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At Home With Asbestos: Popcorn Ceilings
Part Two in a Series About Asbestos in Your House
Thinking about tackling a home-improvement project this fall? Know that if your house was constructed before 1980, chances are that at least some of the exterior and interior materials might contain asbestos. As part of our series about home-remodeling projects, today we will discuss that hallmark of the 20th century single-family dwelling all across middle America – the popcorn ceiling.
If you were a child growing up in the 1960s, then you probably remember your textured bedroom ceiling. In fact, you probably spent a good part of your formative years staring up at that ceiling, perhaps trying to discern animal shapes from the random patterns in the cottage cheese-like bumps. Starting in the 1950s, paint mixed with asbestos and cellulose, vermiculite or wood fiber was commonly sprayed or troweled onto the ceilings of kitchens, hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms from one coast to the other. While the “filler” components helped to increase the “bumpiness” factor of the texture, asbestos fiber contributed additional lumps and also acted as a binding agent, making the thickened paint easier to spread without separating.
This type of ceiling was not only inexpensive and easy to apply, it also offered a certain degree of soundproofing between floors. But mostly, popcorn ceilings readily covered defects in ceiling construction, as well as poor workmanship, stains and structural cracks, hence its high popularity in new home construction throughout the middle of the last century. In fact, the use of asbestos in textured ceiling products was so common that if your home was constructed before 1985 you should assume those bumps above your bed contain asbestos.
Today, such acoustic ceilings are considered unattractive and many homeowners are wishing for something else. But beware! Asbestos is a known carcinogen and asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma lung cancer. If removal of a textured ceiling is not performed by a licensed abatement professional, the microscopic asbestos fibers can become airborne, where they are easily inhaled or ingested by anyone nearby. The fibers can also settle unseen into drapes, carpeting, bed coverings and clothing, where they can remain for years, becoming airborne again and again each time the curtains are drawn or the carpet is vacuumed or clothing and bed coverings are shaken or disturbed.
As an alternative, you might seal the textured ceiling material with a resin polymer designed for that purpose and then spray-paint a new, non-asbestos texture over it, but whether you prefer that it be covered or removed, it is risky to do the work yourself. Hire a certified professional with experience in textured ceilings and asbestos removal to do the work. Never scrape the texture off yourself, not even to get a sample for testing at a laboratory.
Enjoy your remodeling project this fall! Turn that old bedroom into a study or guest room that will be the envy of all your neighbors. But do it wisely and safely with the help of a qualified professional. If you have received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, consult the experienced attorneys at Baron & Budd for a completely confidential evaluation of your potential case. And leave the popcorn for that seasonal blockbuster instead.