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2% asbestos in acoustic (popcorn) ceiling
Old 10-02-2013, 01:59 PM   #1
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2% asbestos in acoustic (popcorn) ceiling

Hi,

I just had my ceiling tested for asbestos and it has 2 percent chrysotile asbestos. I've talked to neighbors and they've just wet down the ceiling and scraped it off which I think is dangerous. But it costs too much to have it professionally removed - especially here in northern CA.

I have a crack in the ceiling from one wall to the other due to earthquakes we have in the bay area. I thought of just spray painting it over to avoid asbestos fibers being released into the air. Has anyone painted over it and are you happy with the painted ceiling?

I'm unemployed so paying thousands of dollars for removal is not what I want to do right now.

Thanks,

Barb
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Old 10-02-2013, 02:09 PM   #2
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We had popcorn ceilings and for those few we changed (just two bathrooms IIRC) we just scraped them off and repainted. No idea if they had asbestos or not - never thought to have it tested but had never heard of asbestos in popcorn ceilings until your post.

Most of ours we kept and just repainted over them with white ceiling paint using a roller and we were satisfied with the results. [Edited to add: I found that you can't go over the same area with a load of paint more than a few times or it will start to peel off the ceiling.] While I realize many people and HGTV hate popcorn ceilings, I actually like them.

I wonder if you could avoid the expense of removal by putting a thin layer of sheetrock over them, tape and repaint? Or cover them with a layer or two of skim coat?
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Old 10-02-2013, 02:43 PM   #3
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Asbestos is only dangerous if it gets airborne, which is why the normal way to remove it is to wet it down and scrape it off. The professionals will do this as well, however they will also tape off the entire house with plastic, and have a decontamination room to go through in order to make sure that nothing gets airborne.

Most things I've read also note that you have to have a certain amount of exposure for it to be dangerous. If you're a person that removes asbestos, or have the dry shavings in your attic for insulation, then it can build up and become a problem. A homeowner doing a little bit of ceiling work shouldn't be a problem.

I would be nervous about spray painting the ceiling, since that'll likely get it wet and it'll start to fall down. I'd go by home depot or somewhere and ask their advice.
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Old 10-02-2013, 03:33 PM   #4
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I've read that even removing by the wet method may release fibers into the air. The effects may not be seen for years and I have a son and pets in the house so don't want to endanger them.
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Old 10-02-2013, 03:43 PM   #5
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As pb4uski noted, it's possible to just paint these with a roller, I've done it many times. You can generally roll over it twice (up, then back) wiithout problem, but if you go over it again the little "pills" will come off (probably because they lose their grip on the ceiling when the paint holding them on gets thoroughly wet). After the paint well you can add another coat, if needed. I would just roll the ceiling using good paint and be done with it. If you are worried about asbestos, be assured that doing this will probably expose you to less of the stuff than any method of removing it. And it's certainly a lot cheaper.
Check into your local regs: Now that you know asbestos is there, you may have to disclose it to future buyers. I wouldn't have done the testing in this case (unless the stuff was falling down and powdery/friable).
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Old 10-02-2013, 04:01 PM   #6
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There is a mfg in Bellingham, WA that makes a scraper on a stick with a bag to catch the popcorn. Spray the ceiling sogging wet, then scrape the mud off. We did our whole house ourselves. I did a Task Risk Assessment and concluded it was safe as a one-time exercise. We did use painter's masks. Of course, you can always call in the HAZMAT team at great cost. Your call.
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Old 10-02-2013, 07:10 PM   #7
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We spray painted ours over 30 years ago and DH and I am (so far) alive and well. A city planner I called said he has never heard of anyone getting ill from the small amounts of asbestos in popcorn ceilings or duct tape. I have never had ours tested to know what is in them either way. Our neighbors scraped theirs off decades ago with no issues.

I think in terms of costs versus risks I personally would do the same thing over again.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:56 AM   #8
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Sounds like you've already made up your mind, but FWIW...
  • It's not unsafe to just leave it alone, so if you're concerned about money, just do nothing for now. Painting over it is easy and helps seal it further, though there's no reason to believe asbestos is being released into the air now from what you've described.
  • You can remove it safely yourself - but it's by no means easy to do it properly. Involves wetting it down, ventilating, capturing all the scrapings and proper disposal (scrapings & maybe tools, clothes, etc.). Cheaper than hiring a pro, but still some expenses and inconvenience.
  • You can hire a professional to do it for you when you're ready & $ able.
Building materials containing less than 1% asbestos fall outside the federal regulations. For example, they can be disposed of in an ordinary landfill (unlike building materials containing higher % asbestos). Fortunately, you're dealing with a situation with much lower exposure risk at 2% than some cases.

Let me google that for you
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:07 AM   #9
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We had ours mudded over. They ended up looking good. I don't remember the cost but I'm pretty cost conscience so it mustn't have been too bad.
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:39 AM   #10
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If you smoke, don't do it yourself. The IH data puts a non-smoker at much lower but not quite negligible risk from asbestos exposure. Smokers are at a very high risk. If your ceiling is cracked you are getting some limited exposure now. Symptoms usually take decades to develop so if you're an old guy you're likely to die of something else anyway. Take my suggestions and comments at your own risk.

If you do it yourself, Ed the Gypsy's comment on a bag scrapper may be a good idea but I've never seen one. You should consider getting a good cartridge air mask with asbestos filtering cartridges. If there isn't asbestos filter cartridges available, the fine dust filtering cartridges would probably work. Goggles and a cheap plastic body suit should also be available where you get the mask and filter cartridges.

Wet the ceiling and do it all in one day if possible. Minimize furniture and floor exposure. Use plastic drop cloths and treat any material collected with care. Don't stir up any dust. Vacuum with the highest quality collection bag available but it's still unlikely that it will catch all the asbestos dust if you spill it on furniture or the floor so don't spill any. Clean up rooms while the waste material is still wet. Double bag all waste including the carefully folded drop cloths. Don't reuse the drop cloths between rooms.
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:28 AM   #11
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I removed true asbestos siding from a house ( all 4 sides) broke it up hauled to the dump in my personal SW. That was 37 years ago. Still kicking without any medical impact yet. Did not even use a mask of any kind. Did not know any better and many would say stupid today.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:41 AM   #12
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I am not a medical professional, pulmanologist, or industrial hygiene expert.

That said--it appears to me that the cases of lung cancer and mesothelioma related to asbestos exposure are largely associated with large exposures to the stuff. If you've seen photographs of shipyard workers with no respirators in rooms filled with thick asbestos-laden dust, you know what I'm talking about. I'm sure workers in other industries (asbestos mining, brake lining manufacturing, etc) are also at risk for these heavy exposures. It might be possible to reach these same levels of exposure with the popcorn ceiling material if it were taken from the ceiling, ground into a fine powder, then kept suspended in a plastic bag for direct inhalation.

I'm not belittling the OP's concern for the health of her children and pets, but I'm suggesting that the actual risk should be evaluated against other risks (and costs). A thousand dollars spent removing this ceiling material would probably produce more "bang-for-the-buck" if spent on brake inspections, more frequent checkups, purchase of more fresh vegetables, and helmets for the family to wear in the car.

The asbestos/mesothelioma lawsuit "industry" is amazing. There's no doubt that compensation is due to those individuals who have suffered harm as a result of their exposure to this stuff, but we've got plaintiffs who are now suing as a result of exposure to (hard, fully encapsulated) asbestos in their hair driers.
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Old 10-03-2013, 11:04 AM   #13
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Asbestos exposure can take a long time to have an effect - My uncle was a mechanic when a young man, prior to eventually owning the dealership and he did many, many brake jobs. Back then they blew the dust off with an air compressor which was high in asbestos. Meso killed him at 84 years old, no symptoms until 83. 84 is still a pretty good age to live to though.
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Old 10-03-2013, 12:00 PM   #14
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Please verify the following by having yours tested first.

Asbestos was banned from popcorn used for ceilings in 1979. existing inventories were allowed to be used. If your ceiling was done after the mid to late 80s then it might not have asbestos in it. The following link gives more info:

Popcorn ceiling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:03 PM   #15
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IRRC, asbestos content tested at <1% isn't regulated [at least in my state].

Getting the ceiling fully wet and adding more spray water as you go is the way it gets done. Use common sense about protective gear and room sealing, and get with the local air quality authority for particulars.

Rocklath, drywall joint compound, [before removal was mandated] vinyl tile, siding, pipe covering, duct joint tape, and likely other products have contained asbestos over the years. Any of us who remodeled a house built before ~1970 have probably encountered it in some form.

Wait till the public discovers that the must -have granite counters emit some radiation...
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:32 PM   #16
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Wait till the public discovers that the must -have granite counters emit some radiation...
Everything Emits Radiation

People can and do get carried away with all this "information." Driving a car is dangerous, better not do that either...
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Old 10-03-2013, 05:26 PM   #17
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The problem with removing it by wetting it down is that 95 % comes off easy but there is a glue line on the edges that is tough.

Also after you get it down you will need to put texture back and maybe tape the joints.

My son had the whole house done in walnut creek ca a couple years ago....remove, texture and paint...price was not so bad I think it was between 1 and 2 dollars a sq ft....ask a real estate office in your area for a contractor
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:17 PM   #18
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The problem with removing it by wetting it down is that 95 % comes off easy but there is a glue line on the edges that is tough.

Also after you get it down you will need to put texture back and maybe tape the joints.
Yeah, I can see that. I had mine tested (house is in a "bubble year" of the early 80s) and it tested at zero asbestos. When I was done scraping, I had to sand because I wanted true flat ceilings. If this had been an asbestos job, sanding would be a no-no.
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Old 10-04-2013, 07:15 AM   #19
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The problem with removing it by wetting it down is that 95 % comes off easy but there is a glue line on the edges that is tough.

Also after you get it down you will need to put texture back and maybe tape the joints......
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Yeah, I can see that. I had mine tested (house is in a "bubble year" of the early 80s) and it tested at zero asbestos. When I was done scraping, I had to sand because I wanted true flat ceilings. If this had been an asbestos job, sanding would be a no-no.
Not sure you need to put texture back. We just touched up as needed and painted with ceiling white flat paint. If you can't sand I think you could put on a skim coat.
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Old 10-04-2013, 07:29 AM   #20
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We bought our house four years ago and it had the popcorn throughout. It was built in 1991. Had some bad spots to be fixed and our contractor talked us into removing it, not even knowing it was asbestos based. Had it redone in the form of "Spanish lace" which we really like. I remember it cost us $3000 and we are really happy with the results.
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