Once praised for their acoustical benefit, today we consider popcorn ceilings an outdated architectural eyesore. Scraping the texture from the ceiling, though physically demanding, is a simple, economical solution that can add beauty and value to an old home in just a few days. Reduce the project time and save energy by using a vinegar solution instead of plain water to safely remove the old popcorn texture from the ceiling.
Remove all furniture, accessories and loose rugs from the room you're working on. Close heating and cooling vents and turn off electricity to the room. Remove light fixtures and ceiling fans.
Cover the floor with thick, plastic sheeting, extending it up each wall 1 or 2 feet and securing it with painter's tape. Cut pieces of plastic sheeting large enough to cover any uncovered electrical outlets and secure them with tape.
Attach a strip of painter's tape ¼ inch below the ceiling around the perimeter of the room. Secure plastic sheeting to the walls by taping it to the previously laid tape on the wall, as suggested by home improvement expert Bob Vila.
Fill a garden sprayer with hot water, adding a cup of vinegar and 7 tablespoons of dish soap per gallon of water. Pump the sprayer multiple times to pressurize the liquid for steady spraying.
Working in 5-foot-square sections (5 feet by 5 feet), spray the ceiling until it is thoroughly wet, but not dripping. Allow the vinegar solution to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before scraping with a putty knife. For best results, hold the putty knife at a 30-degree angle and scrape gently, taking care not to gouge the ceiling. The knife should glide across the ceiling smoothly. If the ceiling texture is difficult to remove, wet it again and wait 10 additional minutes before scraping a second time.
Wipe any remaining loosened debris from the ceiling with a damp cloth. Allow the ceiling to dry for 24 hours.
Using long, steady strokes, apply joint compound with a putty knife to cover holes that may appear after you remove the popcorn texture. Wait at least 4 hours before sanding with a sanding sponge.
Either by hand or with a paint sprayer for quicker application, cover the ceiling with a primer specifically made for use on wallboard. Allow to dry at least 4 hours before applying new texture or a final coat of paint.
Pour joint compound into a texture sprayer -- available for rent at most home improvement stores -- and adjust the air pressure according to the sprayer manual's specifications. Spray the texture on the ceiling, using long, sweeping strokes similar to those used when spray painting. Spray at a distance of 3 to 4 feet from the ceiling for optimal results, pausing periodically to look for bare spots to cover. Allow the texture to dry for 24 hours.
Use a paint sprayer or a hand roller attached to a roller extender to apply latex paint to the ceiling. Take frequent breaks to inspect the ceiling and ensure even coverage.