Textured popcorn ceiling paint (C) Daniel Friedman Asbestos hazards in popcorn & textured ceiling paints
How to recognize, remove, cover-up or handle asbestos-containing spray-on ceiling popcorn paint

  • CEILING PAINT TEXTURED ASBESTOS - CONTENTS: How to identify textured ceiling paints that may contain asbestos: photographs of possible asbestos-containing ceiling paint, popcorn ceiling paint asbestos, or textured ceiling paint asbestos content.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to identify popcorn ceiling paint that contains asbestos
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Asbestos in Popcorn Ceiling Paint Sprays:

Asbestos-containing ceiling paint: asbestos was used as a filler in popcorn ceiling paint - a nubbled or pebbled surface sprayed onto interior ceilings. This article describes how to recognize, test, and remove, cover, or renovate popcorn style ceiling paints that may contain asbestos.

This article series photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.

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Asbestos-containing "popcorn" or textured ceiling paint coatings

Textured popcorn ceiling paint (C) Daniel Friedman

How to Recognize Asbestos suspect ceiling paint in popcorn ceilings

Some acoustic ceiling paint spray-on coatings contain asbestos. If renovation is planned it may be smart to simply handle this material as if it contained asbestos particles.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Asbestos Ceiling paints, textured or popcorn ceilings containing asbestos included spray-on acoustical ceilings and ceilings sprayed for fireproofing.

Textured ceiling paints were particularly popular in North America in the 1970's. If you are considering removing textured ceiling paint or "popcorn ceiling paint" in a building, since removing popcorn ceiling paint or textured paints that may contain asbestos are trickier than you may realize, here are some suggestions:

Watch out: During any construction, demolition, or building remodeling project, as dust and particles from many materials, even paper and wood can be irritating or harmful to workers and occupants, prudent procedure would include appropriate dust control, personal protection equipment, and cleaning methods.

Artex textured coating sold in the U.K.: Artex Ltd., produced Artex textured paint used on interior ceilings and sometimes walls, sold in the U.K. The company has been part of the French Saint-Gobain group since 2005. According to some sources Artex contained white asbestos until the mid 1980's. Because that product containing asbestos may have been sold from old stock, homes built after 1985 but probably before 1990 and that used Artex textured ceiling paint in the U.K. may have asbestos-containing material in those locations.

Advice for Handling Asbestos-Suspect Textured Ceiling Paint

Spray on fireproofing on steel construction DF 2008

At above left is a photograph of a spray-on fire resistant coating that was installed on a New York building in 2008. This coating will not contain asbestos, though it may resemble older asbestos-containing fire-retardant sprays.

Visual & Historic Clues Assist in Identifying Textured Paint or Popcorn Spray Paint Ceilings that Do Not Contain Asbestos

While the following visual and historic clues are not necessarily conclusive, they give examples of reasons to infer that a textured ceiling spray - at least the coating that can be seen, touched, tested - does not contain asbestos.

Reader Question: is asbestos popcorn ceiling paint hard or soft?

(Sept 15, 2014) anthony said:

i have old plaster that has thin white brown fibers that are about as think as horse hair also i have popcorn paint on the side of the walls my question is.. is alspstose [sic - asbestos] popcorn celing paint soft or hard like cement, i was sanding the love out of it got me worried now. msg tonyboroni@hotmail.com cheers.



The asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling paint is rather soft, but might be harder if subsequently given additional coatings. However the actual sperules that make the popcorn kernels in modern non-asbestos popcorn ceilings are typically made of still softer styrofoam that in my experience is easily brushed away from the building surface with almost no force whatsoever.

Reader Question: is it possible to distinguish asbestos from non-asbestos popcorn ceiling paint by visual inspection?

22 Feb 2015 Tyler said:

Is there a way to tell if a ceiling texture has asbestos by the pattern? Im checking out a potential job that has the very small pepple-like pattern to it and asbestos is a longer fiber. I noticed a lot of the articles about asbestos in popcorn ceilings seems to show a more spread out pattern.


Tyler, in my opinion the size of the textured popcorn ceiling kernels is principally an artifact of how the mixture was prepared and how the spray gun was adjusted. Asbestos fibers themselves are microscopically so small that I'm doubtful that the choice of asbestos fiber type would determine the popcorn kernel size. Also worth noting was the use of very fine asbestos filler as ultra fine particles in several building products including floor and ceiling coverings.

Popcorn spray on ceilings was popular in some parts of the world including North America from the 1950s, and contained white chrysotile asbestos through the 1980's.

Knowing that a ceiling was popcorn sprayed in the 1990's or more recently, or observing asbestos's successor material used to form the popcorn kernels or flakes, that is fine styrofoam pellets or flakes (Hanson 2013), in the ceiling popcorn kernels might help suggest which substances are present.

I find that modern styrofoam popcorn ceiling spray is a bit softer and more fragile than its antecedents, more fragile, easily brushed off of the surface by hand, and typically containing recognizable fragments of styrofoam in at least the larger popcorn spherules or kernels.

Watch out: even though the newer popcorn ceiling sprays won't contain asbestos, the spray might not contain recognizable asbestos particles. We note that for repair of popcorn or similarly textured ceilings other fibrous materials (not styrofoam) are used and are applied using a method to cause them to clump together to resemble the styrofoam pellets used in initial application (Woods 2004), and consisting of

... Preferably, an example of the material 15 comprises a liquid base, a filler, an adhesive binder, a propellant, an anti-foaming agent, a suspension agent, and fibrous materials.

The liquid base may be any aqueous substance such as water and/or a non-aqueous substance such as alcohol, aromatic or aliphatic hydrocarbons, ketones, esters or the like.

The filler may be any material that can serve as an extender or bodifier such as limestone, clay, mica, silica, or similar materials, or a mixture thereof. The filler may also be made of a paint-based material.

The adhesive binder is an adhesive that may take the form of a natural polymer, such as gums and resins and the like, or a synthetic polymer, such as polyvinyl alcohol, polyvinyl acetate, acrylic polymers, alkyd resins, etc., or a combination thereof.

If large expense or issues of making a mess arise then it's worth the small cost to test a sample.


Research & Patents for Popcorn Ceiling Paint Application, Removal, Asbestos Handling

Interior Ceiling Finish References


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