I've never liked the textured ceilings in my 1950's house. But scraping and removing the popcorn always seemed like such a daunting task. In August 2007, I began what became the initial step in renovating my bathroom, and I started with the ceiling. Because this room is so small (the ceiling is probably 35 ft²) I thought I could knock this out quickly, and it went quite well at first.
I used a scraper to chip and peel, and had the occasional large section come down. But mostly it was quite tedious and messy, with only small pieces removed at a time. Plus it is tough to work overhead. Standing and balancing on a step ladder, you get very little leverage. Holding your arms over your head for any length of time is exhausting. This is just tough work, and it took several more hours than I expected.
The picture below shows the early stages of removal. The drywall beneath the texture was in good shape, and the builder had even covered and sanded the nails, which made for a nice, smooth surface.
And the finished product...
After all the texture was removed, I patched some areas with joint compound, sanded, primed, then painted the ceiling in a white semi-gloss. One of the advantages to the smooth finish is how light reflects much better than with the textured finish. In Europe, for example, they've painted ceilings for years with a high-gloss finish to better reflect light. This works quite well in my bathroom because the main source of lighting is a wall sconce that points upward. This fixture has a 200 watt halogen bulb and is extremely bright. The circuit is on a dimmer to save energy, but I can flood this small room with light if needed, which I did for the above photograph.
If and when I repeat this procedure for other rooms, I'm going to mist the ceiling with a spray bottle of water first. This is supposed to loosen the texture from the drywall and ease the process.