Does Popcorn Ceiling Have Asbestos – How to Identify


    Popcorn ceiling is the most common place to find particles of asbestos in residential and commercial properties. Houses that were built or renovated between 1945 and 1975 have the highest chance of asbestos being present in popcorn ceiling.

    We cannot say that every construction and renovation completed during those years automatically had designated substances like asbestos, but the likelihood is very high simply because this material was widely used.

    Nowadays many home owners are aware of all dangers of designated and banned substances. Remodel On Point wanted to discuss more the topic of asbestos and teach our readers if all popcorn ceiling has asbestos in it.

    Keep in mind our article is strictly educational and we do not encourage or suggest testing for asbestos and removing popcorn ceiling on your own. This work is highly dangerous and should be performed only by licensed professionals.

    Does Popcorn Ceiling Have Asbestos? – Ways to Find

    Always assume the worst when with asbestos. Even slightest amounts of it in construction are dangerous to humans and can cause serious lung disease. There is only one way to find out for sure existence of asbestos, but several more ways to predict it.

    Lab Testing – Truly reliable and suggested way to figure out if you have asbestos in popcorn ceiling. You can purchase a kit with instructions how to take samples. All samples must be labeled and sent to local lab for analysis. There local companies that can do that provide services in sampling for small charge. We suggest doing up 3-5 samples in different room for accurate analysis.

    Approximate Year of Construction – Certain years of construction have more chance of having asbestos. It started in mid 1940s as a primary material and was banned in 1973. Does popcorn ceiling have asbestos if it was installed after 1980s? Probably not, but we still need to protect ourselves and test sample of it in laboratory.

    Experience – Constantly working in asbestos abatement as a professional gives ability to spot it from a mile. Licensed contractors that do this for many years can tell you right away if there is likelihood of asbestos present, and should always work only with provided lab test results.

    What Does Asbestos Look Like in Popcorn Ceiling

    To non-professional all popcorn ceilings may look the same. There is no direct distinguishing from other micro fibers that are mixed into compound to finish drywall or plaster surface.

    Popcorn ceiling was invented in early 20s century to differentiate from traditional smooth surfaces and to ease up the work. Also with popcorn ceiling you would never tell if ceiling surface was uneven. It literally hides all deficiencies.

    It looks like bumpy ceiling with attached small pieces of rocks and painted on top. There is no actual popcorn look. Fibers are mixed with compound and paint for application. With special tools the mix is blasted on ceiling and left to dry up.

    The asbestos particles cannot be spotted by naked eye. They are too tiny to differentiate from other particles like horse hair (used before asbestos era) or polystyrene.

    Why Would You Need to Know if Asbestos is Present?

    There are several reasons for which home owners need to find out does popcorn ceiling have asbestos? We urge all commercial building and residential house owners to test popcorn ceiling for designated substance. You need to know if there is an issue or it could cause one in future. Here are three major reasons for which you should take immediate action:

    Renovation and Upgrades – Asbestos in all sorts of construction/demolition is serious business. It can hang there for many years without harming people, but when broken down in pieces airborne particles end get inhaled. Only professionals with appropriate licensing and experience allowed remediating asbestos and leaving rest of house for other renovation crews to continue work.

    Affecting Health – Although everyone says popcorn ceiling with asbestos does not cause any harm if not disturb, it deteriorates after several decades from installation. Small or even large pieces may crack and fall down causing asbestos fibers get in the air and possibly in your lungs. Even tiny portion of asbestos exposure can lead to serious illness.

    Reselling Value – Potential buyers need to know if there is asbestos in the house they are thinking of purchasing. It could scare them off. More and more people are aware of asbestos heath affects when disturbed. It’s definitely better to remove all popcorn ceiling before selling the house or be upfront with purchaser about its existence.

    Why Was Asbestos Used In Popcorn Ceiling

    During mid 20 century asbestos was very popular in construction. It was added and used in many materials and served different purposes. New ideas and methods were tested across the world and asbestos became one of those materials that was used almost everywhere.

    Too bad no one could understand long-term health affects until it was too late and thousands of people died from it.

    One of the main reasons why it was used in popcorn ceiling as a mix and finishing product is strength. Asbestos fibers are tiny but very strong in combination with other materials. Finish became as hard as concrete.

    Somewhere water resistant and fire safety barrier material was also very popular as sound insulator. Main living area and second floor bedrooms were often required to be soundproofed.

    This material was easy to obtain from minerals and it was extremely cheap. In peak years worldwide production of asbestos was almost 5 million metric tons per year. Construction in US was consuming and using 15% – 20% of that number.

    Statistics and Chance of Having Asbestos in Popcorn Ceiling

    To get better understanding of how often nowadays banned material was used and does popcorn ceiling have asbestos in your house we wanted to provide some statistics.

    Homes built or renovated between 1940 and 1970 have 93% likelihood of having asbestos in their popcorn ceiling.

    Popcorn ceiling that was finished between 1975 and 1995 has 12% chance of having asbestos.

    Homes built after 2000 with popcorn ceiling feature have less than 1% chance of having asbestos present.

    This material has been banned for many decades and the idea is to remediate it completely form all standing structures. Every year in US several hundred million dollars are spend for asbestos remediation from popcorn ceiling and other construction materials during demolition.

    Kits and Labs that Contractors Use to Identify Asbestos

    Hiring company to find does popcorn ceiling have asbestos is the most popular and easy way to go, but there are alternatives. These days every home owner can purchase a sample kit and mail or deliver it personally to the lab for testing.

    There are several benefits to doing it by yourself rather than putting everything in hands of company that you don’t know.

    Scheduling is one of the issues. You may not be available during their openings or clockwise. With samples kits there is not specific timing, just do it whenever you have time and send it by mail.

    Trust is next on our list. We always want to put good faith in contractors and probably 99% of companies are fair, but there will be those who can excaudate with amount of asbestos to take on more expensive remediation project. With third party laboratory there will be no issues ever.

    On top of everything you may save few hundred dollars with these sample kits.

    Here are top 3 sample kits to find if popcorn ceiling has asbestos:




    Our Suggestion if Your Popcorn Ceiling Has Asbestos

    Designated or prohibited substances are regulated and banned for specific reasons. They are extremely dangerous to people.

    Popcorn ceilings with asbestos are suggested to be removed from all homes and commercial buildings. Prior testing and professional remediation is mandatory.

    It will take a small portion of money to remove asbestos, but increase property value and make the home owners worry less about health hazards.

    For information on who can help with analysis and removal, you can contact our team by email. Remodel On Point has worked with and suggested popcorn asbestos removal companies to home owners who plan renovations.

    Steven H.
    Steven H.
    General Contractor and Home Builder with over 20 years of experience. Write and Edit educational posts for several Remodeling Blogs. Specialize in trade management and technical construction details.

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