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Why Were Popcorn Ceilings So Popular?

Ah, the popcorn ceiling. One of the hallmarks of cheap, builder-grade construction, alongside simple square windows and the infamous boob light. Many of us have glared at the ceilings of our apartments or homes, wondering what this weird, kernel-laden ceiling is and why it exists.

Clearly, someone at some point decided that popcorn ceilings were the way of the future. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be so ubiquitous in every inexpensive living space. Who decided this, why did they decide it, and why did they have such terrible taste? Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Popcorn Ceilings?

First things first, what are popcorn ceilings? Popcorn ceilings, sometimes known as textured ceilings or acoustic ceilings, get their name from their appearance. They look like kernels of popped corn embedded in the plaster. Or, less charitably, like the curdles of cottage cheese.

No one seems to like the way they look, nor less how difficult cleaning them can be. (If you want more information on how to clean a popcorn ceiling, check out this helpful guide.)

With that in mind, the question becomes: Why?

Why Do Popcorn Ceilings Exist?

What is the reason for the popcorn ceiling to exist? If you ask home designers and architects, they’ll say that it’s to make us suffer.

The actual answer is more intriguing. The popcorn ceiling came into existence in the 1930s but didn’t really take off as a design staple until the 1950s. It became popular and stayed in the mainstream eye until around the 1970s.

The reason why? Popcorn ceilings were an inexpensive way to finish ceiling construction for a house. Builders don’t have to fuss with smoothing out plaster to call a room finished. It also became much easier to cloak imperfections with the popcorn texture.

Pros of Textured Ceilings

So, what benefits can popcorn or textured ceilings offer homeowners? Clearly, there had to be some advantages. Otherwise, the style wouldn’t have remained popular for well over two decades. The pros of popcorn ceilings include, but are not limited to:

Better Sound Quality

That’s right, popcorn ceilings aren’t called acoustic ceilings for no reason. This ceiling type helps dampen and absorb sound, reducing the number of echoes and sound bleed you’ll have to deal with. This makes it easier for you to shut out those awkward noises coming from upstairs.

Hiding Imperfections

As mentioned before, a textured ceiling could be used to hide construction imperfections that might otherwise damage the home’s value. A smooth plaster finish might look better at first, but should there be any dents, cracks, or dings in the ceiling. It can also help to cover a shoddy drywall job, which makes it a great choice for less than scrupulous building agencies.

Cheap, Fast Construction

The last major benefit of a popcorn ceiling is its fast, cost-effective construction. Popcorn ceilings are easy to mix and lay. They also dry quickly when put into place.

What’s more, the ingredients to mix a popcorn ceiling are relatively cheap. This makes them a perfect choice for DIYers or construction companies operating on a shoestring budget.

Cons of Textured Ceilings

Now, let’s dig into what usually gets discussed around popcorn ceilings. What’s wrong with them, aside from looking horribly outdated and gross? The downsides of textured ceilings include, but are not limited to:

They’re Difficult to Redecorate

The first major drawback to popcorn ceilings is that they’re difficult to redecorate. They’re heavy on texture, which makes getting an even coat of paint or getting something to adhere to them can be difficult. In fact, many items you can adhere to the ceiling without hooks require you to sand down or otherwise remove the popcorn ceiling.

Repair and Maintenance Is All But Impossible

Should your textured ceiling ever become damaged, repairing it is no simple task. You have to cut out the damaged part of the ceiling so that you can match its color and texture. While there are a host of products designed to repair popcorn ceilings, getting a consistent look throughout is all but impossible.

If you want complete consistency after the popcorn ceiling gets damaged, you’ll have to replace the entire thing.

Cleaning Them Is a Pain

Popcorn ceilings, as we hinted above, are an absolute pain to clean due to their texture. They may hide dust, but their myriad crevices and divots are magnets for the stuff. If you suffer from allergies, this can worsen your symptoms over time.

Older Ceilings Have Toxic or Carcinogenous Ingredients

The worst downside of all is that older popcorn ceilings can contain outright dangerous ingredients. Any popcorn ceiling older than the 1980s or even early 1990s has a high chance of containing asbestos. While asbestos was quite handy as something to quell fires, it’s proven a dangerous carcinogen that most builders no longer use.

Is Removing Popcorn Ceiling Wise?

If you’re sick and tired of looking at that popcorn texture when you gaze at your ceiling, you might want to remove it. However, that may not always be wise. In addition to the aforementioned asbestos and dust, you might also encounter mold and mildew if you’re working in a bathroom. It’s better to let the professionals remove your popcorn ceiling than to attempt to do it yourself.

Looking for More Home Improvement Tips?

We hope this article gave you more insight into what popcorn ceilings are, why they exist, and what benefits they may offer. However, popcorn ceilings are far from the only design choice that plague apartment and home owners. If you’re looking for more home improvement tips to make your home feel better, check out our blog for more helpful and informative articles like this one!

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