Popcorn ceilings (also known as “stucco,” “acoustic,” or “cottage cheese” ceilings) were very popular from the 1950s to the 1980s. Builders and homeowners alike were drawn to the bumpy, spray-on texture because it was quick and easy to apply, helped disguise ceiling imperfections, absorbed noise, and offered some level of fire-resistance.

While popcorn ceilings have since fallen out of favor among home builders, they’re still present in many homes that were built before the 1990s. Unfortunately, a large number of these ceilings contain asbestos, which was used extensively in construction until its health risks became known and it was eventually banned from being used in textured paint by the Consumer Product Safety Commision.

If you have a popcorn ceiling in your home and are worried it might contain asbestos, continue reading to find out when and how to have it tested.

How Dangerous Is an Asbestos Ceiling?

Popcorn ceilings generally contain between 1 and 10 percent asbestos. While 1 percent may seem insignificant, it’s important to note that any percentage of asbestos in a popcorn ceiling is cause for concern and should be addressed.

Thankfully, asbestos doesn’t pose any serious health risks if it’s left completely intact and undisturbed. However, popcorn ceilings are constructed from highly friable (crumbly) materials, and even the slightest disturbance can release toxic asbestos dust into the air. If inhaled, asbestos dust can lead to serious health issues, such as chronic coughing, shortness of breath, asbestosis, mesothelioma, and even lung cancer.

Because of the serious risk it poses to your family’s health, it’s a good idea to have your popcorn ceiling professionally tested, especially if you notice any crumbling or if you plan to remodel your home.

How to Identify and Test for Asbestos

Unfortunately, you generally can’t tell whether a popcorn ceiling contains asbestos by examining it visually. If your home was built before the mid-1980s, there’s a good chance your popcorn ceiling has asbestos in it.

The best way to determine if asbestos is present is to have your ceiling professionally tested. You can have an expert come and collect your sample for you or you can collect it yourself and send it to the lab for testing. If you choose to collect the sample yourself, use caution and make sure you don’t inhale any dust. Use a wet wipe to collect any debris generated during the sampling process. If the floor is carpeted, lay a plastic sheet down to catch the dust.

To ensure your test results are accurate, you’ll need to collect at least a couple of teaspoons of the ceiling material, and it’s a good idea to sample from at least two different areas of the ceiling. Place the samples in zip-lock bags to deliver them to the lab and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you’re done.

What to Do If You Find Asbestos in Your Popcorn Ceiling

Once you’ve confirmed your popcorn ceiling contains asbestos through professional testing, you generally have three options: encapsulate it, encase it or have it removed – which is referred to as abatement.

Encasement involves covering the asbestos popcorn ceiling so it can’t produce dust. This can be done with new ceiling panels or by spraying the ceiling with a special kind of vinyl paint. Either of these options should be performed by a professional who knows how to safely and effectively encapsulate asbestos.

Encapsulation is considered a safer way to deal with asbestos, but keep in mind that if you ever decide to remodel or otherwise disrupt the ceiling, the asbestos will still need to be addressed.

In some cases, it may be necessary to remove the popcorn ceiling altogether (if you’re remodeling, for example). Removal of asbestos is a very complicated and delicate process. It is not recommended that you attempt it yourself, as it could increase the risk of exposure to you and your family. Removal should be performed by a trained and accredited asbestos professional.

Accredited Asbestos Lab Testing and Inspection Services in the Pacific Northwest

Whether it’s in your popcorn ceiling, your drywall, your insulation, or somewhere else, realizing you may have asbestos in your home is never fun, and it could potentially pose a serious threat to your family’s health and wellbeing. Don’t take the risk. JSE’s NVLAP-accredited lab offers accurate and timely asbestos testing and results you can trust. Collect your own sample and mail or hand-deliver it to us in Tigard or Milwaukie, or give us a call and we’ll have one of our trained professionals to come collect it for you.

Contact us today for accredited testing and prompt, accurate results you can count on.