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Plaster (mud) over popcorn ceiling?

Hard1's picture

I have a buddy who says his brother muds over popcorn ceilings all the time.  I've asked him a couple of times, but he hasn't gotten me any specifics about the process and materials.

I want to replace our popcorn ceilings with a skip-trowel finish, but I'd rather not take the popcorn down if I don't have to because it's 10% asbestos (I've had it tested).

Has anyone here successfully finished over a popcorn ceiling?  Are there any special materials or preparations needed? Primers,...?

Thanks for any info you can provide.


(post #96005, reply #1 of 16)

Although it may work for awhile, it sure doesn't sound plausible over the long haul.

FWIW, I'll vote in favor of a permanent ban on popcorn ceilings.


Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

(post #96005, reply #2 of 16)

"I have a buddy who says his brother muds over popcorn ceilings all the time."

To paraphrase from the movie THE SIXTH SENSE (with a little twist...)


Sorry; but unless ya can ck out one of those mudded-over jobs that's been in place for say - 5 years - cannot see anything sound about this practice.  It's a cheap, quick fix, shortcut unlikely to last.

Do it right, do it once.  Scrap off the old popcorn; use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (due to the asbestos) in the process - seal off ducts to the rooms to prevent migration; and do prompt proper disposal of the crud ya scrap off.


(post #96005, reply #3 of 16)

Asbestos disposal is not a DIY project. If you try to dispose of it properly, somebody is going to want to know where it came from.




(post #96005, reply #4 of 16)

"disposing of it properly" meant: find out how to do so.  DIYers can accomplish a little research into things, after all... (and given this gent's initial post stating he'd had it TESTED already...told me he was a bit smarter than the average bear  - and logically it follows that he'd already had some professional feedback about pro's cost of doing the removal...which is why he was looking into alternatives to that in the first place.) 

I simply do not like leaving asbestos known hazards in a residence...feel the same way about lead paint (worry about the kids dontcha know).  That's my bias, and I both acknowledge, and admit it.

But safety first.  Asbestos is friable.  An airborne hazard.  But there ARE ways to safely remove and properly dispose of it.  All ya gotta do is look in the yellow pages at the outfits who specialize in doing so and ya quickly discern that yes indeed, it can be done.


Edited 8/28/2004 3:07 pm ET by mizshredder


(post #96005, reply #7 of 16)

In a lot of areas the DIY'er most certainly can do asbestos removal.

They cant do it for hire though.


(post #96005, reply #5 of 16)

Do a google search (popcorn ceilings) plenty of info removal. As far as skimming over with mud IMHO no way would work. Ever tried painting a PC ceiling? You can't re-role when wet 'cause the stuff just falls off. So can you imagine what would happen when the water in the mud, and the weight of the mud, takes its toll on the PC?

Good Luck

(post #96005, reply #6 of 16)

Have you considered putting up some furring strips and a new drywall ceiling? Might lose an inch of ceiling height. We had ours scraped off so no way could it have supported over coating. The only thing this would have done is embed the fibres for less danger of asbestos dust in the air. What are your local regs? Usually the are specifics about asbestos removal "IN LOOSE FORM" If it is embeded in something the regs are less stringent.


(post #96005, reply #8 of 16)

Actually I have considered that.  In fact someone suggested just putting up 3/8 drywall without furring strips.


(post #96005, reply #9 of 16)

Don't skip the furring--you'll drive yourself nuts trying to screw into invisible and possibly irregularly spaced joists. Furring is lightweight and cheap; you can hold it up one-handed until you find the wood behind that popcorn ceiling without cursing a blue streak and wondering why you ever started this dang project....

If you use 3/8" rock, space the furring on 12" centers. If you go with standard half-inch gyprock, you can go to 16" centers on the furring.



'Y-a-tu de la justice dans ce maudit monde?

PS--You didn't mention if this is a basement ceiling; if it is, skip the whole gyprock idea, demo the existing ceiling completely to expose and provide access to the utilities, and hang a suspended ceiling right off the joists.

Edited 8/28/2004 11:28 pm ET by Dinosaur


How now, Mighty Sauron, that thou art not brought
low by this? For thine evil pales before that which
foolish men call Justice....

(post #96005, reply #13 of 16)


Thanks for the advice.  I'm in AZ and this is a typical single story on a slab (no basement unfortunately).  The roof structure is trusses and as far as I can discern they are straight and evenly spaced (place was very well built in '67).  I was thinking I could snap chalk lines on the ceiling to represent the centers of the truss chords.  I'm kind of methodical and liable to spend half a day marking things out to make them go smoothly.  You make a good argument for the furring strips, but if the final job will look as good either way, I'm inclined to pass on them just to keep that extra 3/4" of height.


(post #96005, reply #14 of 16)

Your call--but I can tell you from experience it's a lot easier to hit a 2½"-wide furring strip than a 1½"-wide truss chord--especially when the gyprock screw is trying to kink sideways out of your screw gun while you're holding 85 pounds of sagging, flopping 4x8 sheet up over your head with one hand while you're standing on stilts or a milk crate or a stepladder....

Add to that the possibility that your trusses may very well be on 24" centers--which is too widely spaced to hold up even 5/8" rock (make that 100 lbs!) without visible sag--and I'd sacrifice the ¾" of overhead height for an easier, better looking job.

Bog help ya if you decide to use 12' or 14' sheets.... Rent a lift....



'Y-a-tu de la justice dans ce maudit monde?


How now, Mighty Sauron, that thou art not brought
low by this? For thine evil pales before that which
foolish men call Justice....

(post #96005, reply #15 of 16)


Alright; you've convinced me.  The trusses ARE on 24" centers.  Didn't occur to me that even 5/8 would sag... wait a minute, I think all these ceilings are rocked with 1/2" on 24" centers, how come they're not sagging?

What do I know about drywall?  Nothing, except how to make a big mess tearing it out to put in cool stuff.  Have to learn how to do a skip trowell finish now, getting rooms done too slowly one at a time, not worth bringing someone in each time to do that.  Besides, learning's the fun part.



(post #96005, reply #16 of 16)

I rocked my own 2nd-floor bedrooms with ½" on 24" back when I built this place...I am fond of telling prospective customers that I made all my mistakes in my own place, LOL.

½ on 24 won't sag a lot...but if you wait a few years and lay a steel straightedge on it, you'll see it. Worse if you ever get any minor roof leakage that dampens it, of course.

For your job, I'd lay a foil-backed kraft-paper vapour barrier up on the existing ceiling, then the furring on 16" centers, running (obviously) 90 degrees to the trusses, then the gyprock. If you want to save yourself a bunch of corner taping, leave the ceilling/wall joint open and install crown instead.



'Y-a-tu de la justice dans ce maudit monde?


How now, Mighty Sauron, that thou art not brought
low by this? For thine evil pales before that which
foolish men call Justice....

(post #96005, reply #10 of 16)

5/8th, 3/8th what is the drawback? A lot less messy even with mudding and taping. What are the reasons you are not going with this solution?

In our case had a little sag that had to be disguised. Kind of like plastic surgery nip & tuck.

Let us know.



(post #96005, reply #11 of 16)

Well, if we could just mud over the existing, it seems like it would be faster, cheaper and easier.  Seems like that is not an option though.

Reason for thinking of 3/8 without firring strips was to minimize loss of height.  Ceilings are only 8 feet and feel too low to me as they are.

Is there a reason why firring strips would be necessary or preferable?


(post #96005, reply #12 of 16)

Sorry, maybe you already answered my last question with that line about fixing the sag.