Textured or popcorn ceilings predate the 1970s and — like lots of things from that era — are out of style for homeowners and home buyers.

Removing these eyesores is a messy job that takes a lot of time and work. If you want an easier option, you can just cover popcorn with planks to match your home’s interior design.

Best of all, it’s a quick and simple DIY job.

What You Should Know About Popcorn Ceilings

Before you work on a popcorn ceiling, you need to know about two things: asbestos and paint.

Materials used to make popcorn ceilings manufactured before 1980 may contain asbestos — which is dangerous to your health and the environment — so testing the surface is a must.

As for paint, it’s extremely difficult to remove painted popcorn ceilings because you need water to loosen the material, and paint blocks the underlying texture from absorbing moisture.

Yes, removing popcorn requires a ton of prep work, elbow grease, and a lot of cleanup afterward — but if you want to go ahead with getting rid of it rather than just covering it, watch this video on the popcorn ceiling removal process.

How to Cover Popcorn Ceilings With Planks

The fastest and cleanest way to deal with popcorn is to cover it with planks. Armstrong Ceilings’ Easy Up system breaks it down into three steps: install tracks on the ceiling, snap clips into the tracks, and mount the planks. There’s minimal cleanup, and you can complete the project over a weekend.

Ceilings With Planks
Image Credit: Canva

If you use the Easy Up system, install the tracks perpendicular to the joists and use threaded screws for each support. Expect to cut the tracks with a hacksaw to fit your ceiling, and you’ll need to cut the planks to fit around your ceiling’s corners and edges.

Depending on your room, there may be some additional considerations. For instance, you may need to scrape off the heaviest texture of the ceiling before installing the tracks.

If the existing ceiling has some hills and valleys, a few wood shims placed between the track and ceiling can improve the end result. Also, if the ceiling has trim, like crown molding, remove it before installing the planks.

Types of Ceiling Covers

There are many options on the market to cover your ceilings, and a plank ceiling can instantly transform a room. If planks aren’t your style, you can also use paneling to cover a popcorn ceiling.

Wood grain’s natural beauty makes any room feel warmer and more welcoming. Armstrong’s WoodHaven wood-look ceiling planks come in various colors and finishes — such as beadboard, driftwood, cherry, and pine — matching an array of styles.

White beadboard offers a timeless style that gives any room a bright and airy ambiance. There are numerous styles to suit your preferences.

Preparing Your Ceiling to Install Planks

Before installing planks over your popcorn ceiling, follow these preparation steps:

  1. Test your ceiling for asbestos. If present, take proper safety precautions or consider professional abatement.
  2. Scrape off heavily textured areas to create a smoother surface. Use a drywall sander or putty knife to gently smooth bumps.
  3. Fill cracks, holes, and uneven spots with spackle to make your ceiling as flat as possible before installing the tracks. Allow patching materials to fully cure.
  4. Remove any crown molding or ceiling medallions before installation to avoid making custom plank cuts later. Store trim carefully for reinstallation.

Taking time to prepare ensures your planks sit flush against the ceiling.

Hanging Methods and Installation Tips

There are two main methods for installing ceiling planks:

Suspended tracks use wires or rods to hang tracks below the ceiling surface. Easy-install clips then allow planks to snap into the tracks. This creates an air gap between the planks and the popcorn ceiling.

Direct-attach tracks screw right to the ceiling so planks mount flush. This offers a smooth appearance but requires a flat ceiling.

For either method, follow these tips:

  • Position plank courses perpendicular to ceiling joists and use approved ceiling screws.
  • Cut materials as needed to fit the room.
  • Stagger plank end joints to avoid an overly patterned or repetitive look.
  • If your ceiling is uneven, use shims between high points and tracks to prevent visible gaps.
  • Leave a 1/4-inch wall gap for expansion and contraction.
  • Work slowly and check alignment often.

So, Is Covering Popcorn Ceilings Worth It?

If your textured ceiling is otherwise sound, installing planks offers a fast upgrade without the mess of full removal. Within days, you can cover dated textures for a smooth, stylish look.

Compared to prepping, scraping, and skim-coating, installing planks to cover your ceiling provides similar benefits with less labor. Just make sure to address any moisture issues before you begin.

While less work than removing popcorn, covering ceilings still requires diligent prep and careful installation. If tackling this yourself, schedule ample time. If you’re not comfortable taking on this project, hire contractors experienced with ceiling upgrades for guaranteed quality results.

FAQs About Covering Popcorn Ceilings

How much does it cost to install wood planks over popcorn?

Materials run $1.50–$5 per square foot. With professional installation, expect to pay $4–$8 per square foot.

Should old popcorn texture be scraped before adding planks?

Heavily textured ceilings should be smoothed somewhat for the best finish. Complete removal is often unnecessary with suspended installation.

What about lights and vents — do those need to be moved for planks?

No. Covers mount around existing fixtures and protrusions. Tracks cut onsite allow full coverage.

Can planks go directly over acoustic-style popcorn ceilings?

Yes, the process is the same. Either screwing directly to the ceiling or using a track system will work.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Doug Sluga

Doug Sluga

Doug Sluga is a professional roofer and carpenter with ten years of experience in residential and commercial construction. His expertise spans the breadth of the roofing trade from minor repairs to laying shingles to framing trusses. These days he spends most of his time writing about roofing and the roofing industry.

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Casey Daniel

Casey Daniel is a writer and editor with a passion for empowering readers to improve their homes and their lives. She has written and reviewed content across multiple topics, including home improvement, lawn and garden care, sustainability, and health and wellness. When she’s not reviewing articles, Casey is usually playing board games, repainting her bathroom, or quilting.

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