Popcorn Ceiling Removal Tool

Introduction: Popcorn Ceiling Removal Tool

**WARNING** If you are unsure of the age of the house, you should have the popcorn ceiling tested for Asbestos before engaging in this sort of project. Anything older than the 1990's is liable to contain asbestos and painted popcorn has been a way for owners to "seal in" the asbestos. You the user, are liable for your own safety and should do your homework before removing a popcorn ceiling.

After removing popcorn ceiling several times and wanting to minimize the mess, I did some looking around on the internet for some alternatives. If you've ever done this before, you know the mess you will create on the floor that you will then track around if you just scrap it off. I found several videos of people using these types of tools they created and wanted to share how we built ours and what we learned.

Required Items(BOM):

1. ($5) Duct Tape

3. ($8-$9)10-12" Drywall Taping Knife

4. ShopVac

5. ($12)12-14" x 2-1/2" Nozzle ShopVac

6. ($8)Extension Tube/Wand for ShopVac approx. 20" (1 is required, 2 can be helpful)

7. ($11)ShopVac Filter (This process will pretty much consume 1 filter.)

8. Ladder

Total cost: $45 (And worth every penny)

Time to build: 20 minutes or less.

Usefulness: Very (Once a room is prepped I can knock it out with this in no time.)

Rating: 4.7 Stars

Note:There are a couple of products out there, which will directly catch what you scrap off into either a bucket or a bag attached to the scrapper. The problem with these tools is the amount of weight you end up carrying in either one hand or the other due to the popcorn and the water applied to the popcorn. With water weighing 8.3lbs per gallon you can easily add a lot of weight to the popcorn during removal.

Why I chose this option: In this house we wanted to save the carpet, remove the popcorn, apply knockdown to the ceiling and then paint the walls in as little time as possible. Thus I didn't want to pickup the plastic we laid over the carpet to remove the popcorn, to then turn around and lay down plastic again to apply knockdown and paint. This allowed us to lay down plastic once, saving us time and money.

Step 1: Building the Tool

1. Attach the extension wand/tube to the nozzle by pressing them together.

2. I taped a wood spacer to this assembly, so that I could adjust the angle of the knife.

3. Tape the knife handle to the entire assembly. Preferably with the knife edge in approximately the center of the nozzle opening in both directions. Start with a single piece of tape so you can adjust location and angle of the knife relative to the nozzle.

4.Then tape the blade down as close to the nozzle as possible. This keeps the knife from trying to twist or move side to side. Do notmake the tape to tight as you will bow the blade, which will cause problems.

Step 2: Using the Tool

Now that the tool is built, all you need to do is wet the popcorn, attach the tool to the Shopvac, turn on the Shopvac and start scraping. If you have a second extension wand/tube for the Shopvac you can use the tool from the floor on 8' ceilings. After some use you will figure out the right amount of force and angle that works best for you.

Usage notes:

1. This isn't a perfect tool, but it keeps a majority of the popcorn off the floor and into the Shopvac.

2. The corners of the nozzle don't always vacuum out, so occasionally tilting the nozzle side to side clears out the corners.

3. After every room I would turn the Shopvac off and clean off the filter with my hand as best I could. Keeping the filter clean and the Shopvac empty as best you can will be beneficial.

4.. Depending on the width of the knife and nozzle you use, you will find that you can't reach the edges and corners. To get around this I used another knife to clear the edges and another nozzle to try to catch what I was taking off.

5.You may want to file down the corners of the knife to avoid gouging the sheet rock unintentionally. I didn't, but I probably will next time.




    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest
    • Fix It! Contest

      Fix It! Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest

    32 Discussions

    be aware that most popcorn texture contains asbestos and by doing this with a shop vac you may contaminate the entire house.

    1 reply

    We are aware that popcorn texture can contain asbestos and every user should do their own homework, but this ceiling did not contain Asbestos. While Asbestos is dangerous, saying "most" popcorn texture contains asbestos is a misleading statement. Age of the house is usually a better indicator as asbestos was banned in 1978 with the exception of the inventory. Thus houses in the 80's could still be liable to have asbestos. I mention this because the previous house I removed popcorn texture from was built after 2010.


    Plain water. Hot to warm is said to work best. Wet but not dripping. Try to avoid dripping in my opinion..

    What is the reason to wet the popcorn first? I did 3 rooms in my home with a similar setup without wetting anything, only adding a cyclone separator I 3D printed without any problems or residual mess at all. I just had to empty the catch bucket every so often because of the corn volume.

    1 reply

    First. Wetting materials cuts down on dust. Cut down on dust whenever you can if you're doing construction to protect your lungs and make clean up easier. Also dusting sux. Dusting adjacent rooms because of airborne dust takes time better spend doing literally anything else. Second. Removing popcorn varies from site to site. Sometimes it just flakes right off, sometimes you have to fight with it. Depends on the mix used when it was applied and how old it is.

    Your time-saving system is ingenious and well documented. However, removing Popcorn finish from ceilings and walls can be extremely dangerous if the removed finish contains asbestos - a real possibility since it was commonly found in Popcorn finishes applied before the early 1980s. (see www.swcleanair.org/docs/misc/asbestos_popcorn_ceil...). At the bare minimum, wear approved breathing masks and protective clothing, and use a suitable HIPAA filter on the vacuum (since the blowing vacuum exhaust could easily contaminate your home with microscopic cancer causing asbestos fibers). Breathing in even small amounts of asbestos fibers from contaminated air or clothing can be deadly since "there is no known safe levels of asbestos exposure". It caused my life partner's death from Mesothelioma - not a way you would want to see anyone go.

    13 replies

    I'll endorse the safety comments.

    These "decorative" finishes were popular for years, sometimes used decoratively, sometimes used to cover damaged or poorly constructed ceilings.

    If it is a sponge or tool applied finish, it would have been made up of a powder paste commonly known as Artex in the UK (the plant that made it is not far from where I live, and is in the centre of a small town).

    As far as I know, the powder contained asbestos up until about 1986, but that takes no account of old stock etc.. I also don't know which type of asbestos it was, i.e. white, brown or blue. White, the less damaging form was commonly used to strengthen cement and these finishes. Left alone, or painted etc., it is not likely to pose a risk.

    The only sure way is to have a small sample tested by an accredited laboratory.

    If you must do it yourself, and I have, I would use a binding agent like PVA to keep it wet, and all clothing and dust sheets must be treated as contaminated. Many cancer sufferers were relatives of people who worked with asbestos (pity the people who mined the stuff) and washed overalls etc.

    Surprisingly, some local authority disposal sites will accept asbestos waste as long as it is double bagged.

    Unfortunately, asbestos cement was widely used for roofing, rainwater goods like gutters, fire-breaks, soffit boards etc. and is lurking in many older hoses.

    Personally, I think if you observe good hygiene and personal protective clothing and avoid creating dry waste, there is little risk, assuming it is the white variety.

    My approach if you are after a smooth finish would be to either apply a skim coat of new plaster, or better still, fit a new plasterboard ceiling with adhesive - I find the 9-mm board works quite well. But plasterboard is also getting a bad press now from the waste site operators. Plasterboard is gypsum (calcium sulphate) based, mined from the ground, but apparently, when put into anaerobic landfill sites, gives rise to toxic hydrogen sulphide - you can't win.

    Thanks for the info! Would plain old joint compound to even out the popcorn work as good as plaster (I have a bunch of it to use up)? Then maybe paint “Kilz” over it before painting?


    I'm not for sure, but as cheap as a 5gal bucket of sheetrock mud is, I would probably just buy something meant for doing the skim coat. I'm not sure what a layer of kilz will do for you unless you are trying to get rid of some smell like smoke, but we did not do that.

    I don't think so - it would probably end up looking worse. I guess you are after a flat finish. I would resurface with a skimming plaster or even remove the old board altoghether (with the safety provisos). Many professionals say it's easier and quicker to take the old board down

    Thanks much for your additional comments. I agree with you on them, but wish to emphasize once again the real danger of asbestos which can cause symptoms to show up 30 or more years after exposure. My life partner was 23 when he worked during the summers in the vermiculite mines to help put his way through Graduate School (and eventually get a PhD). However his asbestos-caused mesothelioma (a cancer which has no cure) did not show up until he was 66 (43 years later). His Dad who also worked for a period in the mines in Libby, Montana also died of asbestos-related causes. Be very careful.

    I am careful and as Hons Chemist and PhD Environmental Scientis, I have a lot of respect for asbestos abnd all the other nasties I worked with including organo-chloine pestcides, benzene, Rhodamine-b, Americium 241 etc. Handling all this stuff is all down to proper procedure. I fully sympathise with your relative's exposure and disease caused by asbestos. Many innocent workers in boilermaking, shipyards, pipe-lagging, brake-pads etc were exposed to asbestos before manufacturers and workers and governments were aware of the problems. What is particularly nasty about asbestos is the long interval between exposure and symptoms. At the time, legislation was missing, manufacturers used what was available. Even now, glyphosate is being hammered. Glyphosate is safe if handled correctly and in food production is almost essential. The guys working in this Instructable are clearly taking a risk. It is a health and safety nightmare. Old properties and textured finishes should be setting off alarm bells, but if you don't do your homework first, you take your chances. What could be safer than stripping off old ceilings?

    Totally agree. While protective clothing is a good idea, I would actually suggest if you own an older home you should have it tested before taking on this sort of project.

    ckoehler1904 and Jacob just an FYI, there is a home test for asbestos that is sold at Home Depot and Lowes for under 10$.

    Sounds pretty cheap.

    As far as I know, the accepted test involves examination under a microscope using polarised light

    pgs070947 I forgot to add in my answer to your post that these tests give indications of lead present. I doubt that every time someone repurposes an old door or something old enough to have been painted with lead paint that they are going to spend the money to have a lab test. These tests were developed for the home owner / DIYer to use. Some are better than others but it is better than nothing and the price is so reasonable I would believe so that people WILL use them :)

    EXCELLENT! Thanks for the info. I’ll be getting one of those soon!

    Most welcome, I shudder when I see on another site people working with old painted doors, windows, shutters etc and try to inform them. I got one underhanded snide remark and the author of the post stuck up for me which was nice. People have forgotten about asbestos and what it can do. :)