Published: December 28, 2018, Updated:

Asbestos in popcorn ceilings

Originally used in construction for its resiliency to heat and electricity, asbestos was a cheap and durable material to work with.

Hence why it was used for decades to build homes and other buildings all over the world. After some time though, reports of asbestos-related disease and deaths started to emerge.

Research showed that the fibres of the naturally occurring material were toxic to the human body when inhaled and could cause cancer (among other complications) upon exposure.

asbestos in popcorn ceilings

Within this article I will be addressing what asbestos in popcorn ceilings is, how to identify it within your home, and what is the best way to remove it.

What is asbestos in popcorn ceiling?

For many older homes built from the 1930s to the 1980s contractors used a textured paint to hide imperfections in acoustic ceilings.

The most common ingredient within these ceilings treatments were asbestos.

asbestos popcorn ceiling 01

There were many reasons why asbestos was a commonly used material during this time: it was a strong material that didn’t add a lot of weight to a foundation, it was fire-resistant, and a cheaper alternative to wood.

They often are mixed with other materials like cement, making them even stronger than their original fibre.

What does asbestos in popcorn ceilings look like?

Asbestos is a natural occuring fibre that is described as white, fluffy, and stringy type material. It is both soft, strong, and flexible.

This fibre had been part of Canadian life for 130 years and Canada was one of the main miners of asbestos during its popularity of production from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Asbestos in ceiling often is referred to as “popcorn ceiling”, or “stucco ceiling”.

Asbestos Ceiling Stipple (Popcorn Ceiling)
Asbestos Ceiling Stipple (Popcorn Ceiling)

Unfortunately, a popcorn celling that has been made with asbestos will look no different than any other type of popcorn ceiling. It’s an unfortunate fact but identifying this problem in your ceiling just isn’t something you can do with your eyes alone.

Since simply looking at your ceiling won’t be able to tell you if it contains asbestos or not, the best method is to retrieve a sample of the ceiling and get it tested at a specialized laboratory. The most common technique used to test asbestos is called Polarized Light Microscopy and it is by far the most reliable method we have for identifying the offending substance in your ceiling.

If you are concerned that your ceiling may contain asbestos, it is in your best interest to hire trained professionals to collect the sample and test it to avoid exposing yourself to this deadly material.

asbestos popcorn ceiling 02

This popular and stylishly textured ceiling used within North American homes can be described as normally white or cream coloured, with a bumpy, or cottage cheese like texture.

How common is asbestos in popcorn ceiling?

Asbestos was used in construction projects between 1930 and 1990. This means homes built in that period run a much higher risk of containing asbestos, especially if they have popcorn ceilings, vermiculite insulation, certain floor and ceiling tiles, and roofing felt, among other building materials.

In addition, due to Canada’s lax laws on asbestos use before 2018, commercial properties also have a high risk of containing the hazardous material to this day. If you are unsure, a thorough inspection or asbestos test can give you a definite answer, as well as valuable peace of mind.

When did they stop using asbestos in popcorn ceilings?

While the exact date that asbestos was banned varies around the world, Canada only recently put an asbestos ban in place. As of December 30th, the Canadian federal government introduced legislation to prohibit the use of asbestos in any construction. This new law does include some exceptions, such as allowing asbestos in military applications. However, moving forward, any residential or commercial properties must be asbestos free.

asbestos popcorn ceiling 03

What type of asbestos is found in popcorn ceiling?

There are six types of asbestos that are used in various ways, but the most common type of asbestos found in popcorn ceilings chrysotile asbestos, which is a white asbestos.

Sometimes you will find amosite (brown asbestos) and very rarely crocidolite (blue asbestos).

Does every popcorn ceiling contain asbestos?

Not all ceilings contain asbestos, but it is very hard to differentiate between a ceiling with or without that fibre.

The only way you can be sure is if you hire a trained professional such as Mold Busters to have your ceiling tested.

asbestos popcorn ceiling 04

Where else can you find asbestos within your home?

If you find your ceiling contains asbestos it’s more than likely the same contractor used the material in other parts of the home. There are many common places you might find asbestos within your home:

  • Asbestos could be used as a sealing agent, otherwise known as, “mud”, to help fill gaps between drywall boards.
  • Because asbestos is used as a fire retardant, often asbestos is found within insulation such as piping, drywall, insulation for the furnace, and concrete walls to prevent the spreading of flames.
  • In addition, asbestos may be used for floor tiling, and home siding.

It was very popular to use asbestos within drywall because not only was it durable, it helped with noise reduction.

What are health effects from asbestos exposure?

Even though asbestos is a durable material, when it is disturbed the small fibres can be released within the air and inhaled. Sometimes asbestos can remain in the air for 48 to 72 hours, and in a room with air currents it can stay for several weeks later.

While inhaling these fibres is painless, over time asbestos exposure can develop into lung disease such as asbestosis which scars the lungs and makes it hard to breath.

In addition you may contract lung cancer. Specifically the type of cancer from asbestos inhalation is called mesothelioma, and it is a very painful type of cancer in which the victims slowly drown to death.

Asbestos attributes to approximately 2,000 deaths per year in Canada.

These diseases may only develop up to twenty years after exposure. Everyone from homeowners to mine workers have been affected by asbestos exposure. In the 1970s workers, such as contractors or miners, who were regularly exposed to asbestos pushed for reform.

When did they ban asbestos in popcorn ceiling?

In 1977, there was a ban in the US for using asbestos within ceilings. But even today asbestos hasn’t been completely outlawed in the US.

asbestos popcorn ceiling 05

While asbestos mines have closed in Canada, a full ban of the import of goods containing asbestos, as well as using asbestos within infrastructure was only seen this year in 2018. Officially, the asbestos in Canada will be banned as of 30th of December 2018, with exemptions.

How to tell if you have asbestos in your popcorn ceilings?

Asbestos is made up of microscopic fibres so it is impossible for you to detect with the naked eye.

The best way to tell if your ceiling contains asbestos is get a sample tested by laboratory for analysis.

asbestos popcorn ceiling testing

Even when testing if your ceiling contains asbestos, you should hire a trained professional to test the sample from your home.

When the layer of ceiling has been tested and if the sample contains more than 1% asbestos, you must remove the popcorn ceiling from your residence in order to avoid inhalation.

How to remove asbestos from your ceilings?

If the results of your asbestos test tell you that your popcorn ceiling does, in fact, contain asbestos, then the next question you need to answer is how you’re going to remove it. At this point, most people wonder if this is something they can do on their own.

Since asbestos fibres are not particularly dangerous unless they are disturbed, you may not need to remove asbestos from a ceiling that is in good shape. In these cases, you could add an extra layer of protection by painting your ceiling. This method, while a simple and cost-effective solution, comes with some problems of its own.

Painting the ceiling could make it more difficult to remove the asbestos later on, as you need to be able to wet the fibres of the asbestos in order to safely remove them. Painting the ceiling will therefore make it more difficult, if not impossible, to dampen the asbestos fibres prior to abatement.

If your ceiling is not painted, you can wet it and then scrape the material away. You should always immediately get rid of any asbestos in appropriate asbestos-disposal bags to minimize risk of the fibres becoming airborne.

There are DYI methods of removing asbestos by following these steps below.

Please note that we disclose ourselves by any means from recommendations below and from any damage you may encounter by trying to remove the asbestos by yourself.

Instead, we strongly advice you to hire professionals to perform the asbestos removal job.

1. Wear protective gear:

  • This would include several parts of coveralls with built in booties and long sleeves.
  • Also there should be a hood that will cover your hair and head.
  • Wear protective glasses.
  • Wear a face mask like a respirator mask that completely protects your face and eyes.
  • Wear rubber boots that can be disposed after use.
  • Wear rubber gloves and tape it to your coveralls.

2. Gather necessary materials which would include:

  • A spray bottle with water and digerent mixture
  • A putty knife
  • Clean disposable rags
  • Asbestos disposable bags.

3. Prepare the space by:

  • Removing furniture
  • Turning off air conditioning and heating systems
  • Tape all light switches in on and off positions
  • Remove all smoke alarms

4. Build a containment area:

  • Cover the floors with plastic sheeting with a second layer of loose plastic sheeting.
  • Hang plastic sheeting on the walls.
  • Hang instructions like a calendar.
  • Construct plastic sheeting over openings and doorways to separate the work from the rest of the house. Also, create a secure entry and exit point.

5. Wet the contaminated area at all times with the water-digerent solution. Allow the area to soak in for 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Scrape the popcorn ceiling with a putty or a wallboard taping knives. Dispose the ceiling immediately in disposable asbestos bags with a tight seal.

7. Wipe off any ceiling residue with a wet rag. Wipe any exposed portion of the wall ceiling with clean rags. Dispose of the rags in the stealed disposal bags.

8. Fold up the plastic sheeting on the floor and dispose of it immediately in the sealed asbestos disposal bags.

While this may sound easy, judging by the arduous steps involved, and the potential dangers you can face while removing asbestos from your ceiling, it is best handled by professionals.

You don’t want to make mistakes when they may have catastrophic consequences on your health.

What is the best solution for removing asbestos from your ceilings?

To ensure the effective and safe removal of asbestos from your ceiling and home, your best choice is to contact an asbestos abatement professional. Though the procedure for removing asbestos popcorn ceilings remains widely the same, professionals are equipped with all the tools, safety equipment and experience to ensure the job is completed without posing further risk to the home’s occupants.

If you are concerned that your ceiling, or any other part of your home, contains asbestos, we at Mold Busters are here to help you. Contact us to inspect your home, test your ceiling (or other suspicious material) for asbestos, complete the removal, and even ensure that your living environment is safe after the procedure is done with a free indoor air quality test.

How much does it cost to remove popcorn ceiling?

For the most accurate answer to this question, contact an asbestos removal company nearest you to receive an estimate for your specific project. Most contractors will charge per square foot for the removal of any affected material; therefore, the price will depend on the size of your contamination. If you would like an estimate for the professional removal of a popcorn ceiling, contact Mold Busters to make an appointment.

How to prevent popcorn ceiling problem?

Popcorn ceilings were very popular in previous eras, so your best bet if you want to avoid asbestos in your ceiling is to avoid purchasing a home built between 1930 and 1990. However, this isn’t always possible. So if you do find yourself in a home that contains a popcorn ceiling, contact professionals to assess the risk of exposure. With Mold Busters, we can help you every step of the way—from fast asbestos testing services to safe and reliable asbestos removal.


Thankfully due to the ban of asbestos by the Canadian Federal Government, future generations will not have to be exposed to asbestos.

However, because it has been used and imported up to this year it is still very easy for people to be exposed.

It often is still used for piping in schools and business buildings. There are even brake pads that contain asbestos.

This is why you must take action with your home in order to prevent asbestos inhalation.

Call Mold Busters to schedule an inspection and testing today!