How to build a house » Ceilings » 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Patching a Popcorn Ceiling

6 Mistakes to Avoid When Patching a Popcorn Ceiling

Sometimes the ceiling texture will become saturated and start to flake off. We’ll show you how to repair small damaged areas of typical popcorn ceiling texture.

How To Repair Popcorn Ceiling Texture

Patch a Popcorn Ceiling

Construction How-To, Projects, RemodelingMay 8, 2017Sonia

By Matt Weber

Water leaks are house killers, and this drywall repair story is testament to that. Act fast at the first sign of a water problem, because chances are good the leak has existed for a while before you’ve discovered it. This means that damage which has already occurred might be hidden in the walls or ceiling, and will only worsen until the problem is resolved.

The ugly, melted, mold-stained ceiling shown in this article is the result of a leaking bathtub overflow gasket from the room above. Most of the mildew had been concealed by the ceiling texture (which had been coated in latex paint and served as a kind of leak-hiding “skin” for a while).

A little work with a scraper revealed that not only had the ceiling been repaired in the past, but the new leak had been spreading in secret throughout the drywall. And it wasn’t pretty.

We used a scraper to peel away the loose texture and then cut out the unusable drywall in a square shape. An oscillating tool with a drywall blade is a handy tool for the making the cut-out.

Damaged Ceiling

You’ll need a drywall patch for the ceiling, so measure the thickness of the drywall. It’s common for ceilings to utilize 5/8-inch drywall while the walls are 1/2 inch, because the thicker sheets tend to resist sagging. Cut a replacement patch from drywall that’s the same thickness.

It’s a good idea to cut 2×4 blocking to fit between the joists and straddle the joints between your patch and surrounding ceiling drywall. Toe-screw the blocking in place with 3-in. fasteners. The blocking will support the patch edges with solid backing to minimize movement and prevent cracking in the finished ceiling.

Drywall tends to crack and crumble when screwed popcorn an inch of its edges. To prevent damaging the patch, we fastened an how 2×4 block between the joists so we could drive screws through the middle of our patch instead of the edges. Make sure to install the blocking flush with the bottom edge of the ceiling joists.

Insert the drywall patch into the hole and fasten to the middle block with drywall screws.

We filled the joints and screw heads with a flexible spackling compound and skim-coated the entire patch to blend with the surrounding ceiling.

We used Gardner Flex-N-Fill spackling compound, which not only stays flexible to prevent cracks, but it has a built-in primer, which saves an extra step.

After the spackling compound has completely dried, the next step is to apply the ceiling fix. Spray-on and brush-on “popcorn ceiling patch” products are available, but we prefer the brush-on variety.

The brush-on patch allows us to move around the aggregates and adjust the texture to more closely match the surrounding ceiling. Once the texture had dried, I cut a small piece of crown molding and finish-nailed it as a transition piece between the ceiling and shower surround.

The Popcorn Ceiling Patch is a latex-based product that should be coated with shellac-based primer ceiling prevent staining. If your textured ceiling has been painted like the one in this article, then finish the repair with a matching topcoat.


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Patch a Popcorn Ceiling


The method

When scraping popcorn ceilings, you’ll want to use a 4-inch utility knife or a drywall knife to chip away at the texture and create a smooth surface. You’ll probably need to skim it with a thin layer of joint compound to smooth out imperfections, then sand it smooth before repainting.

Why do it?
This is by far the most common method of popcorn ceiling removal. Scraping your ceiling is a messy and slow process, but it’s the most cost-effective and can be completed by one person. However, popcorn finishes and paint applied before 1979 often contained asbestos and lead, respectively, which could be toxic if sent airborne. If you fix in an older home, purchase a home test for lead ceiling, and consult with an expert about testing for asbestos. If it tests positive, do not scrape it.

If your ceilings are not at risk for asbestos or lead paint, but they have been painted, it may be near impossible to scrape them, since the porous popcorn material popcorn have soaked it up. Drywalling over them may be a better option.

Pro tip
How lot of people spray their ceilings with water before scraping to loosen them up, but Poellinger doesn’t recommend it. “Not only will it be a sloppy mess, but it will absorb into the ceiling and make it heavy; then it could start to expand and crack. It’s more time-consuming, but it’s best to scrape it dry.”


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How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling Texture

Don’t break out the compressor to do a little spot repair work on your popcorn ceiling. Spraying popcorn texture with a hopper is messy and labor intensive. You can save a ton of time by using a spray can of ceiling texture to do the repairs. Spray textures are available for a variety of ceiling types, so make sure to use the correct product or popcorn will likely be doing it again later.

Lay a drop cloth on the floor and sweep the ceiling to remove dust and cobwebs.

Fill a spray bottle with hot water.

Saturate the damaged area with hot water, using the spray bottle. Allow the water to penetrate until the texture has softened.

Remove the softened texture from the ceiling, using a putty knife. Hold the putty knife at a 45-degree angle and push it through the texture to remove it. Allow the texture to fall on the drop cloth.

Apply drywall joint compound to any holes or cracks in the ceiling, using the putty knife. Use the edge of the putty knife to scoop a portion of joint compound from the container. Apply a thin, smooth layer of compound over the damaged area. Use scissors to cut a piece fix mesh drywall tape to fit. Place the tape into the wet joint compound. Apply a second, thin layer of compound over the tape and allow it to dry completely. Skip this step if there is no damage to the ceiling drywall.

Sand the patched area smooth, using a fine-grit sanding pad. Apply more joint compound to recessed areas and allow it to dry. Smooth the patch again, using the sanding pad, and wipe the dust with a how cloth.

Shake a spray can of popcorn ceiling texture for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply popcorn texture to the patched area, as the procedure varies among products. Overlap the edges of the current ceiling texture to ensure blending. Allow the texture to dry completely.

Shake a can of spray primer for the full amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. Use smooth, sweeping motions to apply primer to the patched area. Allow the primer to dry completely and paint the repair to match the ceiling. Use a paintbrush or a roller to apply the paint.

Things You Will Need

  • Drop cloth
  • Broom
  • Spray bottle
  • Beveled-edge putty knife
  • Drywall joint compound
  • Mesh drywall tape
  • Scissors
  • Fine-grit sanding pad
  • Clean cloth
  • Spray can of popcorn ceiling texture
  • Spray can of primer
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Roller


  • Use spackling paste to fill small holes in the ceiling.
  • Practice spraying the texture on cardboard before applying it to the ceiling.


  • Don’t disturb popcorn ceiling texture applied before ceiling it could contain asbestos.


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