Basement Stairwell Project ~ Removing Popcorn

We have lived in our home for 14 years, a new build at the time, and in almost all those years I have hated the popcorn stucco ceilings.

The stairwell to our basement is visible from the front door, the living room and the dining room and this patch of sloped ceiling and the patch above the landing bothers me the most. I wanted to start updating this area by painting the walls, trim and doors. I was talking about this to our almost 16 year old son and mentioned that I wanted to take the stucco off but that was not a project I was looking forward to. Kyle said we should give it a try before I painted. Within 10 minutes of talking about it, our youngest son took the lower railing off and Kyle set up some plastic garbage bags to collect the falling stucco. He started slowly, spraying just the spot in the photo above with warm water in a window cleaner bottle. Two swoops and it came off super easily.

Game on! He went to work on the rest. Adding just enough water to moisten the stucco and make it come off easily but not so much to saturate the drywall. This is the point where my sister-in-law called saying she had locked their keys in the truck and could I come pick up my brother and her and get the second set of keys. We left Kyle and came back less than 30 minutes less and all the stucco was off. (Hubby was at work and he prefers laundry and dishes to diy.)

The stucco left quite a mess to clean up. On a larger area we would spend more time laying plastic sheeting and protecting the walls but this was just a small trial project and I plan to paint.

When I walked in the door he said "Mom I had to walk to the kitchen, you might not want to look." 

Surprisingly with a shop vac, swiffer and finally a wet mop it cleaned up pretty quickly. In the photo above you can see the projects we need to complete to make this area more attractive. Now that the stucco is off and two small nicks filled and sanded the ceiling is ready for paint. I will freshen the paint on the basement door and trim. The walls will be painted and I can finish the board details around the wall opening and the drywalled post. We also need to add hardwood to the landing (my brother's dog ate the carpet that was here.) I also plan to sand down the short handrail and use a darker stain, plus spray the supports black (the rail going upstairs is a project for another time.)

 But now I will be doing these projects in the right order and not ending up still having the stucco that I hate.

Smooth ceilings. Ahhhh! Looking so much better.

Hopefully I can get started on the painting soon. First I have a dresser to paint for my sister. Hoping you are having a relaxing or productive weekend, whatever suits you.

Edited: In older homes (some say pre 1988 others the 70's) asbestos is a real danger in textured ceilings and building materials. Always check before removing building materials. Mike Holmes says you can have small part of the material tested first. Our home was built in 1997.


  1. Elizabeth...I am going to ask you about barn stars. Do you have more than thirteen on one level of your house? Honesty - please say yes!!!
    Good luck with the popcorn ceiling. They do new houses out west in texture and it drives me nuts. Love smooth but I don't know if I would be up for removing the popcorn. That is a lot of work!!!xo

  2. Way to go for that son of yours! How wonderful that you will get to do it the RIGHT way, and not still have something that will bug you forevermore ;-)

  3. It looks so much better already! Way to go.

  4. Do you loan out your son? He's amazing! It will be a lot of work, but it will be worth it.

  5. That's just great! I didn't know one could remove the popcorn that easily. Your son was a great help and it's going to look much nicer when all painted.

    1. I think it came off easy because we have never had to paint the textured ceilings.

  6. Brave soul!!! We need to do that and I just cannot muster up the courage cause that's what it takes, you know! I do not like messes so I'll leave mine for now.
    Farmhouse hugs,

  7. Now that Kyle is a pro ... I've got a ceiling for him to tackle :)
    Looks good, and I'm sure once you get to doing all those projects it will look even better.

  8. Hi Elizabeth,
    Good for you guys!! What a messy job but so worth it in the end. I think this one is right up there with removing wallpaper... It is going to be amazing to have a nice flat ceiling freshly painted.
    All the Best,

  9. Go boys! That is awesome that they just pitched in and gott'er done! It looks great!

  10. Wow-it looks amazing! Your hard work (and mess) will be worth it :)

  11. Elizabeth, such a large job you tackled and look how amazing it is beginning to look even in these early stages! My hat is off to you for this project!!
    So informative and inspiring for us all!
    Thank you

  12. How impressive!! Can Kyle come live at my house?? Seriously though --- very nice job. It's always great to tackle such a big project.
    Missy M

  13. That's looking wonderful! I'm glad your son helps you, sometimes those projects just don't interest your man, so a son is good to have around, eh?
    Have fun!
    Hugs, Cindy

  14. I just ran down to check and we have popcorn ceiling in the same spot. It is such a good place to try your taking-off techniques. What a difference it will make. Our whole family room is covered in it and I would love to remove it from there too.

  15. Looks great! Popcorn ceilings are the bone of everyone ...

  16. Wow - that is a lot of work - kuddos to you for taking it on. I am sure in the long run it will totally be worth it! Take care, Laura

  17. It looks messy but easier than I thought. When we were house hunting, I was super scared of those with popcorn ceilings!!

  18. It looks messy but easier than I thought. When we were house hunting, I was super scared of those with popcorn ceilings!!

  19. Our house has the smooth ceilings already, but I know so many still have that textured ceiling. I don't know why builders ever did the texture in the first place. I'm sure you're happy with the results so far.

  20. Wow! What a transformation! Kudos to your clever son! I'm with you. It looks so much better. A lot of work ahead, but it will be beautiful. (Glad you liked all the blues!)

  21. Can you send your son to Texas? I have some popcorn that needs to be removed. Well done!! You have inspired me to give it a try.


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