Don’t Remove Those Textured Ceilings Unless You Know It Is Safe


Decades ago, textured or “popcorn” ceilings were all the rage. Now being largely out of style, many homeowners are stuck with the ceiling overhead not being what they want. But to remove textured drywall ceilings seems like a huge expense and a pain in the neck – both figuratively and literally. Removing textured ceilings is a very involved process, but not an impossible one. Although you can choose to hire a professional, if you want to do it yourself, there are some things that you need to know to make things go more smoothly and to ensure that you aren’t left with a huge mess and a health hazard on your hands.

Before you begin

The first mistake that many people make when they remove textured ceilings is that they just start digging in and scraping the plaster from the ceilings. That is a huge no-no. Some of the popcorn ceilings can have asbestos in them. If the asbestos is not touched, they are probably not a health hazard. But if you start to scrape them and the particles become airborne, that can be a big health risk. Any plaster textured ceiling installed before 1980 has the potential to have asbestos in it. If you start to remove it either by scraping or sanding, then you are posing a major risk to your health. Asbestos has been linked to lung and other types of cancers, so make sure that you have it tested before you dive in.

How to collect to have it tested

The best way to have your ceilings tested to ensure that they don’t contain asbestos is to take a sample and send it off to have it professionally analyzed. Although it is possible to get a kit at the local hardware store to have it evaluated, it is best to send it to a lab to have it checked to know for sure what you are dealing with.

To take a test sample, it is important to follow the necessary steps:

  • Make sure to turn off any heating and cooling in your home so that you limit any particles becoming airborne and trapped in your ductwork. That can have particles flying freely around your home and circulating
  • Use a spray bottle filled with both dish detergent and water to spray the area down
  • Fully soak the area that you intend to scrape. If you get it saturated, then it will be harder for the particles to flake off and become airborne
  • Scrape off just a small amount of the ceiling that you want to have tested, but make sure that you get a good enough sample that it goes all the way down to the drywall sheetrock. Don’t just take from the top surface or you can get false results
  • Put your samples into some type of container, like a Ziplock bag or Tupperware. If you have a testing kit, there should be a container that comes with it to put your sample in
  • Clean the exterior of the container with a paper towel and then make sure to label it, especially if you are taking samples from various rooms. It might be the case that one room has asbestos and another does not, especially if they were done at different times
  • If you are sending it to a lab, many companies recommend that if you take samples from an area no larger than 1000 square feet of the ceiling, which will let them test about three individual areas. There are times when asbestos might be present in varying concentrations, and you don’t want to risk that you just got an area where it isn’t detectable.

Once you get the results back and find that the sample does or does not contain asbestos, then you can make the decision about how to proceed. If there is asbestos, then you will want to hire a company to come and remove it. There are very specific procedures for removing asbestos – not just for your own safety, but for the safety of everyone who lives in your home. There are also rules and regulations about how to store asbestos, so you can’t just throw it in the trash outside. A professional company can help you get rid of it properly.