Popcorn Asbestos Ceiling: Dangers And Removal

Have you ever heard of the term asbestos ceiling? If you watch much HGTV or read many articles on home improvement then chances are, you have. If you’re lucky, you’ve never dealt with it in your life. 

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But if you’re like a lot of people with older houses, you have faced this. If you’re facing this problem today then you probably want to know the best way to go about removing it would be. That’s what we’re here to let you know!

What Is An Asbestos Ceiling?

An asbestos ceiling is a ceiling that has asbestos in it. Asbestos ceilings are most often caused by the use of asbestos in the mid-century 1900s to create popcorn ceilings. So if you have popcorn ceilings, this information is for you.

Asbestos itself is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral. Breathing in this mineral can cause all sorts of health problems and can even end in either lung cancer or mesothelioma, which both have gloomy outlooks. 

Does My Popcorn Ceiling Have Asbestos?

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Asbestos was all but banned in 1978, and popcorn ceilings were then made with paper fiber. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that asbestos became illegal and asbestos products were no longer sold by suppliers. 

So a good way to find out if your popcorn ceiling has asbestos in it is to check the date. If you know for a fact that your popcorn ceiling was built in the late-1980s or later then it won’t have asbestos in it. But there are ways to confirm this. 

Hire a professional, which we will talk more about later, as they will do the best job at safely removing the asbestos popcorn ceilings for you. Removing it yourself is an option, as long as you do it safely. 

Popcorn ceiling asbestos isn’t harmful really unless it is disturbed. Though it is recommended to remove asbestos ceilings no matter what, it’s nice to know what disturbs it so you can prevent it from happening. 

What Disturbs Asbestos?

  • Nails And Hooks – using nails and hooks in the ceiling to hang things can disturb the particles and cause them to fall down. This is dangerous and shouldn’t be done if you have popcorn ceilings.
  • Scraping The Ceiling – kill a bug on the ceiling and need to scrape it off? Think again! Scraping the ceiling is one of the easiest ways to spread that asbestos throughout your home. So be careful doing this.
  • Bunk Beds – this is especially true for kids. Because kids move around and may kick the ceiling without even thinking about it. So don’t use bunk beds if you have popcorn ceilings if you think there might be asbestos in them.

How To Remove Popcorn Ceiling Asbestos

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The best way to make sure that asbestos isn’t affecting you and your family is to get rid of any popcorn ceiling you have. While testing can confirm whether it exists in your ceiling, getting rid of it is your best bet.

However, according to Ian Fortey from ManMadeDIY, it can be very dangerous to disturb asbestos. So hiring a professional is recommended. If you want to do it yourself, however, you can, just do it safely and make sure no children or pets are in the home.

Step 1: Protect Yourself

It’s very important when working with asbestos to protect yourself. So make sure you open a window and point a fan blowing out. Then put on gloves, a mask, goggles, and long sleeves to protect yourself from the asbestos.

Although it isn’t harmful if it gets on your skin it is very harmful if inhaled. So get a good construction mask. The better the mask the better the protection. If you can find an asbestos mask, even better!

Step 2: Prepare The Room

Now, 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. All you need is the fan. 

Put plastic on fixtures and run a drop cloth over the floor to protect it and make for an easy clean-up. Secure all plastic with painter’s tape if you can to make sure that nothing gets under it. You don’t want to leave any residue. 

Step 3: Scrape Of 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 if that works, or you can wet it with a spray bottle of water for an easier time.

Either works. Though wetting the asbestos may help to contain it, so it is often a better choice for scraping. You can also attach a pole to a paint scraper to keep yourself on the floor and away from the asbestos.

Step 4: Finish Up And Patch

After you finish with the large patches, you can use a putty knife to get up close and remove the small pieces that were stubborn. You will need to do this for the bulk of the area around molding and lights.

You will also need to spackle and patch any areas you may have cut or knocked out during the process. If there are any imperfections, take care of them now, before you even clean up for an easier cleanup altogether.  

Step 5: Stomp And/Or Paint

Now it’s time to clean up. After you do cleanup, you can decide if you want to stomp or simply 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. So choose a paint beforehand just make sure you clean up before you paint because you don’t want to get any asbestos onto the wet paint, which can happen easily.

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Asbestos Removal Cost

If you can afford it, it is better to hire a professional to remove the asbestos ceiling for you instead of doing it yourself. Because they have the proper equipment and experience to do everything as safely as possible. 

Ceiling Size

The size of the area with asbestos matters and is what affects the main cost of removing it. On average, you will pay anywhere from $5 to $20 per square foot. But this is just on average and can range greatly. 

Most ceilings are around 10-20ft wide and 10-20ft 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. So, calculate the area and have it ready for a quote. 

Setting Up

It will take the team an hour or so to set up and this can cost a couple of hundred dollars. They will do one room at a time, sealing it off from the rest of the house. This is an extra cost that is added to the total cost.


This is the majority of what you pay for and it can cost anywhere from $75 to $200 per person per hour. Yep. Because it is a high-risk job, the laborers get paid more than if they were painting or something similar. 


The cost of equipment affects the price as well. Some things the company doesn’t replace and so you’re just paying for the use. But other things are disposable or consumable and you pay full price for them.

There are certain things like a HEPA vacuum that can cost up to $500 to use, and even expensive to rent. Companies often charge full price for these, especially if they rent them for special occasions instead of buying them.

Related: Choosing Types of Ceilings is an Important Design Decision


After the asbestos is removed from the ceiling, it needs to be disposed of. A disposal team is usually hired by the contractors to get rid of the asbestos as safely as possible. Each state has different rules on this.

The disposal charge is usually done by the yard of material or cubic foot. This can range from anywhere from $10 to $100 per yard. It shouldn’t be a huge cost as the state wants it disposed of themselves as well. 

Where You Live

Where you live affects the cost of everything. That includes asbestos ceiling removal. Some states cost more than others while urban areas usually cost more than rural areas. So the combination will affect your ending cost.

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Testing For Asbestos

This can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000 and it is recommended to do before hiring the contractors to remove it. Though they can do it themselves, some contractors won’t do the popcorn ceilings unless they know if they have asbestos. 

So in the end, it’s better to cover all of your bases. Popcorn ceilings without asbestos cost half as much as popcorn ceilings with asbestos to remove. This ends up being the different in an average of $1500 vs $3000. 

But it is always worth it because it is the safety of your family that matters most. So if you can afford the couple of thousand dollars it will cost to remove the asbestos ceiling then definitely go for it!