A Short History of Asbestos In Popcorn Ceilings

in Asbestos

Asbestos in Textured Ceilings

Asbestos is a term used commonly to represent six naturally occurring minerals which have been mined for use in construction, insulation and other industries where their properties have proven beneficial.   Asbestos became popular in the 1800s for its use in because of its insulation effects, chemical resistance and tensile strength along with other properties.

One of the many uses of asbestos in construction materials was its use in what is commonly called popcorn ceilings or textured ceiling.  A popcorn ceiling, also known as an acoustic ceiling or cottage cheese ceiling, refers to a ceiling technique in which a textured material is sprayed on or troweled on to provide decorative and/or acoustic properties to a ceiling. This type of ceiling treatment was inexpensive and easy to apply and it could easily mask defects in ceiling construction and poor workmanship including stains and structural cracks.  The natural noise reduction properties of popcorn ceilings made it popular in kitchens, hallways, bathrooms and bedroom in new home constructions from the 1950s to the early 1980s.

Many popcorn ceiling formulations during this time included asbestos as a main component because it not only was a good insulator, it was good at binding the other materials together to make it easier to work with.  In addition to asbestos, these textured ceilings also contained Styrofoam, cellulose or wood fiber, and sometimes mica or vermiculite.  These materials would give the formulation its bumpy texture.

Asbestos was banned for use in popcorn ceiling formulations in 1977, however it can still be found in materials that were used in new construction in the early 1980s.

Today, popcorn ceilings are considered unattractive and many people are removing them and replacing them with little or no texture.  The textured ceilings can be removed by wet scraping although this is a messy and tedious process.

It is important to note that there can be danger in removing popcorn ceiling that contains asbestos.  Since asbestos is a well known carcinogen, extreme caution must be used when removing the popcorn ceiling.  In fact, it is very highly recommended that a licensed professional be employed to remove any material that contains asbestos.  The problem is that if this is not done correctly and safely, asbestos may become airborne allowing it to be inhaled or ingested.

If your home was built in the early 1980s or older and you are considering ceiling renovations, you should have the material tested.  In most cases an expert should be consulted, but a cautious homeowner may be able to collect an asbestos sample and send it to a specialized laboratory for analysis.

For a complete guide about asbestos in the home and how to collect a sample for analysis, please click on the following link.