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How do I obtain a sample of my popcorn ceiling for asbestos testing?

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QuestionWe'd like to find out if the popcorn ceilings in our home contain asbestos. How can I safely obtain a sample of my popcorn ceiling for asbestos testing?

AnswerYou're smart to want to know if asbestos is present. It's very possible that your popcorn ceilings contain no asbestos, but it's just as possible that they do. The application of sprayed-on asbestos-containing coatings was banned in 1978, but a lot of popcorn ceilings installed as late as 1986 contained asbestos in the mixture. Your ceiling may contain an asbestos level of 3 to 8 percent.

Once you get the test results, you can reach a decision about what to do. You may choose to live with your popcorn ceilings even if they contain asbestos—and that's safe. Asbestos only becomes a problem when the material containing asbestos is damaged, disturbed, or deteriorated and its fibers become airborne. You may also choose to encase the popcorn or seal in the asbestos with paint. These decisions can be made after you get the test results.

To safely obtain a sample (normally 1 square inch) for a testing lab, follow these simple instructions:

  • Make sure that any heating or cooling system is turned off to minimize the spread of any released fibers.
  • Fill a spray bottle with water mixed with few drops of liquid detergent. The water/detergent mist will help reduce the possibility of releasing asbestos fibers.
  • Spray small areas of the ceiling in two or three places and allow the water/detergent mixture to soak in.
  • Wearing gloves, use a 1-inch putty knife to carefully scrape a square inch of popcorn from each area into a resealable bag (consider putting each sample in its own container) and label each with some type of identification.
  • Finally, take or send the sample(s) to a local asbestos testing lab.

After sealing your sample(s), use a damp paper towel to clean up any deposits on the outside of the container. Wash the putty knife and dispose of the gloves.

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 so many 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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