How to Remove a Stipple Ceiling

Lead Image
  • 4-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • $0-200
What You'll Need
Drop cloths
Garden sprayer
Clean water
Putty knife or joint compound knife
Palm sander
Air mask
Safety goggles
Plastic sheeting
Duct tape
Shop Vac

Stipple ceilings gained popularity in the 1970s, particularly with the innovation of tract housing. Stippled and popcorn textured ceilings became popular because they are less labor-intensive to apply than a drywall ceiling.

While this process was popular in the past, it has fallen out of favor. Many homeowners decide to remove stippled ceiling fixtures in order to create a more streamlined ceiling finish.

It is a relatively easy home improvement project, although it can be a bit time consuming and messy. There are 2 popular methods for removing stippling. The first involves wetting the texture and scraping it off. The second method involves sanding the texture down to the drywall surface.

Caution: Many textured ceilings that were built in the past used asbestos to create the stipple effect before its use was banned by the Clean Air Act of 1978. If you suspect your ceiling may contain asbestos, be sure to have it tested before you remove it yourself. Look up a local testing lab under "asbestos testing" or "asbestos labs" or utilize a national low-cost asbestos certified lab.

The Water Method Texture:

Step 1 - Remove Furnishings and Place Drop Cloths/Tarps

This process is easiest when completed in an entirely empty room. If it is not possible to remove all of the furniture, cover any remaining items with drop cloths. Place tarps over the entire floor.

Step 2 - Dampen Stipple

Fill the garden sprayer with clean water. Working in small sections, spray the ceiling. Let the ceiling absorb the water. Apply a second more water to the ceiling.

Step 3 - Peel the Stipple

Using a putty or joint compound knife with a wide blade, carefully peel the stipple from the ceiling. Be careful not to damage the ceiling with the edge of the knife. If there are places where the stipple does not easily peel away from the ceiling, apply more water to dampen the material.

Step 4 - Remove the Floor Tarps

Once you have removed all of the stipple, collect the tarps from the floor. Since there will be accumulated water, raise the tarps at the corners and allow the water to pool in the center of the tarp. Carefully remove the tarps from the room without spilling the water.

Step 5 - Dry Ceiling

Use portable fans pointed at the ceiling to dry them. Once the drywall is completely dry, remove any remaining tarps and drop cloths from the room and replace the furniture.

The Sanding Method

Step 1 - Seal Room

Seal the room with hanging plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect the rest of the house from dust. Close any air vents and open the windows.

Step 2 - Sand the Stipple

Wearing a protective air mask, use a palm sander on the stipple texture. Continue sanding until you reach the surface of the drywall. Be careful not to dig the sander into the drywall and damage it. Just skim the surface of the drywall, while at the same time removing the stipple material. Don't forget to wear eye safety goggles and a face mask while sanding to keep particles out of your body.

Step 3 - Vacuum Clean

Use a Shop Vac to clean the accumulated dust from the stipple material.