Popcorn ceilings were undeniably a hit for Australian homes up until the 80s. But when we look at this trend today, it could be a little.. erm.. painful on the eyes. Many homeowners today are choosing to remove their popcorn ceilings or hide them from view. Removal of a popcorn ceiling is possible, but it is an involved task that is messy and will incur labour costs. There is another popular, alternative method to removing this textured ceiling from sight which brings an array of additional benefits too. This article will look at popcorn ceilings, what they are, methods to remove them, and introduces an alternative method: installing a suspended ceiling over the top of it.
What is popcorn ceiling
Popcorn ceilings are textured ceilings that are sprayed onto or painted onto a smooth surface such as cement or drywall. Vermiculite ceilings were a popular trend in Australia up until the 80s. Its popularity spiked due to its effortless results in hiding imperfections and irregularities, with the added benefit that it didn’t really require maintenance after application. Due to its textured nature, over time this ceiling type is hard to clean and homeowners often found that the material began to crumble into pieces, which is very hard to rectify.
You may know of popcorn ceilings of their bad reputation, commonly associated with asbestos. Vermiculite spray on ceilings has commonly contained asbestos, prior to the health hazards being publicly known. It is important to note that not all popcorn ceilings have asbestos in them and not all textured ceilings are bad.
When was popcorn ceilings with asbestos used?
Popcorn ceilings boomed during the 1930s-1980s in Australia. Even though it was easy to apply, there was a threat behind using asbestos that wasn’t widely known or recognised: it was a health hazard. The usage of asbestos significantly declined since then, to the extent of asbestos being banned in Australia in 2003.
Before deciding to remove your popcorn ceiling DIY or hire a contractor to finish it professionally for you, have your ceiling checked. Asbestos is nicknamed the “sleeping monster” due to the danger when the asbestos fibres are disturbed. When intact, the risk is minimal. Exposure to asbestos could potentially lead to lung cancer and asbestosis and therefore it is something to be very aware of. The ways to determine if your ceiling contains asbestos is through laboratory tests or through inspection by professional contractors. There are also DIY test kits in the market, but we cannot guarantee the effectiveness of these kits.
Ways to get rid of popcorn ceiling
To remove a popcorn ceiling, you have several options. For any of the options listed below, we can’t stress enough how important preparation is in determining the outcome of this task, for yourself and for the finished product. Safety equipment and personal protective gear should be your top priority if you’re DIY-ing your vermiculite ceiling removal. Aside from the safety equipment, your appliances and furniture should also be covered and moved to avoid any damage. If your ceiling was installed before the 80s, it is strongly recommended to have it tested to see if it contains asbestos, but if you choose to not get it tested, assume that it does contain it and act accordingly.
Among all the techniques, scraping is the toughest method of getting rid of the popcorn ceiling. It removes the “popcorn-y” texture from your ceiling—however, it’s a messy, tedious, and exhausting task. Scraping can be done by just using a putty knife, with the tip getting just underneath the surface and scraping off the textured layer, leaving behind a smoother surface that can be smoothed further with sanding.
- Sanding (wet and dry)
Sanding involves removing layer by layer of the textured ceiling but it is not the most effective way to remove it, especially if the surface has been painted. From a health point of view, sanding the surface makes particles airborne which means that the risk of inhalation is high, there are other, better methods to do this job.
- Paint over it
Painting your popcorn ceiling may make it less noticeable, especially if you paint it white, however, it will not conceal the texture. The texture is still noticeable underneath. Painting a textured ceiling requires a spray gun to evenly distribute the paint across the uneven surface, which will modernise it by simply making the surface more discreet.
- Suspended ceilings
Rather than investing your resources into removing the textured ceiling itself, you can simply just remove the ceiling from sight. An alternative to scraping, sanding, or painting: build a false ceiling over it. A suspended ceiling improves the aesthetics by simply concealing the textured ceiling without requiring it to be removed. You’ll need to speak with a plasterer to discuss the logistics of constructing a suspended ceiling including the framing, materials, and labour involved.
Install a suspended ceiling to hide your popcorn ceiling
Suspended ceilings or dropped ceilings are installed over top of a traditional ceiling. Their convenience has led to a surge in their popularity amongst homeowners who are renovating their property. They never ruin a home’s interior, in fact, suspended ceilings can be made to complement the existing aesthetic and style of a home.
Advantages of installing a suspended ceiling
Modern look for less
Two birds with one stone—you get rid of your popcorn ceiling while upgrading your home’s aesthetic. Most homeowners opt for a standard white plasterboard ceiling, but you do have other options including timber that can be painted or stained to your liking. Another great way that suspended ceilings improve the aesthetics is with the addition of downlights. If you have a cement ceiling, asbestos, or popcorn ceiling, installing downlights is not recommended, however, you can simply install downlights into your new dropped ceiling, with the added benefit of being able to hire the wires, keeping the aesthetic neat and modern.
Hide utilities and reduce noise
Many opt for suspended ceilings because they cover unwanted sights like pipework and electrical wiring that hang from above. A suspended ceiling hides the imperfections even of the ceiling itself such as uneven surface or irregularities in the ceiling itself which are a lot more costly and involved to repair when your ceiling is made out of cement or vermiculite. Suspended ceilings improve the acoustics of a room, making your space soundproof, and transforming your room better for work or sleep.
A suspended ceiling doesn’t need much maintenance. They are straightforward: easy to remove, making repair and renovation a breeze. Saving you both time and money.
Health benefits of concealing asbestos
The most important advantage of shifting to suspended ceilings are the health benefits of concealing the asbestos-containing part of your house, reducing the risk of exposure to all who live in the house. Technically, suspended ceilings are built over old ceilings—the old ceiling remains. Though there might still be some remnants of asbestos, the risk of exposure is drastically toned down due to the suspended ceiling layer.
For all these reasons, suspended ceilings are a great investment when renovating a home with an existing popcorn ceiling. An alternative way to hide a vermiculite ceiling from sight and conceal any potential health hazards, suspended ceilings could be the perfect addition to your renovation list.