Popcorn Ceilings and Asbestos

Going green — By on October 9, 2008 at 2:34 pm
1766319781 6d9ba34033 m Popcorn Ceilings and Asbestos

Up Close and Ugly - Popcorn Ceiling

If you live in a home or apartment built in the 1960s or 70s, chances are that you could have a popcorn ceiling over your head. During this era, builders discovered that they could lower overall construction costs by spraying on ceilings, resulting in the unattractive, bumpy texture affectionately referred to as “popcorn.” If modernizing your home is on your list of things to do, be sure that you find out beforehand whether your popcorn ceiling contains asbestos, as many do. This can be done fairly easily by removing a piece of the “popcorn” and sending it to a laboratory for testing. Check your phone book for listings of asbestos testing and consulting.

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Removal of popcorn ceiling

Undisturbed, an asbestos-containing ceiling is not dangerous. Health risks result when asbestos dust is inhaled. For this reason, your best bet may be to leave the popcorn ceiling alone. If you decide to remove the texture, a professional asbestos abatement contractor should be hired to do any sanding and scraping work if asbestos is involved. Removal of popcorn ceiling textures that contain the carcinogen will have to be done in a manner that involves sequestering the dust from other areas of the home, and detailed clean-up.

Even if no asbestos is present, you will definitely want to follow proper procedures for removal of the texture, including wearing a face mask and draping areas to minimize dust.

For more tips and a step-by-step “how to,” watch the following video: Removal of Popcorn Ceilings

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  1. Lili says:

    Is there any way that asbestos can “trickle” down from the ceiling over time, even if it is not touched for removal? I guess I want to know if it really is an issue still even if you dont touch it.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi Lili,

    There is only a problem with asbestos if it is disturbed. It has to be airborne to create a problem. If little pieces fall of the ceiling, they could break down into dust, but the biggest problem is really when there is demolition and the dust gets into the air. You have to breathe it for disease to take hold.


  3. Lili says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    so …if it is untouched then it wont trickle down bit by bit over time? It does not sort of loosen itself over time? I am assuming that coat of paint over it is fresh. It doesnt look like it was 30 years old.

  4. Josie says:

    Is there any chance of some of the dust slowly coming down? Or is it actually locked? What if the people walk around upstairs – does that release small amounts into the apartment below? Is any kind of asbestos fibers release when the ceiling remains untouched?

  5. Stephanie says:

    HI Josie – as a land use/construction lawyer, I can tell you that the experts I work with say that the most significant danger of asbestos is when the ceiling is actively disturbed. In other words, if you were to cut a hole in the ceiling for wiring, or start construction work to remove it. The risk of small amounts being disturbed by people walking on floors above you is pretty small. If the ceiling remains untouched, the risk is quite low.

  6. barry says:

    I have a module home that was built around 1986 or 1987. Could the popcorn ceiling have asbestos in it?

  7. Stephanie says:

    Hi Barry,

    I figure with the age of your home, it probably does not have asbestos in it. However, I would still be concerned with the possibility. As long as the ceiling is not disturbed (cracking or damage from an earthquake, etc.) any asbestos that may be present will not harm you. But, if you wish to remodel, etc., you should definitely have an expert contractor who specializes in asbestos removal and containment take a look.

  8. matt says:

    hi , i have really bad allergies to mold and dirt / dust and i was wondering if these popcorn ceilings would have anything to do with it.

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