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AIRBORNE PARTICLE ANALYSIS METHODS
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN BUILDINGS
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENT
BLACK MOLD, TOXIC & ALLERGENIC
BLEACHING MOLD, Advice about
BOOKSTORE - ENVIRONMENTAL
CADMIUM in the HOME
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY
CAT DANDER in BUILDINGS
CELL PHONE RADIATION
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
COMBUSTION PRODUCTS & IAQ
DIRECTORY of MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS
DUST SAMPLING PROCEDURE
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
EMF ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDSRE
ENDOCRINE DISRUPTERS at BUILDINGS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOR TILE ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION
FUNGICIDAL SPRAY & SEALANT USE
GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC
HEATING OIL EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
HOUSE DUST ANALYSIS
HOUSE DUST COMPONENTS
HUMIDITY CONTROL & TARGETS INDOORS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
LAB PROCEDURES MICROSCOPE TECHNIQUES
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
LEGIONELLA LEGIONNAIRES' DISEASE
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MILDEW in BUILDINGS ?
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOLD CONSULTANTS / INSPECTORS
MOLD DETECTION & INSPECTION GUIDE
MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE
MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE
MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL, HEATING, EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
OIL HEAT ODORS & NOISES
OIL SPILL CLEANUP / PREVENTION
PET ALLERGENS / PET DANDER
PET STAINS & MARKS in BUILDINGS
PLASTIC ODORS-SCREENS, SIDING
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
PVC - VINYL BUILDING PRODUCTS
RADON HAZARD TESTS & MITIGATION
SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
SAFETY HAZARDS & INSPECTIONS
METHANE GAS HAZARDS
SEPTIC SYSTEM ODORS
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWER GAS ODORS
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
UFFI UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION
URETHANE FOAM Deterioration, Outgassing
VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO
VOCs VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
Asbestos-containing ceiling tiles: how to recognize ceiling tiles that may contain asbestos. We describe the appearance, ingredients, years of manufacture, history, and producers of various types of ceiling tiles & coverings as an aid in determining whether or not a particular ceiling covering or tile is likely to contain asbestos. This document assists building buyers, owners or inspectors who need to identify asbestos materials (or probable-asbestos) in buildings by simple visual inspection.
We provide photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
[Click to enlarge any image]
A History of Ceiling Tiles: age, appearance, types, materials, manufacturers
Certainly not all ceiling tiles contain or ever contained asbestos. Knowing the the history of ceiling tiles and their various ingredients, combined with the size, brand (usually unknown), visual appearance and location of ceiling tiles, and adding the age of the building or of the ceiling tile installation itself can often quickly decide whether special handling or further investigation is warranted when demolishing, remodeling, or otherwise disturbing a ceiling.
But asbestos fibers were used in some acoustic asbestos ceiling tiles, often amphibole asbestos such as amosite, crocidolite, anthrophylite, tremolite, and actinolite, with amosite among the most commonly-found.
Modern ceiling products do not contain asbestos.
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.
While an expert lab test using polarized light microscopy may be needed to identify the specific type of asbestos fiber, or to identify the presence of asbestos in air or dust samples, many asbestos-containing building products not only are obvious and easy to recognize, but since there were not other look-alike products that were not asbestos, a visual identification of this material can be virtually a certainty in many cases.
Which ceiling tile brands are reported to have contained asbestos? Which ceiling tiles are asbestos free?
Insulating board panel and ceiling tile and panel manufacturers produced a range of products, many of which may contain asbestos, but other ceiling and wall covering & building sheathing products made of organic fibers, wood fibers, cane fibers generally do not contain asbestos.
Our photo (left) shows an antique plaster and lath ceiling in a pre-1900 home.
Modern ceiling products do not contain asbestos. Using Certainteed as an example, [www.certainteed.com] you can obtain an MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) for each of the company's products.
Common modern ceiling product ingredients include fibrous glass wool, urea formaldehyde resin, and fiberboard products contain slag wool, starch, cellulose [wood fibers], perlite, crystalline silica, and clay.
Watch out: It's worth noting that even modern building products can present health hazards if they are not handled properly. For example crystalline silica can cause nose, throat, and lung irritation. 
In these photographs of older square ceiling tiles the photo (below left) shows a smooth ceiling tile and the second photo (below right) an acoustic ceiling tile with its characteristic pattern of holes.
Both of these products might contain asbestos fibers, though the principal material is usually cellulose.
The larger suspended ceiling segment, 2'x4' in size (photo above right), was pushed aside to show the older layers of ceiling materials above.
The suspended ceiling tile, if made of fiberglass or cellulose is not a likely asbestos fiber source.
Our concern in this particular instance was that the entire cavity above the suspended ceiling was being used as an air conditioning return air plenum, exposing all of the building HVAC system and occupants to whatever particles were released by materials in the cavity, including possibly asbestos from the older layer of acoustic ceiling tiles.
The remediation contractor removed all of these layers to expose (and clean) the concrete ceiling above prior to installing a new suspended ceiling.
More Asbestos-Suspect Ceiling Tile Photographs
Our perforated acoustic ceiling tile photo (below-left) shows that these particular asbestos-containing ceiling materials were also sometimes applied to a vertical wall. Below right we show a different pattern of asbestos-suspect ceiling tiles found in a government building we examined in Poughkeepsie, NY.
As you can see from the photographs shown here, these acoustic ceiling tiles over a wet area can support mold growth.
Also see MOLD INFORMATION CENTER.
I have a recreation room that uses 2' x 4' Armstrong Ceiling Panels made in 1976 or later. They claim to be fire retardant, and are of the Scotch Pine variety. Do they contain Asbestos? - Mark Webb 2/1/12
Reply: no, according to Armstrong, their ceiling tiles never contained asbestos. Citations provided.
Mark, unfortunately there were so many ceiling products, styles, and names that I've found it almost impossible to build a comprehensive list of asbestos and non-asbestos-containing products.
Reading opinions about asbestos-risks in ceiling tiles discussed at legal services websites and at some home inspection websites either leaves you convinced of a serious asbestos hazard, or delivered a disclaimer recommending testing, encapsulation, or other "safe" advice from inspectors. Let's sort through the question with a bit more specific or authoritative information:
Who says ceiling tiles contain asbestos?
Suspended ceiling tiles of the 2'x2' or 2'x4' dimension, and manufactured by Armstrong, Celotex, Conwed, LoTone, and USG and made before the late 1970's are listed by several attorney-sponsored "mesothelioma websites" as often containing asbestos to add fire-resistance. On that basis, since the age of your ceiling is in that range it would be prudent to treat it as PACM.
Who says play it safe about asbestos in ceiling tiles ?
We do, for one. Some ceiling tiles have been widely enough reported to contain asbestos that using some common sense is certainly appropriate: meaning don't make a dusty mess, don't demolish a ceiling of unknown materials without taking proper precautions, and if you are faced with a significant ceiling-renovation or cleanup expense, and if you can't tell for sure by visual inspection that ceiling tiles are asbestos free, have a sample tested.
Some home inspection clubs and open-associations focus almost entirely on using a disclaimer or on giving clients advice that is safe for the inspector and that may be safe for the client, though not necessarily safe for their walled.
Who says their ceiling tiles don't contain asbestos? Armstrong Corporation.
According to Armstrong Corporation, those attorneys and some home inspectors are mistaken. Armstrong commented as follows:
In general, for ceiling materials of the age you describe, for other brands and without other explicit information from the manufacturer, unless it is quite obvious by visual inspection that the materials are fiberglass or another non-asbestos material, the best answer is to be prudent: treat the material as presumed-asbestos-containing material (PACM) - which means don't make a dusty mess.
2'x4' ceiling tiles are usually drop-in panels in a suspended ceiling grid and are easily swapped out with minimal disturbance or dust if they are damaged, soiled, or need replacement.
We bought a house that was built in the 50's - it has what I THINK is a Celotex ceiling (or some copy of Celotex) - it's in horrible shape and needs to be taken down - what are your thoughts on it containing asbestos, considering the age? - Saundra
Reply: Apparently, yes. For details of this Q&A and for a list of Celotex insulating products believed to contain asbestos - please
List of Ceiling Tile Manufacturers noting those that did or did not produce ceiling products containing asbestos
Our photo, left, illustrates a plaster ceiling in poor condition.
I have a basement finished with acoustical ceiling tile. The previous owners left two boxes of the material. I took a picture of the box, but don't see how to post it. The box is printed with the following: Simpson Forestone Fissured Woodfiber Acoustical tile. A large label is glued to the box with the following: Thickness: 9/16. Size 12 x 24. No PCS. Sq FT 56.
Large red F with a 1 in white in a reverse print. Then it says, Forestone Flame Resistant Finish. Center scored, flanged joint. Meets Class C of the requirements of Federal specification SS-A-118b. It also has a hand stamp that looks like a lot number of 30182.
Can you tell me if it contains asbestos? The Simpson lumber company is still in business. Would they know?
re-posting a subsequent post: Michael said:
Here is the photo of the Simpson Forestone acoustical tile packaging [photo above left].
[re-published; reader-links get blocked for malware security but I took a snapshot of your photo for use as needed here - Ed.]
Let's try this: take another look at the box and give me
- any dates or date stamp codes on the material. If the lot number can be translated to mean made in 1982 that ought to be far enough past the use of asbestos in ceiling tile products as well as flooring to answer the asbestos question for this product - The company can translate the lot number for you. (Let me know) The product label refers to wood products as the ingredients. We don't yet know where the flame resistance derives.
- the U.S. Patent number at the bottom of the label (I couldn't read it in your photo)
and we'll research the tile further.
The only thing stamped on the material itself is the patent number: 2,791,289. The patent (from 1952) covers how they create the textured look. The patent does mention a bunch of materials, but not asbestos. ...
I emailed Simpson's Public Affairs (its the only email contact on their website) and they responded that Forestone does not have any asbestos in it.
Helpful Michael, I'll add photos and information to our article as it should help others. Generally when a product says it's made from wood fibers it's not an asbestos item. That patent number is helpful - that's what I wanted to see.
Some photos of the surfaces of the tiles themselves would be helpful if that's convenient. You can use our email address at CONTACT found at page bottom.
. - DF
Reader question: (Mar 6, 2014) Mike said:
back in 1996, A friend of mine picked up a truck load of 2x4' ceiling tiles that were being removed from a small grocery store for total renovation (new owners I believe)..Anyway we finished his basement over several days, and never even thought that they could be asbestos containing.
Unfortunately, there is no way for me to test as he no longer lives in that house. They look like your common "department store/hospital" 2x4 tile, fairly heavy, could be broken easily (crumble), grey/brown back color with white face, and they did not burn (we tried!!) They almost seemed to be made of plaster or clay if I remember correctly.
As this was 1996, Its likely the tiles were at least 10-20 years old, which is worrying to me. I found a picture of the room where they were installed, not very clear as it was taken 10 years ago, but I could send it if you like. They had a design texture very similar to this: i.imgur.com/m0wS9h6.jpg
Follow up picture to previous comment, this is the only known picture i was able to find of the tiles in question. I wish I could do better. imgur.com/NpnfGtQ
Mike we can't say from just the acoustic ceiling tile pattern if the product contained asbestos or not; and indeed even some older ceiling tiles have been tested and found not to contain asbestos. If the second photo link you sent was of the room you describe I can't add a thing other than that we're apparently looking at a suspended ceiling from 2004 (10 years ago) or older.
Thank you for the reply. Yes, 10 year old picture of a 20 year old renovation, I wish I would have taken some close up pictures when I had the chance. The tiles most certainly were made sometime during the 1970's or 80's. Was it common for this style drop ceiling tiles in commercial settings to contain asbestos during that time?
Ah - so if we're talking about ceiling tiles from the 1970's or early 80's asbestos was a possibility - but did not appear in all brands and products of ceiling tiles
Reader Question: what's your opinion of the asbestos hazard in these 12" x 24" x 9/16" FRF ceiling tiles?
I posted a question about a month ago and it garnered no comments so I thought it was time to try the email approach.
Only visible notation is the lettering "FRF" on the back [of the ceiling tiles]
Thank you - S.P. 11/8/2014
The images of your ceiling tiles look like a wood cellulose product. There were some manufacturers (Armstrong) who say their ceilings never contained asbestos.
The "FRF" mark on your ceiling tiles probably identifies the material as Thermafiber FRF® brand produced by USG Interiors, Inc. - see U.S. Patent "Low density non-woven material useful with acoustic ceiling tile products
The patent application (filed in 2009 - well after the cessation of use of asbestos in most building products in most countries) for that modern material describes it as follows:
[Note that there will most likely also be earlier versions of this product addressed by earlier patents and that the ceiling materials in your photos may indeed be older than this patent]
The word "asbestos" never appears in this patent description. The ceiling tiles are described as an acoustic product intended for n oise reduction and meetingh ASTME84 (flame spread resistance) and ASTM C423 (Having a noise reduction property or coefficient (NRC) of at least 0.55).
More about the history of Thermafiber® and other applications of the material is at SHEATHING, FIBERBOARD
In general for ceiling tiles that are not identified absolutely, as we can't know an answer to the asbestos question for certain based on just these photos (without a lab test or ID of the manufacturer) and based on the age of the material it would be prudent to assume the materials are or could contain asbestos.
If you are faced with a costly or messy demolition then it's worth sending off a sample to an asbestos test lab - the cost is typically $50-$50 U.S.
... I will send out a sample today and get the results back to you.
Yes the wood fiber version of insulating board and ceiling tiles dates back more than 50 years. However when we searched by product name suggested by the marking on your tiles, I did not (yet) find patent registration or other older data that would give a sure product name.
Most likely your ceilings don't contain asbestos but the lab report will be helpful both to protect you and to assist other readers who can recognize the same material.
Please find attached the [CEILING TILE ASBESTOS TEST] report [PDF] from EMSL regarding the ceiling tiles we were discussing previously.
As suspected by you from the start, they did not contain any asbestos.
Hopefully this helps someone else in the future. - S.P. 19 Nov 2014
We moved this list to CEILING TILE MATERIALS - separate article.
Our photo (left) shows tremolite asbestos panels glued to the ceiling over a basement of a commercial building in White Plains, New York.
Tremolite asbestos panels were used as a fire-proofing over a boiler room and where other heating equipment was installed.
See ASBESTOS FIREPROOFING SPRAY-On Coatings for photos of dangerous tremolite asbestos ceiling panels and photos of spray-on asbestos fireproofing coatings.
Also see CEILING FINISHES INTERIOR
and see ASBESTOS DUCTS, HVAC a field identification guide to visual detection of asbestos in and on heating and cooling system ducts and flue vents.
Also see Micro-Photographs of Dust from the World Trade Center collapse following the 9/11/01 attack. Links to U.S. government and other authoritative research and advice are included.
Continue reading at ASBESTOS-FREE CEILING TILES or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Suggested citation for this web page
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: are homes ever condemned due to excessive asbestos?
Very useful article. Thanks. Wondering if homes are ever condemned due to excessive asbestos. - Anthony Kaskin 6/17/11
Not that I know of personally, Anthony. Usually the cleanup cost is less than the value of the home; of course for a home that has been abandoned, beaten badly, in poor shape, finding the added cost of the need for an asbestos cleanup could push it over the edge.
Question: broken 1950's Homart Starspray Acoustical Ceiling Tiles
My home has broken Homart Starspray Acoustical Ceiling Tiles which were purchased and installed sometime in the 1950's or 1960's. How can I find out if this was asbestos? The product number is #8445. Help! - Anon 7/20/11
I'd like to see some sharp photos of those ceiling tiles (see our CONTACT link at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article or bottom or top). From the age of your ceiling tiles, that they are asbestos-containing is a reasonable assumption. If you need to know for sure, you can send a small sample to a certified asbestos testing laboratory - it's not expensive. (Best to check with the lab about what procedure they want you to use to collect a sample, basically you pick an unobtrusive area, avoid creating a dusty mess, wet down and remove 1/2" fragment).
Question: Is there probably asbestos in ceiling tiles in our home dating from the 1940's and 50's or later?
I have ceiling tiles 5028 MF4 9 REG on the back. Are they asbestos? - Patrick 8/30/11
1948 home. ceiling tiles in both bedrooms, how can we tell if they have asbestos tiles - Ron 9/5/11
There is a type of ceiling tile that I cannot identify. Is there anyway I can send you a link? - Jack 9/23/12
Hi there - we have a house from 1892, the previous owners installed brown acoustical tile on the basement ceiling - sometime in the early 1990's we believe. They are brown, and almost look like they are made from dense cardboard layers or some sort of fibre board. But I am concerned that they could contain asbestos. They are quite soft those and tear easily. - Christie 11/12/11
We bought a house that was built in the 50's - it has what I THINK is a Celotex ceiling (or some copy of Celotex) - it's in horrible shape and needs to be taken down - what are your thoughts on it containing asbestos, considering the age? - Saundra 11/22/11
Ron and the others in the asbestos-suspect ceiling tile cases above: if you know the ceiling was installed before the early 1980's it's safe to assume it contains asbestos if it looks like the products shown in this article. If you need to know for sure you'll want to send a small sample to a certified asbestos testing laboratory. Otherwise, treat the material as "PACM" - presumed asbestos-containing-material.
Jack: to send us a photograph of ceiling tiles, which you are welcome to do, use the email link found at the CONTACT link you'll see at the top, left side, and bottom of all pages at InspectAPedia
Christie: a ceiling product purchased in the 1990's would not be expected to contain asbestos.
Saundra, thanks for the important Celotex ceiling tile asbestos question. I've prepared a detailed answer and posted it in the article above under FAQs - please take a look and ask if you have further questions. Thanks. DF
I am living in a duplex two level apartment on the bottom floor. The apartment has lead paint and the exact ceiling tiles above. I moved in 3weeks ago and the ceiling has been leaking every time it rains for the past 3 weeks. I need to know if this increases the health hazards dealing with asbestos and lead paint.
Seems likely that the answer is yes, Joan if the materials you describe are softened, damaged, falling, or later just more easily disturbed due to changes in their stability and security.
We're looking at a house that was built in 1956. It has white ceiling tiles in the basement that are nailed to the studs. They are about 2-3 feet long and as wide as the space between the studs. They are not damaged and appear to be in good condition. They do not have perforations in them. They appear to be original. Is it likely that these tiles contain asbestos? Thanks you for your thoughts. Jim - 9/8/11
There were indeed 9" and 12" non-perforated ceiling tiles that contained asbestos fibers as well as materials made solely of wood fiber product. It would be prudent to exercise care (not making a dusty mess, leaving them alone, treating such materials as presumed-asbestos-containing-material.
back in the 70's in grade school in north texas it was common for students to shoot paper clips at the ceiling to make it snow while the teacher was out of the classroom. Makes me nervous :-/ - Tom 9/19/11
Tom, IMHO the chances are that shooting a paperclip at a ceiling that may have been covered with asbestos-containing ceiling tiles exposed the students to a detectable amount of asbestos contamination seem so low as to be beneath mention further.
Question: The hardware store employee told me I can use a lead paint test kit to check for asbestos. Is that true?
A hardware store employee told me to use the lead paint test kit on one of the acoustic ceiling tiles. He said that, after all these years (since 1965) it would show positive for lead, if in fact the tiles contain asbestos. Is this true? - Deb 9/22/11
Deb, no, there is not one iota of truth in what you were told.
A lead paint test has nothing to do with and is not capable of detecting asbestos in building products.
The hardware store guy who told you to use a lead paint test to screen for asbestos was dangerously mistaken.
Question: My father who hung ceilings died of cancer, am I next?
My father worked in hanging ceilings or gluing ceilings for 30 years. He died of cancer in 2000. I worked in the same field for 16 years. Am I next? - Frank 11/14/11
Frank, Some factors that would affect the risk to both your dad and yourself include the level and duration of exposure to asbestos and to possibly carcinogenic VOCs that may have been present in some of the adhesives and glues you used, and the use that you made of protective gear such as a HEPA respirator that also was equipped with an MVOC filter.
There are plenty of causes of cancer besides asbestos and glue exposure, and way too many unknowns in the cases you describe for anyone to offer a credible answer about your own cancer risk from your question alone. You should discuss the details of your exposure, materials, time, use of protective gear, dust levels, your personal health, history, genetics, and complaints or concerns with your own doctor - or ask her for a referral to a physician who specializes in environmental medicine.
Question: Do You Think These Ceiling Tiles Contain Asbestos ? [photo attached]
Do you think this contains asbestos? - Anonymous
Your photos show what look like 9-inch or possibly 12-inch brown fiberboard acoustic ceiling tiles. While the predominant material in these ceilings is usually wood fibers, indeed up to the 1980's many such ceilings contained asbestos as well.
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately find where there are asbestos containing materials (ACM), presumed-asbestos containing materials (PACM), or what might also be called "asbestos-suspect materials".
That said, here are some things to consider:
For safety it makes sense to treat presumed-asbestos materials or PACM as if they indeed contained asbestos, meaning apply the same guidelines: leave intact materials alone if possible, encapsulate the material for added protection, and if materials are damaged, friable, or are likely to be disturbed by normal building activities, bring in a professional asbestos abatement contractor who, after confirming that the materials are asbestos-containing, will handle the removal or encapsulation with professional dust control, removal, cleaning.
For a single damaged ceiling tile such as in your photo, I'm doubtful that calling a professional asbestos abatement company will be justified, but if you treat the material as Presumed Asbestos Containing Material (PACM) that means using appropriate methods for cleanup and then encapsulation or covering of the damaged section.
Question: what should be done to make the house safer after an old ceiling has been removed?
My grandparents have a home that was built in either 1958 or 1959 and the basement has the acoustic tiles on the ceiling. (they are white and look like they are made out of some type of fiber board.) My grandfather has decided that they might contain asbestos and has started taking them down wearing a mask and using a tarp only. He has taken them all down and I'm wondering if there is something that should be done to make the house safer since if they do contain asbestos the particles have been released all over the basement. - Debbie, 12/29/11
If in doubt about potentially hazardous dust in the home it would make sense to clean up the work area, and if dust could have spread to other areas of the home, clean them too. Damp wiping and HEPA vacuuming are the typical cleaning methods used.
Question: 12x12 ceiling tiles with gold stars contain asbestos?
My parents have ceiling tiles that are 12x12 with gold stars. They were installed sometime before 1970. Asbestos? - Anon. 1/12/12
Some brands of ceiling tiles made in the era you described are reported to contain asbestos.
Question: how can I identify asbestos plasgter on ductwork?
How can i identify asbestos plaster and if material wrapping my duct is asbestos I am in a brick home that's about 100 years old - James Pitt 2/4/12
James, for a definitive identification of asbestos material you will need to send a sample to a certified asbestos testing laboratory. However many insulating materials on ducts and piping are recognizable as asbestos materials by eye as in some cases there was no other product that looked the same that was not asbestos containing.
Question: pebble textured ceilings contain asbestos?
We are moving into a property with white ceiling tiles with a pebbly texture on them. I noticed a red, packed-earth like substance erupting from one point near the edge of the tiles - could this be asbestos? - Eamon 3/21/12
Eamon what you describe does not sound like asbestos but please understand that from just a text comment like yours I can't really know what you're seeing. Certainly there was use of asbestos in some textured ceiling paints including spray-on pebble like surfaces. But ceiling tiles may or may not contain asbestos depending on the brand, product number, and era of production.
The red eruption you describe is more likely due to a leak above - take a look in the ceiling or at plumbing in the floor above.
Question: how should we deal with 1960's 12x12 ceiling tiles?
I think the ceiling tiles at the family farm home...house was built in 1961 has the 12 x 12 ceiling tiles. Would it be best to leave the tiles? and add new firring strips and cover with drywall. Or take down the tiles...They are not coming down but we want to update the room. - Barbara 3/26/12
Barbara, I'd leave the ceiling tiles in place and fur over them as you suggest - it's better not to disturb asbestos-suspect material as long as you can avoid spreading it in the building. So yes, I like your solution.
Question: the 1970's acoustic tile ceiling fell in my apartment, I did some amateur cleanup work, now how do I make the area safe?
Last night about 20 ceiling tiles made well before the 70's fell in my bedroom in the middle of the night. They are made of a fibrous materials, and appear to be painted white. I probably breathed the dust and fumes for a good 10 minutes or more, and then, also regrettably, used my vacuum for clean-up. I presume from what you have stated that I 'may' have been exposed to quite a bit of asbestos. What ought to be my next steps to minimize the impact on me physically, and going forward in terms of speaking to the landlord for creating a safe environment? - Bill 6/22/12
Bill, if the ceiling fell because it was wet, that may have minimized the particle release, but I agree that considering the age of the material it's prudent to treat it as "PACM" - presumed asbestos containing material. That means damp wiping & HEPA Vacuuming - more important to clean up dust on all surfaces than before, as you aerated dust with your conventional home vacuum. You are not obligated to nor expected to be an asbestos cleanup expert - so the mistake of household vacuuming is not IMHO a crime, but it would be smart to
Take a look at RENTERS & TENANTS GUIDE TO MOLD & INDOOR HAZARDS - as it gives advice for tenants and landlords about dealing with potential indoor air quality matters.
Question: Asbestos firm says ceiling tiles without brown spots should be tested
My basement ceiling has 16 x 16 white ceiling tiles. Two fell down today and I pickeed them up, moved them and walked around the room. Subsequently I moved thru the house completely. I called an asbestos firm (closed on Saturday) and asked a question. He said "Do they have brown spots?" No they don't. He said to break one and send him the piece which he would send for testing. The tiles were probably installed about 60 years ago. I now note that several more tiles are about to fall. Procedure? - Joan W 6/23/12
Joan if you want to test a fragment for asbestos there is no reason you could not send it directly to a lab of your choice. Meanwhile to be cautious avoid a dusty demolition project. Often a simple staple or finishing nail can hold a ceiling tile in place pending a decision to act.
Question: Fiberboard stuff in my attic is tan and butterscotch colored - is it asbestos?
Hello. i live in Worcester Massachusetts in a home built in 1947. the attic has some fiberous board nailed in place, which there is not much of, but it looks like it was done by a previous homeowner. it is cut into various shapes. but the color is light tan on one side and a butterscotch on the other. i am worried this is Asbestos. i can see no identifying mark on the stuff. we also have an old drop ceiling in the basement, 2 x 4 foot panels fiberous material painted white on one side. both materials can be broken very easily into small pieces. - Jon 6/26/12
Jon, look through the article above and also the Homasote article (link at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article ) and you may have a better idea what wood fiber type insulating board looks like. Fiberboard insulation is not an asbestos product.
Question: 12x12 ceiling tiles are wet - is that an asbestos hazard?
i moved in with my fiance, he is living in his great grandparents old house. the house was built before the 1950's. the ceiling tiles in the house are acoustic white 12x12. they are turning brown like they have been wet and are falling. behind the tile that has fallen looks like mold. i am expecting a child and i need to know if i need to be worried or if its nothing. - Emily 8/1/2012
Question: Asbestos containing floor tiles, ceiling tiles glued to wood, can I paint it?
My parents' house, built in 1957 with basement finished in 1958, has asbestos tiles on the basement floor and some form of reddish layered fibreboard with white surface 9x9 tiles on the ceiling. The floor tiles are starting to come off - whole, fortunately - and I plan to get the floor sealed and linoleum laid over top.
The ceiling is apparently attached (glued?) to wood - one tile has come down and I will reattach it, but the rest is solid. Should I be "encapsulating" the ceiling by some means? It is no longer gorgeous - apparently there were smokers down in the basement when my brother lived there. Can one paint such a ceiling? If so, what sort of paint would be light enough not to make the ceiling fall, and not so wet as to wet down the glue? Is there another method? Thank you very much - this page has been most helpful. - Audrey 10/5/12
We cant say what is on your ceiling, but often a coating of lacquer based stain sealer will work well at killing stains and sealing a surface. Paints are not heavy enough to make a ceiling fall down, but leaks into the ceiling can cause that problem in a flash.
Question: Do acoustic tiles in a 1994 house in Canada contain asbestos?
We are looking at purchasing a house built in 1994 (in Canada) the whole house has what appear to be square acoustic tiles. How certain can I be that these do not contain asbestos - is the age of the home enough of a reassurance? - Christina 10/24/12
Question: should I test a drop ceiling installed in 1976
My home was built in 1976. The basement has a drop ceiling that was installed at some point after that. Should I have the tiles tested? - Mike 10/31/12
Based on the age of the house, it's possible that your ceiling contains asbestos.
You can have a fragment of ceiling mateial tested for asbestos content at rather low cost, typically around $50. by calling any certified asbestos testing lab for instructions and fee schedules. (Don't send our forensic lab a sample - it'd be a conflict of interest).
Or you can treat the material as "Presumed Asbestos Containing Material" (PACM) and handle it accordingly.
Question: Possible asbestos content in popcorn ceilings in an older home - also mold & asthma worries
i live in san diego,ca in a 1936 old house that has mold inside as well as outside the home my friend was born in this house and he said the wall paper the popcorn ceiling carpet doors windows cabin ts still the same since he was a lil child he is now 50 yrs old i been gettin sick nausa headache been hospitalize for asthma attack me and my daughter - Trina 11/13/12
However, popcorn ceilings that are old often used asbesos fibers and filler in the coating.
Question: worry about remodeling fiberboard panels in a 1959 Pontiac Chief mobile home
I have an 1959 Pontiac Chief mobile home and the 4' fiberboard panels that run the width of the trailer need to be replaced. Is it possible that they would have asbestos? - Bill 11/14/12
If the fiberboard panels you are describing are a wood fiber product (see SHEATHING, FIBERBOARD) that's not an asbestos material.
Question: worry about asbestos in old square ceiling tiles - do we peek, remove, or cover-up the ceiling during restoration
My home has ceiling tiles similar to the those described as older square ceiling tiles with a smooth ceiling tile finish. The house was built in 1898, and only the two living rooms contain the tile ceiling. Do we dare peek underneath the tile and disrupt any possible asbestos while we under go the restoration or cover up the tile that may result in bigger problems down the road?? - Reno 11/23/12
(Mar 5, 2014) Anonymous said:
If a tile ceiling from the 70's is still intact, with absolutely no crumbling or falling apart, and has recently had a coat of paint put over it, is there any cause for concern that it may possibly be asbestos!?
Home Reno, and Anonymous:
The ceiling tiles should be treated as presumed to contain asbestos. That means that should demolition or disturbance become necssary for some external reason appropriate precautions should be taken.
That caveat does *not* mean that the ceiling should be removed. Coated, sealed, undamaged, and in an area where damage is not likely rhe safest course is to leave it alone. In the condition you describe it's doubtful that one could detect airborne asbestos from that source.
Question: Do you think this Canadian acoustic ceiling tile is an asbestos material? I have chest pains since taking down this dusty mess.
I removed them all about a month ago, sometimes i have some breathing chest mild problems but i think from painting and general reno dust. Are you familiar with these tiles in Ontario? - M. 11/28/12
The tiles in your ceiling by dimension and general appearance could contain asbestos;
In my OPINION, even if the tiles didn't contain asbestos, exposing yourself to a high dose of dust can easily result in respiratory irritation and on occasion other health issues from rodent, insect, or other particles.
If you never checked with your doctor you should do so. I'd do that even before testing the material for asbestos.
Question: can we paint our asbestos-suspect ceiling tiles or do they have to be covered over?
We have square ceiling tiles in living room and bedroom that were probably installed in the 60's or 70's. The ceiling has been painted with a latex-type paint. There are no friable areas, everything seems intact and covered with a layer of paint. Does this painting effectively prevent presumed asbestos fibers in the tiles (based on age) from entering the air and creating a hazard? Or should the ceilings be furred out and covered? - Edward, 12/3/2012
If the ceiling is painted, not friable, not damaged, not in an area likely to be damaged, it's best to leave it alone. You don't need to install a new ceiling layer over it.
Question: we burned some old tiles - does that mean they didn't contain asbestos
Some old tiles got into our burn pile. They burned very easily. Am I wrong to assume asbestos products don't burn easily? - Tony 1/3/2013
Well yes, sort-of. Some asbestos containing materials include a mix of other fibers and contents too. In that case the asbestos itself would not burn but the other products could - leaving ash that contains asbestos. We did a literature search for asbestos content in ceiling tile ash but couldn't come up with a thing, suggesting perhaps no one has looked at this question with care. If you have any doubt and if you have ash remaining from your burn pile that you can pretty much bet is from ceiling tiles, I'd sure like to see the results of an asbestos test lab examination.
Question: do these suspended ceiling tiles contain asbestos?
Was wondering if you could tell if these are likely asbestos ceiling tiles? The building was made in 1985 though I don't know the age of the tiles. They say "CON SAFE" on the back... They are in my workplace, a government building. - B.B.
While the current 1999 EPA notice basically retracted asbestos bans in the U.S., as we noted in the introduction to this article, because of consumer resistance to purchasing asbestos-containing material (ACM) for housing or office finish products, it's not likely that an office put up in 1985 used ACM.
Unfortunately, a responsible and reliable reply is that one can't know for sure when a material was made nor what it contains simply from your photo - you'd need to have a little sample of the material tested by a certified asbestos testing lab for a definitive answer.
Question: is cleaning up dust after improper asbestos removal dangerous
How dangerous is it to clean up an area after asbestos tiles were removed without proper equipment or disposal? What is required to be safe during clean-up? - Darlene 1/21/2013
Reply: quite possibly
Darlene: in my OPINION the answer is at least potentially YES.
If asbestos containing material, particularly friable materials such as ceiling tiles, or any ACM that was removed in a manner that created dust was removed without proper dust containment and follow-up testing, there could be high enough levels of asbestos in remaining dust in the building to be a hazard to occupants.
For example, running an ordinary household (non-HEPA) vacuum cleaner, or even a HEPA rated vacuum if it leaks, would send that asbestos-containing dust into the air - where occupants may indeed breathe it.
In my own experience I've encountered this problem a number of times and often follow-up testing confirmed that further professional cleaning was needed. Provided that there is an established need (and thus justification of the expense) for an asbestos dust cleanup, a professional will set up dust containment to keep other building areas safe from dust, use a negative air machine as part of that containment, then typically s/he will HEPA vacuum and damp wipe the building surfaces. A follow-up test by a professional confirms that the cleanup was successful and that the containment sysetm also worked.
Question: do these 16x32" ceiling tiles in a 1941 home contain asbestos?
We are buying a house built in 1941 that has 16"x32" ceiling panels glued to the rafters in every room (photo attached). Leaks from the roof have damaged many of them and we need to know whether they contain asbestos before we disturb the area. Are asbestos testing kits from a hardware store a legitimate way to go? - C.H. 4/18/2013
No one should pretend that they could reliably identify or exclude asbestos-containing material in your building or its ceiling from just your photo, but I certainly understand and appreciate the question.
There are certainly ceiling tiles that do contain asbestos, and others even of the same era (up to the 80's) that do not. Sometimes one can look at the material by eye and see that it is a wood fiber product; but if you don't know, leave it alone until you do.
From the dimensions you gave and from your photo, I'm not 100% sure you are looking at acoustic ceiling tiles, though I agree that the beveled edges in a closer look at your picture look like glue-up or staple-up ceiling tiles not plaster. For comparison see PLASTER BULGES & PILLOWS.
As you suspect possible asbestos I suggest:
I can't comment on an over-the-counter asbestos test kit - as honestly I just don't know what you were looking-at. Identification of asbestos dust or fibers in materials requires two kinds of microscopic examination; if the test kit is simply a container for a sample, along with safe sampling instructions, and that material is sent to a certified lab, perhaps that's fine.
At ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST we provide information on how to find a qualified, certified asbestos testing laboratory.
If there is access to the ceiling from above and if you can safely enter there and safely lift insulation for inspection, chec, to see if those bulged or pillowed segments of the ceiling are visible from their upper side as plasterboard. [If you find vermiculite ceiling in the area don't disturb it because that may be an asbestos hazard even if the ceiling proves not to be. Vermiculite building insulation (VERMICULITE INSULATION)was often poured into previously un-insulated ceilings of homes from the 1940's.]
Keep us posted if you have the material tested or if you are able to explore the extent of water-related damage above this ceiling - what you find will assist other readers.
(June 19, 2014) Nate said:
My bathroom has older, (not sure exactly how old)decorative ceiling tiles in it. The outside of the tiles kind of feel like a styrofoam type material. However the inside of the tile is a brown, fiberboard type material. No straight fibers. The little that came loose crumbled quite easily when I picked it up. Does it sound like it could be asbestos?
(June 19, 2014) Anonymous said:
I also uncovered some loose plaster-type stuff on my upstairs ceiling. It has what looks like hair sticking out of it. It's older, so hardtop say what color it originally was. Did the older plaster contain asbestos? It is attached to my upstairs ceiling, and it's also in between the ceiling boards.
(June 23, 2014) Anonymous said:
Would a picture help? How do you post pictures on here? I am going to get it tested, but getting someone out to get a sample isn't that easy around here.
Anon, one cannot be sure of the presence or absence of asbestos from just your note but your first comment sounds like a wood fiber product.
Old plaster indeed was made using horsehair as an ingredient. How Los is your building?
Some plaster and plasterboard products did contain asbestos.
Anon you can use the CONTACT link to send us photos for screening and posting and comment. - Editor.
(June 23, 2014) Anonymous said:
If it helps, the house was built in 1940. I am presuming the tiles are the ones put up when the house was built. The bathroom tiles were previously tested I just found out and contain no asbestos. However there are tiles upstairs which are crumbling. They are white on the outside, with a wood-type material underneath. No fine fiber bundles or needle like fibers. I will post a pic of those ASAP, and will also have them tested. This is SO frustrating trying to figure out what contained asbestos and what did not.
Asbestos fibers are so small that you would not see them individually without a microscope and most likely a high powered one using polarized light or other special means.
Most often wood fiber materials are just that.
Figuring out what contained asbestos can indeed be tricky since we've documented that the material was very widely used across a stunning range of products (Asbestos has some wonderful properties) and more, it was used in both fibrous form and in powder form as a filler.
Thanks to a combination of research, Rosato's original text, and periodic perusal of other asbestos information sources, our list of asbestos-containing-products found at
along with some supplementary citations from Rosato that we include
When you are not faced with a decision about undertaking a costly renovation or cleanup project that turns on confirming asbestos material for sure (which needs lab testing), I'm unclear on the cost-justification of sample testing and generally advise that it would simply be prudent to treat the suspect material, such as flooring or ceiling tiles, ask "presumed asbestos-containing materials" or "PACM" = which means don't grind, sand, or disturb them if it can be avoided, cover and leave in place if possible, and don't panic (which subjects the panic-stricken to price gouging).
(June 30, 2014) Anonymous said:
Are wood fiber tiles usually brown inside? Ceiling tiles I have and worry about are brownish-orange inside with a white surface coating. There is no information on brand or when they may have been manufactured. A sample is being sent for testing, but until the result comes back I figured I'd ask around.
Typically wood fiber ceiling tiles are brown, tan, yellow inside; keep us posted on what your test results indicate and we may be able to offer further advice.
Question: how can I tell if my ceiling tiles are made of asbestos
(Aug 11, 2014) Anonymous said:
how can I tell if my ceiling tiles are made of asbestos
For a definitive answer you'd need to collect a small sample of the ceiling tile and have it tested by a certified asbestos testing lab.
(Sept 7, 2014) Anonymous said:
The previous owner of our home finished the basement in the late 60s or early 70s. He used 12" x 12" x 5/8" white ceiling tiles from Sears. They came 52 in a box. The product number was 648505. Do you know if they contain asbestos?
(Sept 22, 2014) Jean said:
Question: Is it okay to paint over asbestos ceiling tile?
Yes painting over an asbestos-suspect ceiling tile should be OK if the ceiling material is intact, undamaged, soundly secured, undamaged, not dropping pieces into the occupied space.
Question: which part of the ceiling tile should be tested for asbestos?
30 Oct 14 Ceiling Tile layers said:
Daniel: I recently took a sample of my ceiling tile to have it test for asbestos. When I pulled the sample, I didn't realize the tile basically has three layers, the Outer Layer (Visible to us and test to be paint/binder ), the inner layer (The brown fibrous material which tested to be cellulose filler), and the back side which appears to be white (which I didn't get a sample to test). My question is if a ceiling tile contains asbestos, would it have been found in the 2 layers that I had test or does it only reside on that last layer (the back side of the tile)? Do you think I'm in the clear or should that last layer be tested too?
Smart question, Brad. Bottom line: I don't know but my OPINION is that the most important material to test would have been the main body or center of the ceiling tile as that's the component most likely to contain asbestos. Asbestos was added in both fiber form (strength) and fine powder form (body filler) in products such as floor tiles and some ceiling tiles.
If you are talking about your own ceiling and are not faced with having made a dusty mess of demolition and if it were me, my OPINION is that you can stop here. If there are extra reasons to be concerned, such as planned demo, visible damage and dust, then I'd collect both a settled dust sample and surface samples for three more tests.
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