So many of the homes I’ve done design work on, including our former house, have had ‘popcorn’ ceilings. You know that nasty pokey ceiling texture that was so popular in the 70’s and 80’s? I can’t stand that finish… it collects dust and is just too heavily textured. It actually draws attention to itself, and not in a good way. But I’ve found that it isn’t difficult to get rid of it… and here are the step by step tips to change popcorn ceilings to knockdown.
The main reason popcorn ceiling texture was used in the first place, was to camouflage the flaws in the sheetrock &/or taping job. However, a knockdown finish will accomplish the same camouflage feature, but be much more subtle in texture and effect.
The condo I’ve been showing you the renovation projects of, that has been changed from a boring 1980’s to a ‘Modern Swedish Farmhouse’ open concept condo, had those dreaded popcorn ceilings. In their attention-grabbing form, those heavily textured ceilings just seemed to be visually lower than they were, making the room feel even less spacious… just the opposite effect we wanted in this small 2 bedroom condo.
This was a picture of the kitchen with the popcorn ceiling, (and wallpapered walls).
So the first step in changing popcorn ceilings to knockdown ones is to get rid of the popcorn… or at least most of it…
The carpenter lightly sprayed the ceiling with water, working one room at a time. He just used a simple sprayer like what you’d spray your yard for weeds. (like this garden sprayer)
The trick here is to let the dampness soak into the popcorn a bit to soften it, but not too long that it soaks the sheetrock underneath. Depending on heat and humidity, you just have to keep checking it until you feel it’s right.
Then with a wide scraper, scrape off the bumpy texture. For this condo reno, we were going to be installing a knockdown finish, so it was totally fine for some of the texture to remain on the ceiling from the old texture… just the pokey bumps needed to go. (Here’s a tip: use a long painter’s pole in the handle of the scraper so that you can do it from the floor)
This is a super close up picture of the ceiling after the pokey bumps of the popcorn ceiling were dampened then scraped off.
To apply the new ceiling texture, the carpenter has this machine:
But if you’re doing it yourself, and don’t want to buy a whole machine, guess what? You can rent it! (I’m a big fan of renting equipment… it makes so much more sense than storing it if you’re not using it over and over) Here is information on rental cost at HomeDepot: check out this rental deal for a texture sprayer.
Also, when you’re getting the texture mix to create a knockdown finish, be sure to get the right mix! There are 2 choices, aggregated and unaggregated. The aggregated has the little pokey bumps in it, and will create a popcorn texture, so obviously not what you want if you’ve just scraped that off!
For a knockdown texture, you need to get unaggregated spray texture!
This is what the ceiling looks like right after it’s sprayed:
After it was sprayed up onto the ceiling, the carpenter let it dry a little while, taking it from a very wet mix, when first applied, to a very damp mix. Sorry, I don’t know how else to explain that. It needs to be dry enough so that when it’s knocked down it still holds some of its shape, but not so dry that it won’t knock down at all. Again, depending on the heat and humidity of the room, this time will vary. I think in the condo it was about 20-30 minutes that it sat before he did the knocking down part. (but it was quite humid in there that day too)
By the way, this whole process of changing popcorn ceilings to knockdown ones is messy…
So to sheet everything in plastic is highly recommended and just makes clean up go much easier.
Once the texture had dried just the right amount…
The carpenter gently used the knockdown knife pulled across the ceiling, creating a knockdown look. (knockdown because this step knocks down the spray texture to be flatter) He placed the wide blade of the knife on the far end of the ceiling by the wall, and gently pulled it across the ceiling as he walked backward. (it’s hard to tell in this picture, but he isn’t pushing the knife, that would take it all down! He’s pulling it across the texture)
This is what the texture looked like after:
In this picture, it was mostly dry, but there are still a few damp areas.
Once it was totally dry…
For sure wait a day or more, depending on room’s heat and humidity…
Then prime and paint.
This is the ceiling now, all primed and painted. It looks fresh and the knockdown texture does hide minor imperfections of the sheetrock but doesn’t have that heavily distracting texture of the previous popcorn ceiling. That’s why I like to encourage my clients to change their popcorn ceilings to knockdown ceilings… unless a different treatment would be even better. I’ve treated ceilings with wood, beadboard, woven rattan, pressed tin type ceilings… The options end where your imagination does, but knockdown can be a great choice too. 🙂
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So here is the list of things you’d need for this project, all available online here:
- Wide blade scraper for popcorn ceiling removal
- Garden Sprayer to soak off popcorn
- Painter’s pole, to be able to work from the floor while scraping and knocking down
- Texture Sprayer: rental can be a great way to go
- Unaggragated Texture Spray additive
- Knockdown knife To drag across damp sprayed texture creating the desired knockdown texture
- PVA Primer for fresh sheetrock mud and Paint, Flat Ceiling White