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How do I safely locate framing members behind a popcorn ceiling?

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QuestionAfter learning that our popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, my wife and I have decided to encase the ceiling with a layer of wallboard rather than endure the expense and rigors of removal. Before I can install furring strips to the existing ceiling (to which I can attach new wallboard), I need to find the framing members. How do I safely locate framing members behind a popcorn ceiling?

AnswerUsually when homeowners hear the word "asbestos," they immediately consider its removal. Professional removal can be expensive and removing it yourself is a challenging project, to say the least. Your decision to encase the popcorn ceiling is both affordable and manageable for a DIYer.

You'll want to 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 such as T&G material). If the ceiling has an attic overhead, take advantage of it to find the framing members.

In areas where you don't have attic access, use a stud finder such as the Triscanner by Zircon. You can set this particular unit to "stud deepscan" and locate framing members by hovering the unit 1/4 inch over the surface. You don't want to drag a stud finder across the surface and disturb the popcorn. Mark the walls with blue painter's masking tape so you know where the ceiling framing members are.

Don't forget that you're attaching furring strips to a ceiling that contains asbestos. The dust generated by your drill or even just by bumping the ceiling contains asbestos. You'll want to read the Q&A titled "Is there something I can do besides removing the popcorn ceilings?" located under the folder "Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings:" to learn how to safely attach furring strips to a popcorn ceiling.

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.

Asbestos abatement has stringent requirements. When you finish your research, you may decide to turn it over to the pros, something I heartily recommend.

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, 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.Purchase this article to learn about asbestos in popcorn ceiling and how to patch them! 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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