Popcorn ceiling texture has been both a blessing and a curse for homeowners. Popcorn ceilings refer to the granulated “popcorn looking” ceiling texture used for decades in both residential and commercial structures. Popcorn ceiling texture generally replaced “stomp” or “mop” textures made popular in the first half of the 20th century. Today we will discuss how to match the texture of a popcorn ceiling without completely removing it.

Why Do Builders Use Popcorn Ceiling Texture?

Popcorn ceiling texture was originally introduced to the masses in the latter part of the 20th century as a way to speed up the process of texturing a ceiling. Ceiling textures in general are used to generate visual interest in an otherwise flat, boring surface.

Using popcorn texture is also a great way to hide imperfections in a ceiling, which can be magnified in a raking light. For builders, installing a popcorn ceiling is often superior to smooth finishing a ceiling or other texturing methods because it is fast and effective.

Why Is Popcorn Ceiling Texture Great?

Popcorn ceiling texture’s popularity usually stems from the ability of the product to hide imperfections, its ease of installation, and cost. Popcorn ceiling texture checks each of these boxes because it is applied by a machine, lasts a long time, and is relatively inexpensive. Popcorn ceiling texture can be modified (like adding glitter for a child’s room) and added to, repaired, and painted, making it a very versatile material.

Popcorn ceiling texture also comes in a few configurations, with most options looking more like cottage cheese than popcorn. Because the material is porous after it dries, it accepts primer and paint very well, and can withstand multiple re-paintings. Popcorn is also removable, but great care should be taken, because older versions of the material contained asbestos, a known carcinogen. Popcorn ceiling texture is also good at absorbing and deadening sounds, because the uneven texture retards the transmission of sound waves, similar to carpeting. 

Why Is Removing Popcorn Ceiling Texture Dangerous?

Until 1978, asbestos was commonly added to the popcorn ceiling material as a way of making the material more durable. However after 1978, this and other additives were removed from ceiling textures and other materials, in the same way lead was removed from paint. For remodelers and do-it-yourselfers, old popcorn ceiling texture can pose a health risk when the material is removed.

For those interested in replacing their popcorn ceilings, it is strongly recommended to discern when the material was installed. Older homes that might still have popcorn ceilings installed prior to 1978 (and shortly after) should not be disturbed by do-it-yourselfers. In these situations, it is strongly recommended to hire a trained professional to remove the material, as they will have the safety gear and training to remove the popcorn texture safely.

While the asbestos contained in the material is generally safe after it is sealed with paint, scraping or sanding of the material often results in making the asbestos fibers airborne.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

Particularly for those sensitive to respiratory problems, inhaling asbestos fibers can result in a number of health problems, including cancer. For this reason, professionals will take the necessary precautions, such as the use of respiratory gear and a thorough cleaning of the air after the project is completed.  

How Do I Match a Popcorn Ceiling Texture?

The easiest way to match a popcorn ceiling texture is to determine which style you have and purchase a repair kit. Popcorn ceiling texture comes in various forms, but some of the most popular are referred to as cottage cheese and acoustic, which refer to the size and shape of the texture. After 1978, most popcorn ceiling manufacturers replaced the asbestos component with styrofoam or other lightweight material (like paper fibers), but the shapes of the texture remained largely the same.

Fortunately, this makes repairing and matching of the material relatively simple. Here we will discuss the common approach to repairing a popcorn ceiling texture and the tools typically needed. In this example, we will assume that the popcorn was installed after 1978 and the asbestos has been safely removed from the problem area. We will also approach the repair as a roof leak, which is the most common reason for matching popcorn texture. 

  • Safety gear, to include a respirator and any other appropriate gear 
  • Utility Knife
  • Straightedge
  • Putty Knife, Paint Brush, Paper Towels (or an optional Sprayer)
  • Color Matched Paint

Steps to Match a Popcorn Ceiling Texture

Use the dropdown tabs below to learn more about each step of the process:

Cutting the sample may be optional if the installer has enough experience, but generally speaking, it is the safest method to ensure a match. Using a straightedge and utility knife, cut a small sample from the popcorn texture that has as little popcorn as possible. The sample should be about the size of a quarter (at a minimum) and represent the color of the ceiling. The smoothest area should be used as a sample because the flatter a surface is, the easier it is for a color matching computer to match the color. Otherwise, shadows created by the texture could fool the computer and cause it to make the paint too dark.

Next, the sample is taken to a modern paint store, which will have a color matching computer available. The sample is then placed in the computer and a test batch of paint is created, applied, and dried completely. If the new paint needs an adjustment to match the original, the paint specialist will often take another look at the sample and adjust the mixture accordingly until an exact match is achieved.

At this stage, the ceiling area to accept the new popcorn should be stable, with no flaking or peeling of the remaining popcorn, and completely dry. This will help enable the new material to securely bond with the drywall and the existing texture. Most popcorn repair kits come with the texture already mixed, but some require mixing with water. After the material is ready to be applied, the best applicator is often a disposable paint brush or crumpled paper towel. Using a stippling technique, the material is applied in layers until a satisfactory appearance is achieved.

The new popcorn texture may take a day or two to dry completely, depending on the relative humidity. In most instances, it is not advised to attempt to speed up the drying time by using the HVAC system to remove moisture from the air. Doing so may cause the popcorn to dry too quickly, resulting in cracks, especially if the texture is thick. A better method is to let the material dry at the ambient temperature and humidity of the room. After the new texture has completely dried, it can be repainted using the color matched paint. 

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avatar for Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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