Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings

The most common asbestos-containing material that falls under the category of “troweled coating” is the “popcorn” or “cottage cheese” ceiling texture that was popular from the early 1950s until the late 1970s. Virtually all of this material, manufactured and distributed prior to 1978, contained asbestos. Sales of textured paints and similar asbestos coatings were prohibited by EPA regulations that year. Nonetheless, it is likely that some of these materials remained in wholesale warehouses and on retail shelves for some time afterwards. These products were sold and subsequently utilized by contractors until these inventories had been used up.

Because it is virtually impossible to disturb these kinds of troweled coatings without creating asbestos-laden dust, such wall and ceiling coatings present a hazard. When buildings with popcorn ceilings are demolished or remodeled, disturbance can cause the release of billions of these microscopic fibers into the air.

If your home or building has such ceilings, your choices are to either have it professionally removed, encapsulate or seal up the material, or leave it alone. In virtually all cases, the last is not a realistic option: these materials will deteriorate and begin to flake off over time.

Encapsulation using one of the many resin materials manufactured for this purpose is the less expensive choice. Afterwards, you will want to install ¼” gypsum wallboard over this material, as it can be unsightly.

Removal of popcorn ceilings must legally be undertaken by a licensed asbestos contractor unless the building in question is your own personal and primary residence. Building owners and landlords who attempt removal in rental property or businesses to which the public has access can be charged with a felony and face prison time as well as fines of up to a quarter-million dollars.

Removal by homeowners is not recommended. The entire area must be sealed off from the rest of the house, and full-face respirators with HEPA filters worn. Once the asbestos-containing waste is removed from private property, those responsible are subject to the same laws and penalties as anyone else, and are required to follow specific transport and disposal procedures in most states. Some state and local laws such as those in Colorado and Thurston County Washington require the homeowner to notify local health and environmental authorities before transporting and disposing of such asbestos-containing troweled coating material.