Asbestos-suspect acoustic ceiling tile during seal-over (C) InspectApedia SFAsbestos-Suspect Acoustic Ceiling Tiles Cover-Up

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Asbestos-suspect ceiling cover-up:

What is the best way to reduce the hazard from an asbestos-containing ceiling that is shedding or that is in poor condition. We describe laminating gypsum board over an asbestos-suspect ceiling in Indonesia.

Separately, A reader describes a simple, inexpensive, but labor intensive approach to coating or cover-over of asbestos-suspect ceiling tiles or panels that are securely fastened and in good condition.

Covering asbestos or asbestos suspect materials in some locations is permitted and makes economic sense as a method of reducing the asbestos hazard in buildings. In fact generally it's better, cheaper, and safer to leave non-friable, un-damaged asbestos materials in place than to try a demolition and removal project.

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Do-It-Yourself in-Place Seal-Over for Asbestos-Suspect Acoustic Ceiling Tiles

Asbestos ceiling tiles in Indonesia (C) GSReader Question: we suspect that this ceiling in our Indonesian home contains asbestos and pieces of it are falling.

How can we reduce the asbestos-exposure risk for our family living in Indonesia

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We are Americans, but our family lives and runs a non-profit on a small island in east Indonesia. About a year ago we moved into a new house. After moving in we heard one of the locals use the term asbes to describe our ceiling.

We later learned through a friend that was able to get a bit of our ceiling tile tested that it contains high levels of asbestos.

We know another ex pat family that ripped all the asbestos out of their house here, but the workers used no safety precautions at all.

Our ceiling has been in good shape and all the research we showed said ripping it out would do way more damage than just leaving it.

Yesterday morning the kids and I were playing out in the living room and a 1 ft x 1 ft piece of the ceiling tile dropped just a few feet from us. We got the kids out and my husband quickly cleaned it up.

Asbestos ceiling tiles in Indonesia (C) GS

Unfortunately he forgot to dampen it first...but swept it up and then wet mopped. I was hoping you could give us some advice on cleaning things up. We have no access to special vacuums or people that can come do assessments on air quality. Thankfully our floors are all tile and it is wet mopped daily. We do have one AC in the house, but everything else is cooled by fans.

How would we go about cleaning the AC? And are the fans helpful un getting the air out or are we just re circulating dust? We wiped down everything with a damp cloth and laundered all linens, but will the dust seep into mattresses, pillows, stuffed animals, etc. that the kids interact with daily?

We love being here and what we do, but I struggle with putting the kids health at risk and how we can protect them. Most online resources are for countries that have agencies that deal with this, and unfortunately that is just not available on our island. Any help you could offer in the best way to clean would be greatly appreciated!

Asbestos ceiling tiles in Indonesia (C) GS

As we look to the was a cat that caused this issue, and we have no way of ensuring it doesn't happen husband is looking to put in a second ceiling just below the asbestos ceiling with wood supports in areas that look concerning. What are your thoughts on that in regards to limiting exposure in the future?

Again, thank you so much for what you do to help others and taking the time to read this email! Any thoughts you have would be welcomed & appreciated! - private email, M.S. to editor 2016/04/04

Reply: how to laminate a thin veneer of gypsum board or drywall over an asbestos-suspect ceiling

We need to understand the structure of the existing ceiling, but I suspect it would be easy to simply laminate onto the existing surface a layer of thin gypsum board or drywall. If you disturb the existing ceiling as little as possible as you know leaving it in place as the lowest risk.

Reader follow-up: ceiling materials were confirmed as containing asbestos

The house was built in 1990 and I presume the ceiling is original to the construction. The kitchen and bathroom were added on later and have a different ceiling material. We did have a sample sent back to be tested in the States and have confirmed the material contains asbestos.

By laminating, do you mean to just install gypsum board over the existing ceiling and try to drive the screws in the existing gap into the wood? I am sure there may be some seems where we will get into the asbestos product because of the width of the gap is not wide enough to match 2 edges of gypsum board.

We don't have much gypsum board here in Indonesia, would plywood work the same? I will do some research on thin gypsum board and see what I can find. Do you have any suggestions on minimizing dust and what we need to do with our stuff while the ceiling in the room is being installed... i.e. , do we move everything (porous material that would collect the dust) out then put it back after construction?

One nice thing is that the floors are tile throughout the house. I read that mopping helps clear fibers faster. Is that true?

Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions. It is night here, but if it would help I can take a photo of the hole with a proper camera (not my cell phone) and send it your way.


I am including a few pictures with this email to give you a better sense of of our ceiling situation. We have 3'x3' asbestos panels for a ceiling. There is a grid of wood cross members above the asbestos ceiling that the panels are nailed into. So all the groves you see in the pictures actually have a wood beam above them to support the weight of the ceiling.

I met with a repair guy today who suggested simply hammering pieces of thin wood (similar to plywood) on the bottom side of the asbestos panels (the part you see) and enclosing the ceiling. He also said we could just nail in new wood braces along the joint lines to support the panels and paint those wood pieces. Either way you would have nails going through the existing asbestos tiles. What are your thoughts on either of those options?

I didn't quite understand your email... may have been an auto correct issue with 'Simply lemonade" [spell-check error in earlier email] of thin gypsum board or drywall. Would you mind clarifying?

Again thanks for any assistance you can provide on the matter. Just concern for the little ones running around our house.

Reply: Use of Asbestos in Indonesia

Chrysotile asbestos has been used in Indonesia since at least 1959 and the asbestos industry there has vigorously opposed regulation, asserting that there have been no mesothelioma cases in Indonesia that can be attributed to Asbestos. The country imports asbestos, principally CHrysotile, from Africa, Brazil, Canada, Hungary, Russia, Poland, the U.S. (up to 2001), and six other countries.

In 2005 by decree from the Indonesian ministry of trade, asbestos remained free to import and export, the ministry of environment (for Indonesia) permitted the re-use of disposed-of asbestos materials, and two exposure limits had been set:

Really? Not everyone agrees with that view. Still, some asbestos regulation in Indonesia has been written for the workplace. See Manpower Regulation # 03, 1985.
- source:

The Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network (Ina-Ban) was formed in Bandung, West Java in 2010.

In 2012 asbestos was still widely used in Indonesia in a variety of products including both cement-asbestos and other more friable forms of asbestos. The first reference cited above (WECF) notes that the principal uses of asbestos in Indonesia (up to 2010, the date of this presentation or up to 2005 the date of much of its data) included:

"In 2012, national consumption was 161,824 tonnes, a 30% increase in just one year. While other countries have banned or seriously restricted its use, in our country asbestos-containing building and friction products remain commonly used and widely available. " (Rubby 2013)
- Emir Rubby, "The Road to an Asbestos-Free Indonesia", International Ban Asbestos Secretariat,(IBAS) source: 2016/04/08

Procedure for Laminating Drywall over an Asbestos-Containing Ceiling or an Asbestos-Suspect Ceiling

From this screen of research on asbestos use in Indonesia, even for other ceiling materials that you've not tested, I'd continue to treat ceiling tiles as suspect materials as Presumed to Contain Asbestos, or "PACM".

By laminate I mean precisely: support in place (I use simple T-braces as scaffolding) drywall or gypsum board against the ceiling, after having first found (probe with an ice pick or a finishing nail) the location and spacing of the ceiling framing. Mark the framing locations on the sidewalls close to the ceiling.

With the drywall held in place, drive drywall screws through the drywall, through the existing ceiling covering, into the ceiling joists to hold the material in place. Your screws need to be long enough to penetrate at least 3/4" into the wood after allowing for thickness of the existing materials. An inch of penetration is better.


Watch out: make sure that the gypsum board products you buy don't contain asbestos (usually it doesn't) and you'll need to use joint-compound that you also confirm it is not a product that contains asbestos (often it used-to), to tape to seal the drywall seams, then you can re-paint.

Send me photos of the work in process if you can and I'll comment further.

Reader Question: do you think these are asbestos-containing ceiling tiles and how can I take care of them?

Asbestos-suspect acoustic ceiling tile before seal-over (C) InspectApedia SF

Thanks for such a great and informative site. I’ve learned so much and I am still navigating the various sections.

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It appears that you provide first-pass opinions on potential asbestos-bearing ceiling tiles if pictures are provided.

See attached. I cannot find anything similar to these that you’ve posted yet – and fingers-crossed – these are asbestos free.

Initial thoughts would be appreciated – I will get them tested too but your help may determine if I do this sooner versus later. Home was built in 1972. Thanks for any help.

- S.F., South Lyon MI 4/13/2013


Asbestos-suspect acoustic ceiling tile during seal-over (C) InspectApedia SF

In our earlier correspondence I suggested treating the ceiling as presumed-asbestos-containing based on age and appearance; you were going to have a sample tested. Can you tell me what you found?

Reader Follow-Up:

I ended up changing my design to not disrupt the tile.  I have painted it … actually, I am still painting it.  LOL.  I

did have a 30-year veteran electrician install one light.  He was confident they were asbestos free and drilled one hole for a fixture.  He wasn’t concerned at all. 

At some point, years down the road .

If I change the ceiling …. I will have them tested.  I have learned also, that all Building Materials in my Home Owner’s Association Ordinances required asbestos-free material. 

That is no iron-clad insurance but gave me some confidence. Thanks for the follow-up


Asbestos-suspect acoustic ceiling tile after seal-over (C) InspectApedia SF

I did the a similar thing with asphalt asbestos floor tiles in a kitchen - we painted the vinyl asbestos floor tiles with an epoxy floor paint, then applied a clear sealer over that; it has worked very well for 15+ years with just an occasional renewal of the clear coat.

Asbestos ceiling cover-up tip: an alternative for covering over a ceiling in poor condition for any reason is the installation of a metal ceiling or suspended metal ceiling - see METAL CEILINGS ALUMINUM & TIN. Metal ceilings have been installed over older, poor-condition surfaces in North America for more than 100 years.

A photo of your project might help others.

Reader Follow-Up:

Sure, DIY ers love to share their projects.  Three photos attached (and shown above and at left - Ed). 

#1 Before (thickness and type of tiles). 

#2 Primed. 

#3 After.  Acoustic tiles are very, very porous. 

It was like painting cardboard.  I primed the edges around the mouldings first then I caulked the tile edges-to-the- mouldings  liberally so I didn’t have holes/crevices along the moulding line. 

Primed the interior ceiling with a 2” nappy roller (let dry for 2 days). 

1 Coat of the new color (let dry for 2 days).  Then … the hard part

I mixed vinyl spackling with paint and used a thick/cheap brush and jabbed the spackle/paint mixture into every seam (closing up gaps and any unevenness). 

Let dry for 2 days.  Final top coat to blend all seams with a 2” nappy roller. 

Looks great.  Folks can skip the seam fill part if they like the look after 1 coat of color; probably could skip the second coat of paint too.

Patching that hole wasn’t easy and I’m still working on that.  Matching the ceiling pattern is hard but I’ll get it. 

Watch out: dust from demolition of many building products can be irritating and even harmful regardless of whether or not the material contains asbestos fibers or particles. Good dust control measures can avoid spreading dust throughout the building during material removal or remodeling, and proper personal protection can protect workers as well.


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