Is It Safe To Cover Popcorn Ceiling?

Do you have a popcorn ceiling in your home? Are you wondering whether it is safe to cover the popcorn ceiling? If this is the case, then we got you covered.

Popcorn ceilings are primarily used in homes because they are used to hide home imperfections. Unfortunately, the roof design is with a small percentage of asbestos. You can even come across some ceilings that have 1 to 10 percent asbestos.

To determine whether your ceiling contains asbestos, you can either hire an asbestos professional to do it for you or buy a test kit to do it yourself. Hiring a professional is the safer but expensive option.

Any percentage of asbestos, whether small, makes your popcorn ceiling to be very dangerous. Yet, the only way that the roof won’t endanger your health is if you cover or remove it. Covering the ceiling is safer.

But, to cover or remove asbestos ceilings, you need to take some precautions. Apart from asbestos releasing toxic dust, the roof itself is very brittle, meaning it can get damaged. That is why we recommend that you involve a professional from start to end.

In this article, we’ll look at the safety of covering a popcorn ceiling and how to do it.

Safe Options Of Covering Popcorn Ceilings

There is no denying the fact that popcorn ceilings bring displeasure to many homeowners. For instance, they are hard to clean and reduce the lighting in your room, as we have seen above. They also have asbestos which is harmful to your health.

Since removing the ceilings is expensive, covering them remains the only affordable and non-problematic option. Let’s look at some of the available options you can use together with their cons and pros.

What Can I Use To Cover My Popcorn Ceiling?

It involves installing a layer of ¼ inch, ⅜ inch, or ½ inch drywall over your popcorn ceiling.
There is screwing the drywall into the joists above the older top. You can cover your popcorn ceiling by adding a drywall layer that offers you a chance of insulating directly.

ProsCons
It can be textured if you desireIt is difficult for beginners since it requires complex finishing skills to create a smooth, flat surface.
Creates a smooth surface that is perfect for paintingYou must install using a drywall lift.
The process is cheap since drywall materials and tools are available everywhere at a low costIt’s time-consuming and labor-intensive. It also involves taping, and you must finish the drywall joints with an least of three coats of drywall compound.
It is more neutral compared to other options. It helps, especially if you’re fixing your home for resale.It increases the weight of the ceiling.

Covering Popcorn Ceilings Using Prepared Ceiling Planks

Covering your popcorn ceiling with prepared ceiling planks comes with fiberboards that are much ideal to use on your roofs. You should install the planks on metal channels fixed over the old ceiling and screwed on ceiling joints. One popular product is Amstrong’s Easy up grid system.

ProsCons
It is very uniform for the planks to fit well togetherLimited plank styles
The solution is less messy and faster compared to new drywall installationHigh cost
Involves prefinished planks, thus eliminating the need for painting and stainingThe planks look like laminate wood flooring
Leveling of channels during installation is easy to compensate for humps and dips in the ceilingTo access the materials, you might be forced to make a special ordering

Covering Your Popcorn Ceiling Using Tongue-and-Groove Paneling

Using tongue-and-groove paneling to cover your popcorn ceiling is best because it leaves a visually appealing effect and is much cheaper than manufactured systems. Here you use beadboard paneling or tongue-and-groove wood planks that you can buy from any reputable supplier.

If your ceiling is flat, you can install the paneling on the old drywall. If the roof is wavy, begin with furring strips of 1×2 lumber, then level the strips using shims to develop a flat nailing surface.

ProsCons
Less messy and faster than drywall installationIt’s expensive compared to drywall
It’s cheaper than manufactured systemsAttention to detail and carpentry skill is key to the installation
It offers a natural wood look that you’ll never achieve from other materialsRooms with low ceilings can be dark and busy
Provides the most excellent variety of styles

Choosing Insulation Board

Choosing an insulating board over your popcorn ceiling is a good choice because it assists in preventing airflow between the roof or unheated attic space. And it helps improve the thermal performance of your ceiling! The most efficient material to use here is rigid foam insulation which is available in different types.

If you want to achieve a high insulating value, you should go for polyisocyanurate rigid panels. Polyiso insulation boards are available in thicknesses of ½ to 2 inches. Thicker boards have a higher insulating value. For instance, a board with a thickness of ½ has a value of 3, while a 2-inch one has an insulating value of 13.

Covering Popcorn Ceiling Instructions

Here are instructions on how you can cover your popcorn ceiling like a pro.

  1. Mark the ceiling joists: Locate each ceiling joist using a stud finder. Mark the joist’s center at the opposite side of the room.
  2. Plan the layout of the panel: Here, you should measure the width of your room. Divide the width of the insulation panel by 48 inches to find the number of entire panel rows that you’ll have.
  3. Install your first insulation panel: Using an insulation knife, trim your first panel to width. Put the board in place using a few drywall screws that you drive into the ceiling joists utilizing a drill driver.
  4. Install the remaining panels: Repeat the process above to install the remaining panels. Proceed to push the boards snugly and tightly together against the walls. If you notice spaces, fill them using low-expanding spray foam insulation.
  5. Tape the panel seams: You can use panel insulation tape to cover joints between panels.
  6. Snap chalk lines: Use snap chalk lines across your panels to mark the ceiling joists’ center.

What Percent Of Popcorn Ceilings Have Asbestos?

Whether a popcorn ceiling has 1 or 20 percent asbestos, the advice and recommendations remain the same.
The ceiling won’t impact your health as long as you keep it encapsulated and completely undisturbed. Although both removal and covering are safe options, removing is the safest.

Even though a high percentage of asbestos is worse, popcorn ceilings pose a danger even if it has a tiny asbestos percentage.

For this reason, the Clean Air Act banned spray-on asbestos products in 1978. They posed a significant health risk to professionals who applied them.

Yet, the asbestos popcorn ceiling was famous in the 1980s. It’s the crumbliness of the roofs that places them in a different class. For instance, it’s easier to walk on vinyl asbestos floor tiles without experiencing any risks. All you have to do is avoid scraping, smashing, or sanding them.

Brushing your asbestos popcorn ceiling with your hands will release toxic dust. It, thus, makes it dangerous, like old asbestos pipe insulation.

Tips For Maintaining Popcorn Ceilings That Have Asbestos

Popcorn ceilings are sometimes tricky to maintain. I have here ways you can keep your popcorn ceilings with asbestos on top of your home!

  • Never put your shelves very high since items could scrape the ceiling by accident.
  • Avoid disturbing your ceiling with tape, screws, or nails.
  • Avoid scraping your ceiling when moving long objects or furniture.
  • Ensure that your kids don’t throw pillows or toys at the ceiling.
  • If the ceiling begins peeling down due to age or dampness, you should remove or encapsulate it.
  • Never put your child’s bunk bed in a room that has an asbestos popcorn ceiling if the bed touches the top.

Precautions For Covering Or Removing Popcorn Ceiling Safely

There are several safety precautions that you should follow if you want to remove or cover a popcorn ceiling. Check them out below:

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  • Remove furniture from your room and cover everything else with plastic.
  • Ensure that the windows and doors are secure with plastic flaps.
  • When you are doing the work, keep children and pets away from the area.
  • Always turn off your home’s ventilation, conditioning unit, and heating. This can help prevent them from spreading contamination in your home.
  • Place asbestos-containing waste in labeled and sealed plastic bags.
  • Remember to put on a respirator that has a high-efficiency air filter. You should also set up an air purifier.
  • Always put on a disposable coverall to cover your hair and skin.
  • Keep your popcorn ceiling material wet. It assists in restricting dust from getting into the air.
  • Locate a trash pickup or landfill that accepts asbestos and inform them in advance.

Why You Need To Cover Or Remove Popcorn Ceiling

Since we have seen that popcorn ceilings are dangerous to your health, you need to remove or cover them. Apart from the issue of health, there are other reasons why you should cover popcorn ceilings. These reasons include:

To Drop Threat Of Asbestos

It’s a fact that, in most cases, popcorn ceilings use asbestos. The practice was put to an end in 1978 with the creation of the Clean Air Act. If you have a roof installed before this period, there is a high likelihood of asbestos.

Even though asbestos is a safety hazard, there is no need to remove or cover the ceiling due to that reason alone. According to the EPA, if your roof is intact, you aren’t in danger from the substance, and you should leave the ceiling as it is.

You should cover or remove the popcorn ceiling if:

  • The popcorn ceiling’s interior is exposed
  • The ceiling is damaged

You should thus proceed to cover the ceiling before you move into the house. If you do this, everyone in the house will be safe.

To Install Better Lighting

One disadvantage of popcorn ceilings is that they interfere with the lighting in your room. Due to having bumpy surfaces, light bounces off them and creates harsh shadows in the room. It is, thus, a nuisance, especially if you intend to create a relaxed atmosphere in your home.

If you don’t have enough money to remove the ceiling, you can mitigate the challenge using the right lighting type. Instead of using flush and recessed wall lights, you should go for floor and table lamps. They create a softer glow that makes your room more relaxing.

To End Discoloration

One challenge of popcorn ceilings is that they discolor with time. It dings the appearance of your room, thus losing its attractiveness. If you’re tired of having such a ceiling, you can cover it with something better.

You can even freshen things up using a coat of paint. It is a basic fix that will transform your room for the better.

To Prevent It From Catching Dust

Keeping a house clean is a challenge by itself. Even if you clean three times per day, you always feel like you can never keep up. Things become even worse if you have a popcorn ceiling in your room since it attracts dirt and dust.

You will so be forced to dust and polish your furniture as well as your room. It, thus, becomes time-consuming and annoying. For this reason, you can either have it covered or removed.

Yet, remember that removing your ceiling will lead to more dust and dirt around your home. You should only go for this option if you’re ok with it.

To Prevent The Ceiling From Disintegrating

It’s common knowledge to understand that your popcorn ceiling won’t last forever, even if you wanted it. At one point or another, the roof will start disintegrating. You’ll notice white specks falling from the ceiling onto your furniture or floor.

If you don’t remove the specks immediately, they can damage the surface. If you notice this happening, it’s time to cover your popcorn ceiling.

To Fix Or Control Damage To Your Ceiling

Accidents are prevalent on the ceilings and come in the form of:

  • Something scraping the ceiling
  • Holes getting punched on the popcorn ceiling
  • A mark, spot, or dent on your roof.

If you want to make life easier for yourself, it would be best to cover or remove the whole ceiling and drop the popcorn effect. If any damage happens in the future, you can patch up your roof quickly.

To Transform Your Room and Give It A Modern Look

When you are decorating your room, you should remember that everything about it will determine its final appeal the ceiling included. In most cases, you might do everything possible to transform your room, but the popcorn ceiling ends up affecting it.

Unless you remove or cover the popcorn ceiling, it’s always going to cramp your style and look outdated.

Conclusion

There is no hiding the fact that popcorn ceilings are very dangerous, thanks to the availability of asbestos. However, choosing to cover your popcorn ceiling is a safer and easier option than removing the popcorn. As we have above, there are several options that you can select from for covering your popcorn ceiling.

If you decide to cover the ceiling by yourself, you should follow the instructions strictly and take the required precautions. However, where skills are needed, it would help if you involved a professional.

HomeInspectionInsider.com is owned and operated by Hubert Miles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. HomeInspectionInsider.com also participates in affiliate programs with other affiliate sites. Hubert Miles is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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