Popcorn Ceiling Vs Knockdown: Which To Choose?

When it comes to upgrading your home's interior, choosing the right texture for your ceilings is a consideration.

Popcorn and knockdown textures are two popular options that each have their unique benefits and drawbacks.

Up close photo of a popcorn ceiling

In this article, we'll explore the differences between these two styles to help you make an informed decision.

What is a Popcorn Ceiling?

A popcorn ceiling is a textured ceiling finish that was popular in homes built between the 1950s and 1980s.

It gets its name from the small, irregular bumps resembling popcorn that cover the surface.

Detailed photo of popcorn ceiling

This finish was initially used to hide minor imperfections and provide some insulation and soundproofing.

However, with changing design trends and concerns over asbestos (used in some popcorn ceilings until the 1970s), popcorn ceilings have become less popular in favor of smoother finishes.

Pros of Popcorn Ceilings

Easy Installation

Popcorn ceilings were once appealing because they were relatively quick and simple to install.


The materials required for a popcorn ceiling are generally cheaper than other finishes.

Sound Absorption

The textured bumps on a popcorn ceiling can help absorb and dampen some sound, reducing noise between rooms.

Imperfection Concealment

Popcorn ceilings were often used to cover up small cracks and uneven surfaces without significant repair.

Cons of Popcorn Ceilings

Outdated Appearance

Many modern homeowners find the look of popcorn ceilings outdated and prefer more contemporary finishes.

Difficult Maintenance

The bumpy texture of a popcorn ceiling can collect dust and cobwebs, making it challenging to clean.

Asbestos Potential

Some older popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, a hazardous material that requires professional removal.

Difficult to Repair

If a popcorn ceiling is damaged, finding an exact match for the texture can be challenging, and repairs can be more complicated than with smooth surfaces.

What is a Knockdown Ceiling

A knockdown ceiling is a textured finish applied to ceilings, which creates a visually appealing and slightly bumpy surface.

The knockdown texture rose to popularity during the late 20th century.

Knockdown ceiling

It was developed as an alternative to the busy and infamous popcorn ceiling texture.

The concept of knockdown ceilings was inspired by the traditional "skip trowel" technique.

In this technique, plasterers used a trowel to apply and partially knock down the texture, thus creating a unique and visually appealing finish.

Pros of Knockdown Ceilings

Visually Appealing

The irregular and textured surface of a knockdown ceiling can give a room character and depth, making it a stylish and modern alternative to the dated popcorn ceilings.


Applying a knockdown texture is relatively inexpensive and can even be a DIY project if you're up for the challenge.

Noise Reduction

The textured surface of a knockdown ceiling can help to absorb sound, making the room quieter and more comfortable.

Easy to Repair

If you ever need to fix a damaged area, the process is quite straightforward, and blending in the new texture can be seamless.

Cons of Knockdown Ceilings

Harder to Clean

Due to the textured surface, dust and dirt can accumulate easily, making cleaning a bit more challenging compared to smooth ceilings.

Can Look Dated Over Time

Although currently popular, the knockdown texture might lose its appeal over the years, just like popcorn ceilings have.

Tricky to Install

The application process requires some skill and technique, and if not done correctly, it can cause the ceiling to look uneven or unprofessional.

Comparison: Popcorn Ceiling vs Knockdown

Aesthetic Appeal

When it comes to the aesthetic appeal of popcorn ceilings and knockdown ceilings, it's a matter of personal preference.

Popcorn ceilings, also known as acoustic ceilings, have a textured look created by spraying a mixture of drywall compound, sand, and adhesive onto the ceiling.

This style was popular in the late 20th century but has since fallen out of favor due to its dated appearance.

Knockdown ceilings, on the other hand, have a subtler texture, created by spraying a thin layer of drywall compound onto the ceiling and then "knocking down" the peaks with a trowel or knife.

This results in a more modern and visually appealing finish that many homeowners find appealing.


In terms of cost, popcorn ceilings are generally cheaper to install than knockdown ceilings.

The materials used for popcorn ceilings are less expensive, and the process is quicker and requires less labor.

However, it's important to note that the lower cost of popcorn ceilings may be offset by decreased home value, as many buyers prefer the more updated look of a knockdown ceiling.

Knockdown ceilings, while more expensive upfront, can add value to your home and may be a better investment in the long run.

Some homeowners also choose to remove popcorn ceilings to update the appearance of their home, which can be a costly and time-consuming process.

Installation Process

The installation process for popcorn ceilings involves spraying a mixture of drywall compound, sand, and adhesive directly onto the ceiling using a specialized sprayer.

This can be a messy process, and proper ventilation is necessary to avoid inhalation of the fine particles.

Knockdown ceilings are created by first applying a base coat of drywall compound, then spraying a thin layer of drywall compound onto the ceiling.

Then you use a trowel or knife to "knock down" the peaks and create the desired texture.

This process requires more skill and precision than installing a popcorn ceiling, but can result in a more attractive and modern finish.


Both popcorn and knockdown ceilings can pose challenges when it comes to maintenance.

Popcorn ceilings are notoriously difficult to clean, as the texture can easily trap dust, cobwebs, and other debris.

Painting a popcorn ceiling can also be a challenging process, as the texture can make it difficult to achieve a consistent finish.

Knockdown ceilings are generally easier to maintain, as their smoother texture is less likely to trap dust and debris.

Painting and repairing minor damage on a knockdown ceiling is also easier compared to popcorn ceilings.

However, both ceiling types will require professional help if significant repairs are needed, as replicating the texture can be difficult.

How to Choose Between Popcorn and Knockdown Ceilings

Consider the Style of your Home

It's essential to consider the style and design of your home.

Popcorn ceilings, also known as acoustic ceilings, were highly popular in the 20th century, especially in mid-century modern homes.

Knockdown ceiling

If your home has a vintage or retro style, popcorn ceilings might enhance its design.

On the other hand, knockdown ceilings are known for their modern and sophisticated appearance, making them more suitable for contemporary homes.

Evaluate your Budget

Your budget also plays a significant role in choosing between popcorn and knockdown ceilings.

Popcorn ceilings are generally more affordable because they require less labor and material.

However, bear in mind that some people might find them less visually appealing, which could affect resale value.

Knockdown ceilings are typically more expensive due to the complexity of the texture application, but they might be worth the investment for a more polished appearance.

Think About the Time you Have

The time required for installation and drying should also be considered when choosing between these two ceiling types.

Popcorn ceilings can be applied relatively quickly, with the spray-on process taking only a few hours.

On the other hand, knockdown ceilings involve applying a texture, which is then flattened ("knocked down") after a short period.

This process may take a day or two, depending on the size of the area and the finish you desire.

Consider the Maintenance Effort

Finally, think about the maintenance required for each ceiling type.

Popcorn ceilings are known for their uneven texture, which can trap dust and dirt, making them more challenging to keep clean.

This texture can also make it difficult to repair or paint the ceiling. Knockdown ceilings, on the other hand, have a flatter surface, making them easier to clean and maintain.

Additionally, they are more resistant to cracking and peeling, which can save you time and money on repairs in the long run.

Are There any Health Concerns with Popcorn Ceilings Compared to Knockdown?

Although both types of ceiling textures have their pros and cons, some concerns are unique to popcorn ceilings.


You may have heard that popcorn ceilings can contain asbestos, a hazardous material that was widely used in building materials until the 1970s.

Indeed, if your popcorn ceiling was installed before the 1980s, there is a chance it contains asbestos, which can be harmful if inhaled.

When disturbed, asbestos fibers can become airborne and cause health problems such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

If you're not sure if your popcorn ceiling contains asbestos, it's best to have it tested by a professional.

On the other hand, knockdown ceilings, which have a more textured and less uniform look, typically don't pose the same asbestos risk.

However, like any construction material, there can be issues with the specific materials used for your knockdown ceiling.

It's essential to ensure that any materials used for your knockdown ceiling meet safety standards and regulations.


Another health concern with popcorn ceilings is allergens.

Due to their rough, textured surface, popcorn ceilings can collect dust, pollen, and other allergens more easily than smoother surfaces like knockdown ceilings.

This accumulation can be especially problematic for those with allergies or asthma.

Regular cleaning and maintenance can help alleviate this issue, but it may be more difficult to clean a popcorn ceiling than a knockdown one.

Final Deciding Factors

When deciding between a popcorn ceiling and a knockdown texture, it's essential to consider your personal preferences and the overall style of your home.

Popcorn ceilings are known for their noise-reducing properties and cost-effectiveness. They can easily hide minor imperfections on the ceiling surface.

However, they are now considered outdated by many homeowners and can be harder to maintain.

On the other hand, knockdown texture offers a more modern and visually appealing look.

It also hides imperfections on the ceiling and is easier to clean and maintain compared to popcorn ceilings.

Consider the pros and cons of each option and choose the one that best suits your needs and design preferences.

For more information about types of ceilings, check out these other articles:

Popcorn Ceiling Patch vs. Spray: Which One is Right for You?

How Tall Are Vaulted Ceilings? A Quick Guide To Height Regulations

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