Asbestos Popcorn Ceiling Removal: A Step-by-Step Solution

Asbestos popcorn ceiling removal
  • Author: Ivy Smith
  • Posted On: May 13, 2023
  • Updated On: October 24, 2023

If your popcorn ceiling is applied somewhere before the 1980s, you must check it for the presence of asbestos. Asbestos, which originally was added in the form of fibers into the spraying mixture, can become available as stranded particles in the air when the ceiling is disturbed during renovation or cleaning work.

The airborne particles of asbestos can end up damaging your respiratory system. Therefore, it is important to determine the presence of asbestos in your ceiling so that you can get away with it before it is too late.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of asbestos popcorn ceiling removal by suggesting what precisely should be done and what should be avoided.

3 Steps to Test for Asbestos in Popcorn Ceiling

Follow the below-mentioned steps to check the ceilings for the presence of asbestos: 

1. Determine the Presence of Asbestos 

The first step is to determine whether your popcorn ceiling contains asbestos fibers or not. This is because not all such ceilings contain asbestos. However, the ones constructed before asbestos was banned are more likely to contain its fibers which were added as a reinforcement.

2. Collect a Sample of the Ceiling 

To test for the presence of asbestos, visual inspection is not dictating at all. You need to have a laboratory test of your ceiling sample to figure this out. 

The sample can be obtained by either calling a professional at your place or it can also be collected on your own but with great care.

Oftentimes, asbestos ceilings that are not disturbed throughout history, are not harmful because the microscopic particles do not become available in the air unless disturbed. 

In this regard, extracting a ceiling sample can become a possible source of agitating the latent asbestos in the ceiling spray mixture.

3. Send the Sample for Laboratory Testing 

But you have no other option than getting your ceiling texture tested. You must collect a couple of samples (each equal to a full tablespoon) at different locations on the ceiling and put them into separate zip-lock plastic bags. Send these samples to the laboratory for testing and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly once the sampling is done.

These samples are then tested in the laboratory using either polarized light microscopy (PLM) or transmission electron microscopy (TEM) techniques. The test results indicate the presence of fibrous asbestos.

Precautionary Measures While Collecting Asbestos Popcorn Ceiling Sample

If you are collecting the samples on your own without calling in any expert or professional, you need to be extra cautious because you aren’t adept at the job. Here are a few tips that must be kept in mind as a safety measure when you collect your ceiling samples for an asbestos-check test.

  • Make sure you wear gloves while scraping the popcorn texture.
  • Wear a mask so that you do not inhale any dust when the ceiling sample is being collected.
  • If underneath your ceiling, you have a carpet, place a plastic sheet over it so that the carpet doesn’t absorb the ceiling dust while it is likely to fall.

4 Ways to Get Rid of Asbestos from Popcorn Ceiling

Getting rid of popcorn ceiling asbestos is mandatory. There are three ways you can protect yourself from airborne asbestos;

1. Gather the Materials and Tools for Ceiling Removal

To start your asbestos popcorn ceiling removal, you need the following materials and tools: 


  • Gloves, coveralls, respirators, and eye and respiratory protection
  • Vacuum and air filtration systems with HEPA filters to reduce asbestos fiber emission
  • Plastic sheeting to establish a confinement area
  • Sprayers to dampen the asbestos-containing substance and reduce dust
  • Bags and containers for disposing of asbestos-contaminated waste


  • A wetting agent or surfactant for dampening the asbestos material
  • Heavy-duty plastic sheeting for contaminant barriers 
  • Duct tape and other sealing supplies to barricade the workspace
  • Double-layered, 6-mil plastic disposal bags for asbestos-containing waste
  • Warning signs to mark the work area

2. Scrap Off or Remove the Popcorn Ceiling

Scraping off the popcorn ceiling texture is one way to remove or get rid of it and it is the most common of all. To do so, you will first need to dampen the surface so that the texture comes off easily. For this, take water in a spray bottle and spray it over the popcorn surface.

The grainy texture of the popcorn ceiling will instantly absorb water if it has not been top-coated with another paint layer. Once the water is absorbed, the surface will become soft and can easily be scrapped off the ceiling. You must take every minute precaution to avoid contact with the popcorn ceiling.

If the popcorn ceiling has some paint coat applied over the texture, spraying water will take a longer time to make it soft. So, in that case, you must periodically spray water on the surface and it will take a little long but you will be able to get rid of it once and for all.

3. Apply a Drywall Layer or a New Panel on Popcorn Ceiling

For popcorn ceilings containing asbestos fibers, all we want is to shush every possibility that heads up to allow asbestos to go free. For this, the viable solution may not necessarily be removing the ceiling texture; rather, you can also apply a drywall layer on top of the popcorn texture so that the dangers from asbestos going free when disturbed can be subsided.

Sometimes, homeowners want to preserve the look of their house, so they are reluctant to agree to fling the texture of their ceilings. So, providing panels made of gypsum and securing them in place a little below the popcorn ceiling will be a good option on the go.

4. Skim Coat a New Texture on Top of the Existing One

A new texture layer can also be applied on top of the popcorn ceiling. This option will be particularly useful in scenarios where the ceiling is intact and the risks from asbestos are abated.

The new texture application is something you can do as a DIY project without having to rely on experts or professionals. However, adequate care must be exercised while you skim-coat your ceiling to hide the popcorn texture and unveil something new and fresh.

The Best Method to Get Rid of Popcorn Ceiling Asbestos

There is no such definition of any one method topping the list and getting plus points all along for being excellent in terms of getting rid of popcorn ceiling asbestos. The choice of which method to opt for depends upon the age and existing condition of the ceiling.

If your ceiling is disturbed during a renovation job or cleaning work, the asbestos particles will possibly be left free. Such a case would necessitate scrapping off the ceiling texture. 

However, if your ceiling contains asbestos but has not been disturbed, you can go for alternative easier methods such as using panels or applying an additional skim coat of a new texture.

The Cost of Removing Asbestos Popcorn Ceiling

Asbestos popcorn ceilings should never be scrapped off as a DIY project. This means that to remove the textured surface, you ought to call in professionals or experts who have prime knowledge and experience in dealing with such risky cases.

The total cost of the work is a variable number and will depend on several factors. However, in a unit area (measured in square feet), the cost of removing the popcorn ceiling texture is $1 to $2. The following factors will influence the overall cost of a removal job;

  • The ceiling area has a popcorn texture
  • Whether or not the ceiling has already been disturbed
  • The level of safety measures to be abided by during removal work

Tips for Dealing with Asbestos Popcorn Ceilings

If your ceiling has tested positive for asbestos, you do not need to panic over the thoughts of lung cancer and mesothelioma that your mind will drive you towards. A positive outlook involves taking the right step in the right direction. Therefore, you will need to call some experts to stop by your place and proceed with the next step.

Here are a few tips for you to deal with asbestos popcorn ceilings;

  • Avoid disturbing your ceiling surface by inserting anything during cleaning work or driving nails into it.
  • If you go for scrapping the texture, make sure you call in experts instead of manually diving into this risky work.
  • If you witness the popcorn ceiling peeling the surface at any spot, you need to take the next step immediately.
  • Do not throw even cushioned or fluffy items on your ceiling because these soft materials can trap the asbestos in the popcorn ceiling.


  • How Long Does it Take to Remove the Popcorn Ceiling with Asbestos?
    According to experts, it can take roughly 20 hours for skilled do-it-yourselfers to remove 500 square feet of popcorn from the ceiling. For those who are less experienced, it will probably take longer.
  • Is It Safe to Cover the Asbestos Popcorn Ceiling?
    If done appropriately, covering an asbestos popcorn ceiling might be safe. To stop the release of dangerous fibers, conduct an asbestos test first, get professional advice, and think about encasing the ceiling in asbestos-free materials.
  • How Bad is Asbestos?
    Breathing asbestos fibers can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, asbestosis, and other serious illnesses. Asbestos exposure may raise your risk of developing digestive system cancers, such as colon cancer.
  • Can You Clean an Asbestos Ceiling?
    Cleaning an asbestos ceiling is dangerous, especially if it is a popcorn ceiling or contains asbestos-containing material. Since asbestos is a dangerous material, any attempts to clean it up or disrupt it run the risk of dispersing asbestos fibers into the air, endangering human health.
  • How Can You Tell If Ceiling Tiles Are Asbestos?
    Materials containing asbestos can be exceedingly challenging to identify with the naked eye. The ceiling tiles are often pale in color and lightly textured. One hint is the presence of surface pinholes. There is a good likelihood that the material in your ceiling contains asbestos if it appears soft, powdery, or easily crumbled.
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Author: Ivy Smith

Ivy is a professional civil engineer and also provides her consultancy at ConstructionHow from the technical aspect. Her expertise entails home improvements and real estate. But the primary strength pins down to the construction sector. She began her career with a property management company cultivating more than 20 construction and real estate projects. She also contributes as a contractor to local and international commercial and domestic individuals.