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Popcorn ceilings: What's the risk of asbestos exposure?

If you watch television programs or read magazines about home improvement, you have likely heard that popcorn ceilings are now considered "outdated."

This has led many families to look into removing their popcorn ceilings, whether they are simply refurbishing their home or looking to sell their house. Be aware, however: these common textured ceilings could contain asbestos.

How do you know if ceilings contain asbestos?

There are a few things you should consider to determine if your ceiling contains asbestos:

  • When was your home built? Installing popcorn ceilings was popular from the 1950s to the 1990s, but ceilings installed after 1977 are less likely to contain asbestos. The Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of asbestos in ceiling compounds and textured paint that year.
  • Test a ceiling sample. Even so, the risk of asbestos exposure remains, even in homes built after 1977. That is why it is critical to get your ceiling tested for asbestos before taking any action. After all, there is no guarantee builders or contractors did not continue to use existing supplies of asbestos-containing ceiling compounds or paints beyond 1977. Do not attempt to take a sample or remove the textured ceiling yourself. Call a professional service to test it for you.

Additionally, you should ensure you review the guidelines and rules in your city. For example, Chattanooga residents often must obtain a permit to renovate and test materials possibly containing asbestos in their home. The rules vary depending on where you live.

What if your ceiling has asbestos?

If the test determines your ceiling contains asbestos, it is natural to feel uneasy. You may worry if your family has been and is in danger. There is one piece of good news - even though exposure to any amount of asbestos is dangerous, fibers within your ceiling pose a relatively low risk. If the ceiling is not damaged or disturbed, the fibers do not get released into the air.

What should you do next? In these cases, you must remember:

1. Do not touch the ceiling: As we discussed in a past blog post, it is critical to leave any products possibly containing asbestos undisturbed. Any disturbance - even a slight one - could release asbestos fibers. However, if the ceiling remains intact, it should not pose a risk to anyone within your home.

2. Contact a professional: If you still wish to remove the textured ceilings from your home, do your research and find an asbestos professional to complete the project for you safely.

Asbestos within an intact ceiling poses a relatively small risk to your family. Because asbestos is a known carcinogen though, you must make sure you take great care if you move forward with any renovation projects to ensure your family's safety.

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