraping it.
  • 2-5 days: Covering a ceiling in gypsum board/drywall. It will take 1-2 days to hang the board. Three coats of joint compound can be applied and sanded in an additional day if it is a fast-drying mix.  If not, the three coats will be applied and sanded over three days, a few hours per day.

DIY or Hire a Pro?

We have a popcorn ceiling in several rooms of our home right now. While I have scraped repainted the bathroom ceilings to a smooth surface when they were remodeled, the older home has a lot of waves on the ceiling, that the popcorn masks. We’ve repaired and repainted them on the last update, but will likely have our drywall contact scrape and re-cover with new drywall on the next update. I will not do the job myself due to the time and mess, as well as the skill it takes to get a smooth finish.

  • Very messy – get plenty of drop cloths and have a helper doing cleanup along the way.
  • Requires a great bit of skill to achieve a smooth, flawless finish.
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