Asbestos popcorn ceilings

positively_pattyFebruary 28, 2014

The house we just bought has popcorn ceilings. I have big time buyers remorse right now so I don't want to get into why we bought it. It was built in 1978. We plan to move...someday. Because of this plan then we have to look at selling it down the road.

We have not tested for asbestos. We would love to scrap the ceiling and take the popcorn down, but would need to test first. If we tested and found that there was asbestos then we would have to disclose that when we sell it. I've found in calling around and searching the internet that it will cost us anywhere from $3000-30,000 to have it removed. Three thousand is doable. Thirty makes me sick to my stomach.

I've found sites that have said that you can either deal with it (if in good condition), have it removed professionally or cover it. It is 36 years old and looks it. We need to do something with it.

However, I'm not finding a lot of info on covering/sealing it. Some places say paint it. Some say that may be illegal. I found some Styrofoam ceiling tile to cover it, but I don't know how well that holds up.

Does anyone have thoughts or suggestions?

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Adding another question. I talked to a company who removes popcorn just now. They said they don't test for asbestos, but take all the precautions in case there is some. I'm seeing lots of good reviews for the company. Is there legally any reason they would need to test before taking it down?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 3:28PM
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Asbestos becomes a problem when you disturb it. If it is, then recommendations are to just cover it rather than try to remove.

I would see if the ceiling can just be drywalled over.

If it is and the company removing it is not credentialed, you could be open to liability. Check your state laws. Contractors are supposed to test for lead paint first now too and act accordingly. Homeowners do not. Last I heard anyway. Kinda doubt that's happening. No one has ever mentioned it to me.

Of course, the real issue is that if it is asbestos, tested or not, you need to address the hazards above all, not hide your head in the sand. I'm sure $30,000 is not the only option!

What does this company plan to do with the material? It needs to be disposed of at a regulated site. I think only registered abatement professionals can do that. You can't dump elsewhere.

It is scarey and daunting reading about it. Go to government sites for accurate info on how to handle the situation.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 7:51PM
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Don't take down the popcorn until you have a good idea how you will finish the ceiling, A woman I know hated the popcorn so much that she scraped it off and then painted. The drywall tape still shows through and the dimples left by hammer are there also. Her house was from 1978,

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 6:48PM
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Asbestos has small fibers, which are the 'dangerous' part. The danger is from having those small fibers lodging in human lungs. The fibers do not degrade, so the lung tissue has to deal with the foreign particle.

Asbestos is either friable or non friable. Basically, friable means the material can be easily crushed or powdered and subject to becoming airborne. Insulation is an example of that type.

Non friable is different, It is contained within another material. Like asbestos floor tiles or exterior siding. It takes a lot of effort to cause the asbestos to become airborne.

Popcorn asbestos is kind of both. The enclosed article tells how popcorn can be safely removed---and this is basically how removal companies do that job. It can be a DIY project when done correctly.

Here is a link that might be useful: Removal

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 12:27PM
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Hi PP. Sorry to hear about your dilemma. We had to have our drywall texture tested when we remodeled our kitchen, as part of the permit process. We were raising the ceiling, and the rule in our county (or maybe it's a state rule?) is that if 100 sq ft of drywall (or flooring, or whatever) was being removed, it had to be tested. I'm not sure if testing would be required for just removal of popcorn texture. Ours came back positive, unfortunately, surprising everyone. The asbestos was in the drywall texture and joint compound at 2-3 % levels (less than 1% would not have required mitigating). We don't have popcorn ceilings, though. We decided to have all the kitchen ceiling and wall drywall removed by licensed company. Our kitchen is 11x12 ft and the cost was $3000. House built in 1975. The removal process was pretty involved with plastic barriers (2 sets, I think), with chambers for the workers to go through, and negative pressure, air quality testing afterwards, and lots more. And the material had to be put in special hazardous waste bags and brought to a special facility, as snookums said. I know when we remodeled (summer 2010) the testing law was just being implemented in our state (I think the state passed a law, but it was up to each county to roll out the testing requirement when they wanted). I'm in Colorado - Denver area.

We would rather not know, for the disclosure reason you mentioned, mostly, but also because I wonder if I exposed my kids to it over the years, and also I wonder about future remodeling and the added cost of mitigation. We REALLY wish we didn't know... I haven't told any neighbors.

The asbestos phase-out was right around the time your house was built, but you probably already know that.

I would look into the option snookums suggested of just dry walling over it, unless you're concerned about lowering the ceiling height. I think it's the best of both worlds because you don't have to have it testing (I'm assuming you wouldn't need it tested in this case) and no health risk/exposure, either.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 5:55PM
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Three years ago we bought a house (it's a second house that we're going to retire to next year) with popcorn ceilings. I never even considered that they might contain asbestos and I did consider removing the popcorn, but I decided to have drywall installed over it.
I've done quite a bit of drywall work, and I still stink at it. I try so hard and spend so long and it takes forever for it to look reasonably decent.
I found a drywall company that did it very cheaply and it looks fantastic. It took them very little time to do it too. Our house is 1200 sq ft. It only lowers the ceiling height by 1/2 inch which is no big deal, imo.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Mary, I'm curious how much you paid for the ceiling. And are you near a big city versus a cheaper more rural area or in an inexpensive or expensive area.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Thank you. I'll have to have my husband look over these and discuss.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 7:41PM
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