Stipple ceilings also known as popcorn or textured ceilings were popular back in the 1970’s, since then most homeowners today prefer the smooth flat style ceilings.  Flat ceilings make a home feel more modern and stylish where as the textured style ceilings really tell how old the house is.

Even now in 2020, home builders will apply a stipple mix to the ceiling because it is less expensive and less labour intensive than a smooth drywall finished ceiling.  If you feel stuck and think you do not have options to getting rid of that stipple or popcorn look, we have great news!  You can remove stipple from the ceiling and get a flat, smooth modern look to any room.  Lets break down how to do it.

No matter how you look at these photos, whether it’s stipple, popcorn or textured, it’s an eyesore and out dates any home.

Why Stipple Ceilings

The reason home builders then and now use stipple to cover ceilings is because it is very inexpensive and does not require the same labour hours as getting a flat smooth drywalled ceiling.

To get the look of stipple or any texture to the ceiling the paint is mixed with a drywall mixture and then it is either sprayed, or applied with a roller or a specialty brush in order to create the look.  Most times it is sprayed on because of the speed in getting many ceilings done with a sprayer compared to any other method.

To get a flat finished ceiling, home builders would have to hire one or two professionals to do it.  One would be the drywall finisher, who would come in and tape and mud all drywall joints.  That process of mudding or plastering would be a 3 part process.  Then once the drywall expert has completed the painter would begin, and he too would have to make sure it is sanded to a smooth finish, paint a primer, then apply 2 to 3 coats paint finish and possibly more depending on the colour of the paint for the ceiling.  There could be more than two coats of paint required especially on new drywall as it tends to soak up paint much more than any drywall that already has pre existing paint.

When home projects in any Ottawa neighborhood are started it is common and typical for all homes to be sprayed with stipple ceilings.  It on average may cost $250.00 to $350.00 to spray stipple to a ceiling as opposed to the smooth ceiling that would cost anywhere between the $300.00 to $550.00 depending on the size of the ceiling area to be painted.

Pros and Cons To Stipple Ceilings

Other than the cost savings to painting a stipple ceiling there are a few other advantages and disadvantages to having a texture on the ceiling

  • Advantages of Stipple Ceiling – Spraying a ceiling with a textured paint mix hides any and all imperfections on the drywall, such as cracks, missed taping and mudding of any joints.  It also provides a sound barrier to any room.
  • Disadvantages of Stipple Ceiling – Beside it being an eyesore and making a home look outdated a textured style ceiling is hard to clean and difficult to repair.  It can also be an asbestos hazard especially if it was done before the 1980’s.

Pros and Cons To Smooth Ceilings

  • Advantages of Stipple Ceiling – Beside it helping a room look bigger, a smooth ceiling is easier to clean, repair and paint.  It also makes any room look more modern.
  • Disadvantages of Stipple Ceiling – A smooth finished ceiling does not provide a sound barrier to noise compared to a textured ceiling and a smooth finished ceiling can show imperfections.

flat painted ceiling after stipple ceiling removed

Stipple Ceiling Removal

Removing Stipple Ceiling is very time consuming and can be quite messy.  Although it can be a DIY homeowners project to tackle with the many how to videos that can be found on- line with great descriptions.

But if the whole idea of scraping and removing the popcorn, stipple from the ceiling in your house is overwhelming than consider hiring a with drywall  and stipple ceiling experience.

Before you begin removing or repairing any stipple ceiling make sure to get informed as to whether it contains asbestos.  Although it is now banned, depending on the year your home was built it may contain asbestos.

Homes built prior to 1980 will have asbestos as it was commonly used when building houses.  To ensure your home is asbestos free read the information provided on the Ontario government FAQ’s on asbestos.  Give yourself peace of mind and get an asbestos free certification before doing any home improvement or renovation project.

Steps On How To Remove Stipple From Ceiling

There are two ways of removing stipple from the ceiling.  It involves wetting the texture and scraping it off and the other would be to sand the texture off the ceiling right down to the drywall surface before repainting.

If you are using the water method to remove the stipple from the ceiling here are a few tips to help get you started.

scraped and removal of stipple ceiling by PG PAINT & DESIGN Ottawa paintersStep 1 Clear the area

Remove all furniture from the room.  If furniture cannot be removed from the room they must be completely well covered with plastic to protect them from any drippings and dust.  Removing the stipple from the ceiling is easier and best done if the room is free of all furniture.

Lay down drop cloths or tarps on all flooring, carpet so that it is protected from any water moisture and drops as well as all the stipple and dust that is created once you get started.

Step 2  –  Soak the Stipple

Using a spray bottle with water, spray the ceiling starting in small sections at a time. Let the water soak and the ceiling absorb the moisture for a few minutes. (approx 20)  Spray the water on the ceiling a second time and let it sit again for another 20 minutes.

Step 3 –  Scrape the Stipple Off

After the water has moistened the stipple on the ceiling you can use a putty or drywall joint repairing tool or putty knife.  Using the flat blade of this tool you can slide it carefully through the stipple and it will peel it away from the ceiling.

Do not apply too heavy a pressure as you may cause further damage to the drywall of the ceiling.  If enough water has been sprayed the stipple should peel easily, if not simply spray more water until it does.

Step 4 – Sand the Ceiling

Once all the stipple from the ceilings has been scraped off you will have to sand it down to a smooth finish before applying any paint.  If any damage is evident to the drywall on the ceiling you will need to make a few drywall patches and repairs.

Step 5 – Painting the Ceiling

After making all the repairs to ceiling drywall and properly sanded the entire area to a smooth finish the ceiling is now ready painting.

Step 6 – Clean Up

When removing the drop cloths and plastic that covers the flooring and the furniture, be mindful and do so carefully.  Use a shop vac type vacuum cleaner to collect any of the fly away dust.  Note that there will be an accumulation of both the water and the stipple and if not careful they can spill onto all things you took such care in protecting when you first started.

The finished result of removing the stipple ceiling is now having a modern look in your house.  Having a flat painted non-textured ceiling brings your home to the present sleek and clean trend in home decor.

If you want to bring your home into the modern look of no stipple on the ceilings and do not have any desire to do it yourself, consider connecting by email or phone with painters in Ottawa PG PAINT & DESIGN to help get rid of those textured ceilings and any other interior house painting services you may be needing for your next home update.


This post was originally published on Jul 16, 2017 and edited on Mar 29, 2020