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Is there something I can do besides removing the popcorn ceilings?

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QuestionOur ceilings have tested positive for asbestos. I've been researching the removal process but it seems to be so complicated and expensive. Is there something I can do besides removing the popcorn ceilings?

AnswerMany homeowners receive test results that are positive for asbestos and immediately consider removal. Other options exist that are less rigorous and less expensive.

Here are two options that encase the asbestos.

1. Install furring strips over existing ceilings and attach new wallboard to that.

Use either 1x2s or 2x2s for furring strips, running in the same direction as the ceiling framing members. Before drilling any holes, locate and mark the location of the ceiling framing members so you'll have something solid to which to attach drywall or, if you choose, paneling (T&G material). If the ceiling has an attic overhead, take advantage of it to find those framing members.

Next cut the furring strips to length and predrill the holes—2 in. in from the ends and 16 in. apart. Then, using 2 1/2- or 3-in. screws for 1x2s or 3 1/2- or 4-in. screws for 2x3s, secure the furring strips in place using temporary supports—one at each end and one in the center.

Be sure to not cover the pilot holes with the supports and leave enough room around each hole so it is comfortable to work. This approach will allow you to drill up through the pilot hole with a cordless drill in one hand and a hose from a HEPA vacuum in the other to catch the debris.

HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter and refers to a material rated to trap 99.97 percent of airborne particles 0.3 microns and larger (available at your local rental yard). ULPA (Ultra-Low Penetration Air) filters trap even more: 99.99 percent of particles 0.12 microns and larger.

Alternatively (and highly recommended), apply shaving cream to the backside of each furring strip and position the strip with the shaving cream against the popcorn ceiling. While a helper (a live-in family member) holds the furring strips in place, drill through them into the ceiling. The shaving cream will help to contain asbestos dust as the drill bit is removed. Wipe off any debris left on the drill bit with a wet rag and discard the rag into a hazardous waste bag. Once all the furring strips are in place, attach drywall to them to encase the asbestos.

Tighten the screws with a cordless impact driver and again use the vacuum to catch any debris as the screws are installed. This process will minimize airborne fibers.

Upon completion of your project, properly dispose of the plastic sheeting as required by your state and local building and clean air agencies. Remember to remove the vacuum cleaner bag at the end of your project and properly dispose of it with your other hazardous asbestos waste.

If furring strips would make your ceiling too low, install the wallboard directly to the popcorn ceiling using screws 6 to 8 in. apart. I suggest that you rent a drywall lifter to help you position and attach the drywall to minimize bumping or scraping against the popcorn (and releasing the asbestos fibers).

A cost-effective way to protect the popcorn from damage during drywall installation is to paint the ceiling with a high-quality latex paint. Spray painting is the best approach, but using a siped sponge roller is acceptable.

Another solution, although more expensive, is to nail (not staple) Tyvex or a similar breathable house wrap product (not plastic—it doesn't breathe) over the entire ceiling using drywall nails and plastic flat washers such as those used to attach rigid foam board (see www.rodenhouse-inc.com). If you install house wrap prior to the drywall or ceiling paneling and follow the available guidelines, you will have no problem doing the work yourself.

2. Paint the ceiling and live with the popcorn.

Use a high-quality latex paint and apply it with a sprayer. Rolling on the paint will only disturb the asbestos fibers. Intact and undisturbed popcorn ceilings containing asbestos don't pose a health risk.

Before you do any work, I encourage you to read all the Q&As here carefully, check out all the links to read what others have to offer, and consult your local/regional/state air quality authorities about the applicable regulations before you begin the project.

I've been in the construction field for over 25 years and wish I'd known then what I know now about asbestos. I would not have tackled a lot of projects because of the asbestos content of certain building products.

To get the whole picture, I recommend that you purchase my informative article, Asbestos In Popcorn Ceilings, Purchase this article to learn about asbestos in popcorn ceiling and how to patch them!which describes how to determine if asbestos is present and the steps a professional takes to decide if removal is the correct course of action. These same steps apply to homeowners facing the same decisions.

Included are links to government and state agencies where you can get more information on the subject, locate state-certified professional asbestos contractors for removal, and find other documents that address removing the asbestos yourself.

As an added bonus, Patching a Popcorn Ceiling has been added to Asbestos In Popcorn Ceilings to help those who need to make repairs to their ceilings. The process is about the same whether the ceiling contains asbestos or not; however, for your own peace of mind, you still need to determine if your ceiling contains asbestos, and the article describes procedures to follow to safely take a sample for testing.




Click to Purchase Don't forget—before starting this project get your informative 10-page PDF article titled Asbestos In Popcorn Ceilings and Patching a Popcorn Ceiling. To order your downloadable .pdf printable copy, click here or click the purchase button to the left!

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Copyright © 2008 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.



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