Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings: What You Need to Know

By PropertyClub Team
Jan 2nd 2022
Popcorn ceilings were one of the most popular ways to decorate a room from the 1950s to the 1980s. Visually interesting and relatively easy to install, many houses were built with popcorn ceilings in at least one room. Unfortunately, asbestos is a key ingredient in the mixture used to create popcorn ceilings. 

If you have popcorn ceilings and your home was built or remodeled between 1950-1990, you probably have at least a little asbestos in your ceiling. Here’s what you need to know. 

hash-markHow Dangerous Is Asbestos In Popcorn Ceilings?

There’s relatively little asbestos in most popcorn ceilings. Usually, only 1-10% of the original mixture would be asbestos. The problem is that even a little asbestos exposure is enough to cause problems and can increase your risk of mesothelioma and other rare diseases. 

The good news is that undisturbed asbestos is usually harmless. It’s only when the material is disturbed that it can release potentially harmful particles. 

That means that your asbestos popcorn ceilings are probably fine as long as you don’t want to remodel or change them. However, if you decide to replace them or remodel the room, you’ll need to take special precautions because removing popcorn ceilings can make the asbestos much more dangerous. 

hash-markWhen Was Asbestos Last Used In Popcorn Ceilings?

Asbestos was mostly banned as a material back in 1978, but that doesn’t mean that that’s when the mineral stopped being used in ceilings. 

The ban on asbestos prevented new asbestos materials from entering the market, but manufacturers were still allowed to sell their backstock of asbestos-containing goods. That means that for industries that used asbestos-containing materials, asbestos was still being used through the mid-’80s. 

By 1990 it’s unlikely that a popcorn ceiling was made with asbestos, but there isn’t a hard cut off before that. It all depends on whether the construction company switched to different materials early and how long it took for local suppliers to run out of asbestos-containing materials. 

hash-markHow To Tell If Popcorn Ceiling Has Asbestos

While it’s possible to look for identifying features on your ceiling, like notes about what materials were used, when the ceiling was installed, or by looking at ceiling tile installation numbers, we don’t recommend it. 

For one thing, finding signs of asbestos use yourself can be difficult and risks disturbing the ceiling treatment and releasing harmful fibers if your ceiling does contain asbestos. 

But it’s also important to know that not all ceilings will have any identifying information you can find that will tell you whether it contains asbestos. 

The best way to find out if your popcorn ceiling has asbestos is to have a professional come out and take a small sample to be tested at a professional lab. 

Getting a professional is essential because it’s the only way to know for sure and because only experienced asbestos testers and mitigators know how to handle the material safely. 

If you can avoid disturbing any ceilings that might contain asbestos, you probably don’t need to get them tested right away. But you should always get your popcorn ceilings tests before remodeling or replacing them, especially if your home was built anytime between the 50s and 80s. 

hash-markShould You Remove A Popcorn Ceiling That Has Asbestos

Removing a popcorn ceiling that has asbestos isn’t always the right option depending on your situation and the condition of the ceiling. As long as the ceiling is still in good repair, chances are it isn’t a danger to you or anyone in your home. 

However, if you’re looking to remodel the room with asbestos in the ceiling, need to attach something to the ceiling or change a ceiling fixture, or the popcorn treatment is in bad repair, it’s a good idea to remove it and replace the ceiling with something else. 

If you’re considering removing your popcorn ceiling because of asbestos, you’ll need to contact professional asbestos mitigators. Unfortunately, your regular remodeling contractor might not have the required safety equipment or expertise, and the last thing you want is to find out there’s still asbestos in your home after the removal. 

hash-markAsbestos Popcorn Ceiling Removal Cost

The first step in getting an asbestos popcorn ceiling removed is getting the ceiling tested to see if it has asbestos. Most tests cost between $50-$100 and can be completed relatively quickly. 

Once you know for sure your ceiling contains asbestos, there are a few other costs to consider. For one thing, you’ll need to move all furniture out of the area to protect it from asbestos fibers during abatement and to make sure the whole ceiling can be reached. 

You can remove the furniture yourself or have the professionals move it. Moving furniture usually costs about $100 but can cost more if you have a lot of furniture in the area or it’s particularly heavy or difficult to move without disturbing your ceiling. 

The removal usually costs between $3-$7 per square foot of ceiling that needs to be removed. Most specialists charge between $1-$3 for the removal itself but charge $3-$7 per foot for ceilings known to have asbestos since they need extra equipment and training to safely remove that material. 

All in all, asbestos abatement isn’t that expensive, but the costs can add up quickly if you need to remove the ceiling from a large area.