How to Install Paneling on a Textured Popcorn Ceiling

I have textured popcorn ceilings and would like to panel over them. How do I go about it? -Sonja

Hi Sonja,

Since you have textured popcorn ceilings, the surface would be too uneven to just put paneling on top of it. You could go to the trouble of removing all the texture first, but a simpler method would be to put furring strips (made from 1×3 or 1×4 boards) on the ceiling, then attach the paneling to them.

You will still need to remove the popcorn texture where the furring strips go, and since some ceiling texture in the past contained asbestos, start by purchasing an asbestos test kit to see if the texture on your ceiling is contaminated, since the last thing you want to do is start scraping off asbestos-laced popcorn! If the test is positive, turn to a licensed asbestos mitigation company to remove the texture.

If the test indicates your popcorn ceiling texture doesn’t contain asbestos, install the paneling by:

  • Cover Floor and Walls: Lay plastic down on the floor, and I would even consider taping some on the walls of the room, since removing texture on a ceiling can get messy.
  • Locate Ceiling Joists: The furring strips can either run perpendicular to the ceiling joists, or on top of each joist. In either case, you’ll need to find and mark the joist locations using a stud finder so you can attach the strips to the joists.
  • Mark Path for Furring Strips: Mark the path on the ceiling for each of the furring strips with a chalk line, making the paths a bit wider than the strips.
  • Mix Texture Removal Solution: Fill a quart-sized spray bottle or pump up sprayer with hot water and add a dash of dish detergent. Don’t shake it up, but just gently stir the detergent in so it mixes with the water.
  • Remove Ceiling Texture: Spray the solution in a 3” to 4” wide path where the furring strips will be installed. Using a putty knife, scrape off the texture in the path to create a flat spot on the ceiling to attach the furring strips.
  • Attach Furring Strips: Once the ceiling is dry, install the furring strips by nailing or screwing the strips directly into the ceiling joists.
  • Install Paneling: Now you’re ready to attach the plywood paneling. Before nailing the paneling to the furring strips, I would put a bead of paneling adhesive on the furring strips to increase the holding power.
  • Apply Molding: Attach molding or 3/4” thick boards to the paneling to form a grid to accent the paneling and cover the seams. For that “paneled” look, I would go with a 1×3 board with a mitered cove molding on either side, and a bed or crown molding around the perimeter of the room.

Good luck with your project,


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5 Comments on “How to Install Paneling on a Textured Popcorn Ceiling”

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  • Art Carroll Says:
    August 3rd, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    I live in a condo with concrete ceilings covered with popcorn. How would I go about installing panel on my ceiling?

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    September 2nd, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Hi Maureen,
    If you’re running the furring strips perpendicular to the ceiling joists, which is the usual method, start off with a strip against one wall, then measure over from the wall and make all the other strips either 16″ or 24″ on center from the edge meets in the center of a strip. If the joists are on standard 16″ or 24″ centers, the edges other pieces of paneling will meet on the strips.

  • maureen Says:
    September 2nd, 2013 at 7:57 am

    how do I know where to place the furring strips on my ceiling ?

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    May 24th, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Hi Connie,
    You can’t really paint over vinyl wallpaper, since the paint won’t adhere well. You would need to either remove the existing paneling and put up drywall or more paneling, or apply sheets of thin paneling or 1/4″ drywall on top of the existing vinyl covered paneling. Good luck with your project!

  • connie kemple Says:
    May 17th, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    My walls are made of pre-finished panels covered with a vinyl wallpaper. Can these be painted with some prepwork or covered with another inexpensive solution? Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
    Connie Kemple

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How to Install Paneling on a Textured Popcorn Ceiling