How To Paint an Acoustic or "Popcorn" Ceiling

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Estimated Time: 
3-5 hours
Popcorn is For the Movie - Not My Ceiling!

As a kid, popcorn was such a joy. Now that you own your home and have it on every ceiling in the house, not so much. Don't get us wrong, we still love the kind you put in the microwave or get at the movies but the stuff on the ceiling is tired, old and needs a face-lift. After all, that yellowing isn't butter topping!

Project Steps

If you like the look of it, or removing your popcorn ceiling isn't an option, then painting over it is your best bet. It's not that difficult of a project but it can be a tricky situation if not approached correctly.

Quite often popcorn ceilings are first covered with what's know as alkyd paint (Alkyd paint consists of a synthetic type of resin called "alkyd" as well as a mix of mineral spirits as a solvent - we know, exciting stuff), so that they could be re-painted in the future with water based paint. If you know that your ceilings were previously treated, then go right ahead and apply any water based paint you wish.

If you aren't aware of your ceilings having been treated in the past, then we suggest you prepare them with a premium, no spatter, alkyd paint designed for use over stucco popcorn and plaster ceilings.

When it comes to the "type" of paint, a matte finish is ideal for hiding surface irregularities and reducing glare but we prefer an eggshell so your ceilings won't end up looking chalky.

The painting portion is pretty straight forward. Just remember the following guidelines as you paint:

Always wear protective eye wear

Cover your hair (white highlights are definitely not "in.")

Stop periodically to stretch your neck and back. Painting ceilings will put a great deal of strain on your body; make sure you give it what it needs in order to let you finish the project.

Try to use a roller with a large nap, and get yourself a paint roller that allows you to draw the paint directly into the handle. That way you won't have to constantly be bending down to put more paint on the roller. It also allows for better control as for the amount of paint on the roller at any one time and in turn less splatter. There are a number of these available at your local home improvement store.

This project will be one that will reward you for years to come. It's quite a time consuming project, so take one room at a time when you can and don't try to paint or scrape all of your ceilings in a weekend.

Unless of course you've got lots of friends and even more pizza and beer.

Good luck and have fun!

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These directions are great. I was able to paint my popcorn ceiling with ease!


I have a couple of questions: 1. I heard that when painting a popcorn ceiling you should paint in one direction, not back & forth. Is this true? 2. Would it be better to spray paint or use a roller? Thanx for any help offered!
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