Textured popcorn ceiling paint (C) Daniel FriedmanAsbestos 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 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.

Question: asbestos hazard in popcorn ceiling paint in a 1981 home?

We recently remodeled our 1981 home without much knowledge about hazards (yes, bad on us). It wasn't really something that we wanted to do but we had a disaster that necessitated.

The popcorn ceilings were sprayed with paint, inadvertently removing some of the popcorn and the old red ceramic (glazed white) jackhammered and replaced. The people working on the walls tested the drywall and paint for lead and asbestos. Both were negative. We tested the tile with a home kit and it showed negative for lead.

We asked the guys who were jackhammering to use fans to blow dust out of the house, turn our AC off, and to put up a plastic barrier. They did a decent, not perfect, job. They swept and wiped up. After all was said and done we swept and mopped up the remaining dust.

How worried for our toddler's safety should we be?

We didn't test the popcorn or the tile/grout for asbestos because we didn't know at the time. Are those an issue in 1981 homes? Would what was done to the ceiling (spraying new paint on accidentally knocking some popcorn off in the process) even be a problem? We will, of course, test if you recommend.

PS This was a few months ago we have been sweeping, mopping, and damp-cloth dusting since. I'm not sure how much original dust will be left. - Anonymous by private email 2016/09/16


So let me get this right. You tested a number of things but not the popcorn ceiling. If that's the case and you want some peace of mind I suggest that you collect a representative sample of settled dust and have that analyzed by a certified asbestos test lab.

If the knock-off debris from your popcorn-painted ceilings was just a few specs I'd not be worried about an asbestos-contamination issue; if you needed to demolish the ceiling I'd either treat it as asbestos-containing or have a sample tested.

If you're un certain about the presence of a remaining hazard, find some settled dust from the work period and send it to a lab - see
I can almost always find old dust even in cleaned buildings. Look along high horizontal trim such as over doorways and windows, or on floors under radiators or baseboards.

Although the 1978 Clean Air act in the U.S. led to cessation of manufacture of many asbestos-containing products, paint sellers and painters may have used "new old stock" into the 1980's so one cannot rule out asbestos-containing popcorn paint or textured paint in a home in the U.S. built or painted in the first half of the 1980's.

Reader follow-up: find out the age of your ceiling paint

2017/01/07 Update:

We have now learned that the ceiling in this building may have been painted or re-painted after the use of asbestos in ceiling paints had been discontinued. Therefore the recent remodeling may not have been the cause of uneven popcorn ceiling paint in this building.

Watch out: readers will want to take care not to panic about possible asbestos in popcorn ceiling paint before they have found the history and age of both their building and the paints used in and on it, including textured and popcorn-style ceiling paints. - Anonymous by private email 2017/1/07

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

Interior Ceiling Finish References


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