Popcorn Asbestos Ceiling: Dangers And Removal

Popcorn ceilings installed before 1980 contain asbestos and is harmful to your health. If you have asbestos in your home, remove it. However, undisturbed popcorn ceiling is not a health risk.

Popcorn ceiling is easy to remove, but homeowners worry about it. There are many cheap and easy DIY methods available that can help.

asbestos ceiling

If you’re like many people with older homes, you have encountered asbestos-contaminated popcorn ceilings. So you should know how to remove it.

History Of Asbestos

White asbestos, otherwise known as chrysotile, was discovered in 1876 the Thetford Township, in southeastern Quebec, Canada. Following its discovery, Canada built the world’s first commercial asbestos mines. Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral. Asbestos popcorn ceiling is “cottage cheese ceiling.”

A widely held misconception in the US is that asbestos is banned. Although it is no longer mined in the country, it’s legally imported and used today.

Most Common Types Of Asbestos

  • Crocidolite, also known as blue asbestos, is from Australia. It is the most deadly type of asbestos due to its extremely thin fibers. It was first used to insulate steam engines, and can be found in spray‐on coatings, pipe insulations, plastics, and cement products.
  • Chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, is mined in the US, Canada, China, and Russia. It is a fibrous form of the mineral serpentine and the most common type of asbestos worldwide. Some countries allow for “controlled use” and 95 percent of Asbestos Containing Building Materials (ACBM) found will be chrysotile and used in cement building materials in developing nations.
  • Amosite, otherwise known as brown asbestos, is from South Africa. It is for cement sheets and high temp or heat capacity pipe insulation.

Asbestos Dust Exposure And Cancer Risk

Asbestos is a carcinogen. After inhaling asbestos and fibers, the particles enter the lungs and can live inside for extended periods. The toxic fibers can cause internal contamination and scar and inflame lungs and impact breathing and potentially lead to major health problems, even lung cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that inhaling asbestos dust can lead to mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovary. However, evidence remains limited that asbestos exposure increases the risk of stomach, pharynx, and other serious diseases.

What Is An Asbestos Popcorn Ceiling?

Asbestos popcorn ceilings were first popular in Canada and then became common in US homes up until 1979. The ceiling imperfections were overlooked because the cottage cheese ceilings were easy to install.

Does My Popcorn Ceiling Have Asbestos?

asbestos popcorn ceiling removal cost

The Environmental Protection Agency passed the Clean Air Act, banning unauthorized or illegal use of asbestos in 1979, commercial residential buildings stopped using it. It was understood that asbestos exposure was harmful. One way to find out if your popcorn ceiling has asbestos fibers would to check your ceiling’s installation date. If your ceiling panels were installed in the late 80s, they will be free of asbestos.

For renovation or demolition work, enlist professional help. Asbestos removal is serious work. Popcorn ceiling material as they will do the best job at removing your asbestos popcorn ceilings. You can remove popcorn ceiling yourself as it isn’t harmful unless it has been disturbed.

What Disturbs Asbestos?

  • Nails And Hooks in the ceiling to hang things can release asbestos dust. This is dangerous if you have popcorn ceilings.
  • Scraping The Ceiling – kill a bug on the ceiling and need to scrape it off? Scraping the ceiling is one of the easiest ways to spread asbestos.
  • Bunk Beds – this is true for kids. They may kick the ceiling without thinking about it. Don’t buy bunk beds if you have popcorn ceilings if you think it might have asbestos.

How To Remove Popcorn Ceilings

How To Remove Popcorn Ceiling Asbestos

The best way to ensure asbestos isn’t harming you and your family is to get rid of the popcorn ceiling and install new ceiling panels on unfinished ceilings.

Step 1: Protect Yourself

It’s important when working with asbestos to protect yourself. So make sure you open a window and point a fan so it blows outward. Wear gloves, a mask, goggles, and long sleeves to protect yourself.

Although it isn’t harmful if it gets on your skin it is harmful if inhaled. The better the mask ,the better the protection against asbestos in popcorn ceilings.

Step 2: Prepare The Room

Put sheets or plastic over any furniture that you can’t move out of the room. Turn off any lights, HVAC systems, and anything else that won’t let you control the circulation of the room. Air purifier would also come in handy, but you will need to turn off the air conditioning when removing popcorn ceilings.

Place plastic on fixtures and run a drop cloth over the floor to protect it. Secure all plastic with painter’s tape to make sure that nothing gets under it. You don’t want to leave any residue where the ceiling starts.

Step 3: Scrape Off The Popcorn

Use a paint scraper or putty knife to start scraping the popcorn off the ceiling. There are two ways to do this. You can scrape it off dry or wet it with a spray bottle.

Wetting the asbestos may help contain it, so it is a better choice for scraping. You can attach a pole and stay on the floor while carefully scraping the asbestos.

Step 4: Finish Up And Patch

After you finish with the large patches, you can use a putty knife to get close and remove the small stubborn pieces . You will need to do this for the bulk of the area around molding and lights. After, safely dispose the asbestos containing waste in a plastic bag

You will also need to spackle and patch cut or knocked loose areas during removal. If there are imperfections, take care of them, before you clean up.  

Step 5: Stomp Or Paint

After you cleanup, decide if you want to stomp or paint. If there are too many imperfections, painting is a better option. If you stomp, choose a drywall texture that you like.

Either way, you will need to paint. Choose a paint beforehand, but make sure you clean before you paint because you don’t want to get asbestos on the wet paint.

Asbestos ceiling remove

Asbestos Ceiling Removal Cost

It is better to hire a professional to remove the asbestos ceiling panels instead of doing it yourself. Professionals have the equipment to do everything safely and know how to prevent asbestos contamination.

Ceiling Size

The size of the area with asbestos matters and will affect the cost of removing it. On average, you will pay anywhere from $5 to $20 per square foot for ceiling treatments.

Most ceilings are 10-20 feet wide and 10-20 feet long. If the area is a strange shape then it will cost even more as they will have to use small tools to remove the asbestos, which will take longer.

Setting Up

It will take a team an hour to set up and organize their throw toys and plastic flaps. This may cost a few hundred dollars. They will do one room at a time, sealing them from the house.


This can cost between $75 to $200 per person per hour. Because it is a high-risk job, laborers earn more than if they were installing a stucco ceiling or working with vinyl paint.


There are things a company doesn’t replace, so you’re paying for their use. But other things are disposable or consumable and you will pay full price for existing inventory.

There are things like an HEPA vacuum that can cost up to $500 to buy, aren’t cheap to rent. Companies often charge full price if they rent them for special occasions instead of buying them. The same applies to renting a hopper gun.

Related: Choosing Types of Ceilings is an Important Design Decision


After asbestos is removed from the ceiling, it needs to be disposed. A disposal team is hired to get rid of it.

The disposal charge is according to the yard of material or cubic foot. This can range from anywhere from $10 to $100 per yard with asbestos containing products.


Where you live affects the cost of everything, including ceiling removal. Depending on where you live will determine expenses as homes in urban areas cost more than those in rural areas.

Testing For Asbestos Popcorn Ceilings

Removing asbestos popcorn ceiling can cost between $100 to $1,000. It is recommended to do this before hiring contractors to remove it. Though they can do it, some contractors won’t touch popcorn asbestos ceilings if they contain asbestos. 

How To Detect Asbestos Related Disease

How To Detect Asbestos Related Disease

Inform your doctor after you’ve have been exposed to asbestos fibers. Health risks require professional medical advice. Document your exposure history and symptoms you may experienced. Understand that symptoms like lung cancer may not be apparent following initial exposure to asbestos popcorn ceilings or asbestos products.

Most Common Symptoms Related To Asbestos Exposure

Mesothelioma patients and those who have been exposed to popcorn ceilings have experienced the following side-effects:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
  • A persistent cough that gets worse over time
  • Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up from the lungs
  • Pain or tightening in the chest
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the neck or face
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue or anemia
  • chronic coughing

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What Is Friable Asbestos?

ACM stands for Asbestos‐Containing Material. Friable ACM is any friable material that contains more than one percent asbestos. And whether it’s bulk or sheet, it can be reduced to powder by pressure from a human hand. For example, popcorn ceiling texture is friable asbestos. Friability is not related to fire resistance material.

How Do You Throw Away Popcorn Ceiling?

After removing your asbestos popcorn ceiling you cannot dispose of it with your regular landfill waste. Place asbestos-containing waste in a sealed and properly-labeled plastic bag. Call a trash-pickup or landfill service equipped to accept asbestos in advance to make arrangements for its disposal.

Can You Sheetrock Over Popcorn Ceilings?

Covering a ceiling texture with drywall is labor-intensive just like encapsulating asbestos. The problem is that it’s not easy attaching eight-foot-long drywall panels to a ceiling. You’ll need to rent a special drywall lifting tool. Installing drywall also requires finishing skills that might be too difficult for a DIY home renovation project. If you try this make sure to wear disposable coveralls.

Can You Remove Popcorn Ceilings That Have Been Painted With Oil Based Paint?

First, test your popcorn ceiling. You could rip the ceiling off, do not scrape it. If you replaced it with drywall it would match the connecting ceilings.

Cover the room in plastic and apply paint stripper. You can scrape the popcorn off. For difficult areas, use a heat gun. Open a window and have a fan blowing outward.  Most important, wear eye protection.

Will Removing Popcorn Ceilings Add Value To My Home?

For smaller homes, it might not be worth it. If want to sell a large home, it won’t be as easy if you haven’t removed the popcorn.

How Do You Remove Mold From Popcorn Ceilings?

If your ceiling has yellow stains, then you have a leak. It will turn to mold if left ignored and can become extremely dangerous. You’ll need bleach or hydrogen peroxide to kill the mold. Pour water and bleach in a spray bottle.

Also, keep your eyes and mouth covered when spraying the mold. Hydrogen peroxide works better because it evaporates after you remove the mold.

When Did They Stop Using Asbestos In Popcorn Ceilings?

In the 1970s, they found out that asbestos could be dangerous and even cause cancer. By 1980, asbestos was banned in the United States. So, any ceiling built after 1980 will not contain asbestos.

How Do I Test For Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings?

There are multiple ways to test for asbestos and paper fiber. One way is to buy an at-home kit that allows you to collect particles and send them to a lab. The second option involves someone coming in and collecting the sample. 

Is Asbestos Only Found In Popcorn Ceilings?

No. Asbestos is in insulation and underneath the flooring and tiles. If your home was built prior to 1980, you may want to check for asbestos under your tiles and asbestos insulation just to be safe. 

How Do You Identify An Asbestos Ceiling?

Asbestos containing popcorn ceiling is not easy to identify. If the ceiling doesn’t have popcorn ceiling texture then it probably doesn’t contain asbestos. The only way to know 100 percent if your popcorn ceiling altogether has asbestos material in it is to have it tested it in a lab. 

As mentioned, most popcorn ceilings installed before 1979 contain asbestos. When you sell your home, you will need to inform potential buyers about your ceiling’s material makeup.

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Conclusion

If your popcorn ceiling is old but untouched, your health won’t be at risk but it’s still a potential health hazard. You should still make it a priority to have it removed. Also, you’ll need to watch for mold. You’ll want to play it safe and reduce chances of asbestos exposure, so you should call a professional.