As part of our the recent remodel where we removed walls on the first floor of our house, we also sanded down the rest of the stipple ceiling on the first floor.
We had sanding the stipple ceiling in our dining room the year before, and as part of that project, decided to get the ceiling checked for asbestos.
Many popcorn and stipple ceilings built between 1950 and 1980 contain asbestos. Undisturbed, these ceiling textures are harmless. It’s only when the asbestos fibers become airborn that they represent a health hazard. We didn’t even think of this when we started sanding! (Incidentally, sanding is about the worst thing you can do to any hardened asbestos-containing product).
When Was Asbestos Eliminated From Building Materials?
Our Ryan Home was built in 1984. Since asbestos awareness hit its height in the 1970s, I thought for sure our house wouldn’t have any asbestos in it, and particularly not in a ceiling texture right above our heads! I scoured the web to confirm my opinion. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any definitive information on when asbestos-based interior texturing products were outlawed. Several sites noted a ban on manufacturing in 1978. But, subsequent to the ban, builders and contractors were allowed to use whatever inventory they had in stock. Some sites suggested that interior finishing products could have been asbestos-based as late as the early 80s. I asked myself: What constitutes the early 80s? Is 1985 the early 80s?
The bottom line here is that if your house was built between 1978-1985, there is always some chance there will be asbestos in the ceiling texture. You can look elsewhere on the net, but trust me, no one will tell you that a ceiling put up in this timeframe won’t have asbestos in it.
Finding a Testing Lab And Sending a Sample
I couldn’t take a chance. I searched the net for an asbestos testing lab that could do a quick test to put me at ease. My search led me to Western Analytical. I followed their instructions for obtaining samples (essentially a careful removal of a small amount of the texture from the ceiling), and sent the samples to them.
Western provided detailed instructions on how to take a sample of the ceiling without potentially releasing asbestos into the air, and recommended taking 3 samples from different areas of the ceiling since I was testing more than 1000 sq. ft. They charged $20.00 to analyze each sample, for a total cost of $60.00, a relatively cheap price for peace of mind.
Three days after I mailed away the samples, I received a confirmation e-mail from Mike @ Western that all samples were negative. Whew. I was impressed with the timeliness of their response, and relieved that we didn’t just expose our kids to a huge amount of asbestos in the air.
So I ask myself after the fact: did I really need to send three samples? Or was that just something Western asks for to make more money? I get their reasoning here: a builder could have used more than one batch of materials on any given ceiling. I question the liklihood of this occurring, but I personally wasn’t willing to take the risk.
What do you think? Did you have a good experience with an asbestos testing lab? Do you have a popcorn or stipple ceiling that is suspect?
Photo courtesy of Dan Taylor