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.

Advice for Handling Asbestos-Suspect Textured Ceiling Paint

  • Leave textured asbestos ceiling paint alone: The best approach is to leave the textured ceiling paint material alone: experts advise that asbestos containing materials be left alone unless the material is damaged and bringing asbestos into occupied space.

    In general people create more hazards by disturbing the material during a cleanup than if it were left alone. In sum the easiest, safest, least costly approach is to leave textured ceiling paint alone, in place.
  • Painting over a textured ceiling paint coated surface, as long as the paint is secure, is what most people will advise. Try spray-painting as this will disturb sound in-place textured ceiling paint material least.

  • If you must remove textured asbestos ceiling paint, that is, if there were a good reason to remove the paint, you'd probably to do it yourself (which requires specific procedures to protect health and to protect from contaminating the building) or more likely you'd need to use a professional asbestos abatement company. The combination of health risk and risk of causing a still more costly dust contamination of the home are reasons to think twice before a do-it-yourself asbestos containing ceiling paint removal.
    • Do not hire someone unqualified to remove the asbestos-containing textured ceiling paint nor any other asbestos-containing material. Use a licensed, qualified asbestos abatement professional. Even for collecting a sample of ceiling paint for testing, If the ceiling has already been painted, you would have difficulty wetting the material to do a scrape-off.

      Watch out: Disturbing textured ceiling paint when it is dry is hazardous and should not be done even if the paint is not asbestos containing.
    • If you know the age of the building you can infer whether or not there is likely to be asbestos at no lab cost whatsoever. If your home was built in the 1980's or later asbestos ceiling paint is unlikely to be present. Our photo, above, shows modern textured ceiling paint that does not contain asbestos. But you cannot determine this just by looking. Testing of a sample of the paint (wet to remove) is necessary.
    • For asbestos testing and lead testing we recommend that you use either a local testing lab (look in your telephone book yellow pages under "Asbestos Testing" or "Asbestos Labs") or use a national,low cost high volume asbestos-testing-certified lab.
    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

    • Faraci, Clifford C., Rustom A. Khan, and Daniel Winterstein. "Ceiling scraper vacuum accessory." U.S. Patent 6,601,266, issued August 5, 2003.
    • Greer Jr, Lester R., Stephen E. Cunningham, and James A. Tryon. "Ceiling scraper with integral debris collector." U.S. Patent 6,101,663, issued August 15, 2000.
    • Hanson, Randal W., Jinru Bian, John Kordosh, Jason Everett, and Jane D. Wasley. "Acoustic Ceiling Popcorn Texture Materials, Systems, and Methods." U.S. Patent Application 13/802,697, filed March 13, 2013.
      Acoustic or “popcorn” texture material is applied to interior surfaces of structures, and typically ceiling surfaces. Acoustic texture material comprises a base material and aggregate material in the form of visible chips or beads. The aggregate material is adhered to the target surface by the base material. In new construction, the acoustic texture material is applied by a hopper gun, and the chips or beads are typically formed of polystyrene foam. The polystyrene foam chips act to dampen sound waves that would otherwise reflect off the target surface.
    • Kubic, Thomas A. "Method for repairing a textured ceiling or overhead surface." U.S. Patent 5,474,804, issued December 12, 1995.
    • LaVelle, Scot. "Method and apparatus for toxic substance encapsulation." U.S. Patent 8,721,818, issued May 13, 2014.
    • Shumway, Christopher. "Scraper with debris collecting means and associated method." U.S. Patent 7,814,609, issued October 19, 2010.
    • Stankowitz, James L. "Texture applicator." U.S. Patent 4,364,521, issued December 21, 1982.
    • Viviano, James C. "Vacuum acoustic ceiling removal system." U.S. Patent 8,108,966, issued February 7, 2012.
    • Woods, John R. "Hardenable flowable substance stored in fluid state and is dispensable in the form of an aerosol spray from a fluid-tight container, after being released and curing, forms bumpy, irregular surface texture, matches with surronding." U.S. Patent 6,797,051, issued September 28, 2004.
      U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,505,344, 5,476,879, and 5,341,970, all to the present Applicant, disclose an acoustic ceiling patch that is sprayable from a hand-held aerosol dispenser. However, certain materials, such as Styrofoam (Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Mich.), used in the acoustic ceiling patch to provide texture in the material, cannot be used in the presence of volatile organic compound (VOC) propellants because they will deteriorate or melt. Therefore, only non-VOC propellants or compressed air may be used with these materials. However, the use of non-VOC propellants or compressed air require a greater pressure to dispense the patch containing these materials. The greater pressure may lead to some loss of control for the user when spraying the patch material. Along with the use of a greater pressure to dispense the patch material is the decrease in atomization of the patch material when being dispensed.
      It has been discovered that the use of fibrous materials allows the patch material to clump together to form particulates resembling the Styrofoam used in conventional methods. This helps produce the “Popcorn effect”. The patch material can then build up upon itself without a need for additional repair material on the damaged area.
      An object of an embodiment the present invention is to provide an acoustic ceiling spray patch material that is storable and dispensable from a hand-held dispensing unit for spray-on and direct application of the material in a liquid or semi-liquid form onto a repaired or patched area so that the surrounding surface texture will be visually and mechanically matched.
      Another object of an embodiment of the present invention is to provide an inexpensive, practical and economical means for matching the surface texture of a repaired or patched surface area on an acoustic ceiling with the surrounding acoustic surface texture.

      The hardenable flowable material includes a base, a filler, an adhesive binder, fibrous materials, that do not decompose in the presence of VOC propellants in the preferred embodiment of the present invention, an anti-foaming agent, a suspension agent, and an aerosol propellant, preferably a VOC propellant, that serves as a carrier medium and a pressure source ...
    • Woods, John R. "Acoustic ceiling patch spray." U.S. Patent 5,505,344, issued April 9, 1996.
      An acoustic ceiling surface usually presents a surface texture which is bumpy or presents an orange peel look and sometimes is referred to as a "Popcorn effect".

    Other Interior Ceiling Finish References



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