One feature we wanted to change in the home we are renovating, as mentioned in a previous article, Renovation: A Flipping Dream or Nightmare, is the stippled ceiling. With every buyer I have worked with, they all notice the ceiling texture - in every home. Regardless of type, popcorn or stipple, they always say, “So, we will need to have the ceiling texture removed. We can do that ourselves. It shouldn’t be too bad.”
When purchasing this current house for renovation, our team was divided as to leaving the ceiling as is or removing the texture to the flat surface. Personally, it really doesn’t bother me. However I know from listening to buyers, they don’t want it in their home. Would it keep someone from purchasing a home they really loved…probably not. Would a flat ceiling make your house more marketable and sell faster…probably so.
Since this property was purchased to renovate and re-sell, the vote to remove it was a majority. The ceiling we were working with was stippled or stomped. The process to create a stippled ceiling requires a “mud” mix similar to the joint compound used to seal the sheetrock holes. This mud is painted on with a roller then a mop-like brush is used to stomp the compound onto the ceiling. It was a preferred ceiling texture back in the day because of it’s ability to absorb sound. However, it fell out of favor because the stipples create shadows that darken the room and everyone’s mood along with it.
A popcorn ceiling was an alternative to the stippled ceiling and was popular through the 1980’s. Originally it consisted of asbestos to create the texture, then the mixture was sprayed onto the ceiling. After civilization decided that asbestos was killing us, we kind of stopped using it. The asbestos was changed to a styrofoam material and everything was right in the world. While many homes in the US still proudly display their popcorn, the trend has slowed and many buyers have become popcorn haters too.
The good news for all you DIY’ers out there is that popcorn ceilings are fairly easily removed, if you consider thousands and thousands of upwardly-held scraping motions performed on every ceiling of your home for a hundred hours or so, easy. There are unlimited youtube videos on the web with first time homeowners and professional contractors spraying their squeegee water bottles on the ceiling and then ever so delicately removing the popcorn layer as if they were de-icing a cake. However, finding a how-to video on removing a stippled ceiling is like trying to find a parking space on Black Friday at the mall. Stippled ceilings are by nature a type of plaster, so equate it to removing concrete from your ceiling with a hand scraper. It can be done, but it’s not easy.
The alternative to the scraping method is the sanding method. This is the messiest of the two options, so seal up the room with lots of tape and plastic sheeting. It’s going to get dusty everywhere. Seal up your nose and eyes too. To be honest, let’s not even try this DIY style. This method is best completed by a professional. For our house, we received several bids for removal between $1000 and $2000. While most of the texture was removed, the mark of the stipple still remains in a few places.
If you plan to remove the ceiling texture in your home, it is highly recommended to adjust the cost of your budget and have someone else do it. It could not only save your sanity, but your marriage too. Although hiring a professional ceiling sander saved us emotional stress and trauma, there were still several trash bags of dust clean up that occurred after the completion of the job.
Disclaimer: If you have an asbestos popcorn ceiling keep in mind, asbestos should only be removed by a professional, so now I’ve saved your life too.
April Holtzclaw is a Real Estate Agent and 30 year resident of Metro Atlanta. When not working, she enjoys camping, traveling with her family and mountain biking with her husband on the trails in the Atlanta area. Her favorite way to finish the day is with an “al fresco” dinner at one of the many great restaurants in town.