Covering Over Popcorn Ceilings

Beware Asbestos Laced Popcorn Ceilings when Considering Removing or Covering Popcorn Ceilings

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: Mark, can a joint compound texture mix be applied to an already popcorn-textured ceiling to effectively cover over the popcorn ceiling? The home was built in 1964, so I believe the popcorn is asbestos. More specifically, can a thin joint compound mix be applied, dried, and maybe a final coat of texture applied to the popcorn ceiling? Please advise if this can be done. Thanks.

Answer: Claire, popcorn textured ceilings were a very popular solution for finishing ceilings years ago, however they have fallen out of style with today’s homebuyers.

Popcorn ceilings were a popular choice in years past due to the fact that they provided an interesting texture to the ceilings and helped to mask imperfections in the drywall. The downside of popcorn ceilings, however, is that their textured surface makes them harbingers of dust and they are hard to maintain or repair in the event of a stain, such as a water stain associated with a roof leak.

Popcorn ceilings can be removed, however, it takes some serious muscle and is quite messy. In addition, popcorn ceilings installed prior to 1979 most likely have asbestos in them, and thus should be removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. Removing popcorn ceilings involves wetting the popcorn ceiling down and then scraping it off. After it has been removed, joint compound can then be applied to the drywall ceiling to resurface it.

In terms of applying joint compound directly over an asbestos laced popcorn ceiling, I have a couple of major concerns. First, popcorn ceilings do not have the greatest adhesion strength to the drywall.

Consequently you may find the popcorn ceiling mixture peeling away from the drywall when troweling on heavy wet joint compound. Second, I find it is safer in the long run to remove the asbestos based material when it has been discovered, than simply covering it up for someone else to have to deal with later.

For example, if your attempt of mudding over the popcorn ceiling is less than perfect, a future homeowner may elect to sand off the joint compound and inadvertently remove some of the asbestos laced popcorn ceiling mixture.

One possible compromised solution is to apply new drywall over the popcorn ceiling, effectively sandwiching in the asbestos laced popcorn ceiling mixture. This approach, however, requires a significant amount of work.

For information on repairing a large drywall hole, see the “How to Repair a Large Drywall Hole” Ebook from  The “How to Repair a Large Drywall Hole” Ebook provides step-by-step instructions on how to repair your damaged wall so that it looks as good as new.

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