Ceilings, Safety

Where To Get Popcorn Ceiling Tested For Asbestos

popcorn ceiling removal lg

You may need to find out where to get popcorn ceiling tested for asbestos if you own an older home. The material is likely to be present in homes built before the mid-1980s. This makes popcorn ceiling asbestos tests difficult to find. 

Usually, you can find professionals testing asbestos for popcorn ceilings in your local area if you search online. You can check for ceiling expert services in your area if you search online. You can also find people who do popcorn testing through word-of-mouth, family members, or neighbors.

For this reason, you should worry about having asbestos in your popcorn ceilings. It’s dangerous for your health, especially if you inhale its fibers. This article discusses why you need to worry about asbestos, where, and how to get the popcorn ceiling tested for asbestos.

Why Is Asbestos Dangerous To Your Health?

Asbestos is a mineral fiber widely used in building construction before it was determined that the material could lead to serious health issues. Russia, Italy, and Canada led in the commercial production and use of the toxic mineral during that period before being overtaken by the U.S.

People widely used it in automotive, construction, chemical, and manufacturing industries due to its fire-retardant properties. During that time, asbestos was used to manufacture cement, thermal insulation materials for wiring, gaskets and packing products, roofing and flooring products, etc.

The Adverse Effects Of Asbestos On Human Health

Asbestos is dangerous to human health for many reasons. Asbestosis, pleural mesothelioma, and lung carcinoma are the more common adverse effects of asbestos exposure. 

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that occurs when you inhale asbestos fibers. The condition can range from mild to severe. And sometimes, the symptoms don’t show until anywhere from 10 to 40 years after asbestos exposure.

Lung carcinoma is another name for lung cancer. The disease is more common among smokers exposed to asbestos fibers.

Pleural mesothelioma is probably the most adverse effect of asbestos exposure. And it shows up 30 to 50 years later. This form of cancer not only affects lung tissue but can also affect the tissues lining the stomach, heart, and other vital organs. And when you have this disease, you will have difficulty in breathing.

Other symptoms of asbestos exposure and possible illnesses stemming from it include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Dry or raspy stubborn cough
  • Swollen face, legs, fingertips, and arms
  • Lower back pain or discomfort in the lower rib
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Lumps under the chest area skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Unfortunately, most people tend to discover that their illness is asbestos-related when it’s too late. And many times, the diseases they suffer from cause an increased risk of dying.

What Does Asbestos Do To The Body?

Asbestos in construction materials such as popcorn ceilings could be very harmful to the body. When asbestos is inhaled, it may damage the lungs and cause a persistent cough that produces blood-tinged mucus. Asbestos fibers can also get stuck on hands and clothes, posing an exposure risk if they are then touched by other body parts that are not covered. 

In 1924, the British Medical Journal published an article regarding the dangerous effects of asbestos dust. And in 1930, Dr. E.R.A. Merewether, a British Barrister, and Physician published a report that showed a link between asbestos and asbestosis. This information eventually led to regulations within the U.K., which helped control asbestos dust emissions.

Within the USA, it would take longer for people to address concerns about asbestos. But it’s safe to assume that the industrial manufacturing giants were aware of its adverse effects on the health of their employees by then. 

That’s because, in 1918, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics did release a report that showed that workers who dealt with this toxic mineral were more likely to suffer from early deaths. Moreover, by then, America was the world’s largest consumer of asbestos products.

In 1933, an insulation worker was officially diagnosed with the first case of asbestosis. During the same period, Johns-Manville Corp, the country’s biggest asbestos manufacturer, was forced to settle 11 claims made by workers claiming disability due to contact with asbestos.

From 1934 onwards, there were multiple research reports showing links between asbestos and asbestosis and lung cancer. These reports sounded the alarm and tried to educate the public concerning the adverse effects of asbestos. Despite the reports, manufacturers continued with production unabated. Some took part in covering up such reports to conceal the dangers of their asbestos products.

Asbestos Restrictions Due To Its Adverse Effects on Human Health

The U.S. government created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This government body is credited with helping to deal with asbestos. In 1970, it declared all types of asbestos fibers as toxic. The body then proceeded to set asbestos tolerance limits. Their recommendations were passed as the Clean Air Act by the Congress of the day.

In 1976, the law empowered the EPA to regulate manufacturers and users of asbestos-containing products. These included those that dealt with packaging, handling, storage, and disposal of such products. 

There have been other regulations, including one made in 1989, which helped ban many products containing asbestos. And collectively, these EPA restrictions have impacted the construction industry and reduced the use of asbestos within popcorn ceilings.

Where Can I Get My Popcorn Ceiling Tested For Asbestos?

The general rule of thumb is that if you suspect asbestos materials within your home, don’t disturb them.

You can get your ceiling tested at local labs, government offices, and certified asbestos testing companies. Depending on where you live, one service may be more readily available than the other. Local labs that offer tests for asbestos in popcorn ceilings are usually found at building permits’ departments or municipal buildings.

But popcorn ceilings are not always pleasant to look at. Also, some of its parts may be damaged and thus, expose you and your loved ones to asbestos even if you haven’t touched it.

Most popcorn ceilings contain 1% to 10% asbestos. The higher the percentage of asbestos present, the more dangerous it is to human health. But even an asbestos presence of one percent is not safe either. However, the crumbliness of the popcorn ceiling should worry you more. The more crumbly it is, the more likely it is to come off and release the asbestos fibers into your environment. 

You can get popcorn ceilings tested for asbestos in two main ways:

  • Buying a testing kit and sending it to your local asbestos testing lab
  • Hiring an asbestos-testing professional to test the ceiling at home

Get Ceiling Samples And Send Them To Your Local Asbestos Testing Lab

For any home built before the mid-1980s, which has a popcorn ceiling, it may be a good idea for you to assume it has some asbestos within it. Here’s how to test your ceiling:

  • Do your research on all your local regulations concerning asbestos. In some areas of the U.S., gathering samples on your own may not be allowed. In other areas, you can collect samples after fulfilling certain conditions. Be sure to contact the local arm of the U.S. EPA body in your area to find out what you can or cannot do. You can even inquire about the asbestos-testing labs in your locale, which are certified.
  • Contact a local certified lab in your vicinity and ask them to give you advice on the sampling requirements. How do they want the sample to be collected? How big of a sample do they want? Will it cost you more to test samples, or are the costs part of the associated kit’s pricing?
  • Once you learn about the sampling requirements, it’s time to buy an asbestos-testing kit. A complete kit usually contains everything you need to gather asbestos samples. You can shop for them online from sites such as Amazon.  Test kit prices tend to range from $25 to $60.
  • The kit will likely include shipping materials, sample bags, and sample submission forms. If some safety gear does not come with the kit, ensure you buy it separately. Other things you need include a disposable face mask, gloves, goggles, coveralls, and wipes. 
  • Remove all the furniture within the space in which you want to test the popcorn ceiling for asbestos. If removal is not possible, purchase plastic drop cloths and cover your furniture after pushing it to one side. Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system or fan should be off. And your doors and windows should be closed. That ensures the asbestos fibers do not move around into other spaces within your home.
  • Place some plastic drop cloths on the floor, duct tape them to the surface, and spray them with water to reduce asbestos dust from floating around.
  • Put on your safety gear, and following the instructions you have obtained from your local asbestos-testing lab, gather the popcorn ceiling samples. You can use a utility knife and pliers to scrape out ceiling pieces and put them into the bags.
  • Seal the bags and label them with your details. Be sure to follow the instructions the lab gave you.
  • Use your water sprayer to spray the area of the ceiling you disturbed. If it is large, use drywall paste to seal the hole from which you took the sample, then paint over that area. Dispose of the brush and paint after you are done.
  • Dispose of the plastic sheets on the floor, change your gloves, vacuum the room, remove and dispose of your safety gear into a trash bag, and then seal everything.
  • Mail or hand-deliver your ceiling samples for asbestos testing and wait.

Most asbestos tests will take a few days. If the certified lab tests return positive for asbestos, find asbestos abatement professionals and let them deal with the problem. 

Hire An Asbestos-Testing Professional

Home inspectors are usually in a position to help you accurately determine the age of your home. Also, they can tell you whether it contains materials that are likely to consist of asbestos. If they inform you of this, then you can ask them to recommend an asbestos-abatement professional. Alternatively, you can find one on your own.

You can also opt to hire an inspector that specializes in asbestos inspections. Such an inspector may be affiliated with an asbestos-testing lab. So, ensure you work with a certified lab. Others are affiliated with asbestos abatement companies, which means they can help in the removal process also. Some are independent. 

To determine whether they contain asbestos, asbestos inspectors will investigate your home’s structures, including your popcorn ceilings, plumbing, flooring, etc. They will then send your samples to their affiliated lab for testing.

Typically, it costs an average of $490 to test for asbestos. But some inspections cost as much as $2,000. It all depends on the size of the area contaminated with asbestos or the complex nature of the project.

Asbestos inspectors can also test your air for asbestos. It is a great idea to do this kind of test because your popcorn ceiling may already be damaged and releasing fibers into the air. Air testing will cost you about $500 on average.

Licensed asbestos inspectors are also qualified to conduct pre-demolition surveys. These surveys help estimate the cost of refurbishing or demolishing a home correctly so it won’t release asbestos fibers into the environment. During this process, the asbestos inspector will identify all areas that pose a danger, including hidden threats. These areas may include lift shafts, ducts, and even electrical systems.

Once a professional has sent your samples for testing, all you need to do is wait for the reports on the findings. Then you can decide what to do.

While it may be cheaper to buy an asbestos testing kit, it is better to hire an inspector. Below are some reasons why.

They Know Which Samples To Collect

An asbestos inspector is more likely to gather suitable samples. That’s because they have more experience determining which areas of your ceilings and home are likely to contain asbestos.

They Can Gather Multiple Samples At No Extra Cost

DIY kits only accommodate limited samples for testing. On the other hand, asbestos inspectors usually offer quotes that accommodate multiple samples. So, for example, it could be that one room in your home contains no asbestos in its popcorn ceilings, but other rooms don’t. 

Hiring a professional asbestos inspector enables you to test all the popcorn ceilings in your home without having to pay more. However, if you were to use a kit, you would need to buy many kits. And in the end, the costs would add up significantly. 

They Have More Safety Experience

There is a right and wrong way to safeguard yourself when collecting samples for asbestos testing. Because you lack the expertise, you may forget one or more steps when wearing protective gear or readying a room for testing. 

However, asbestos inspectors won’t make blunders. They have a lot of experience with wearing protective clothing and preparing a home for asbestos testing. Therefore, they won’t compromise their safety or yours. As a result, you are safer hiring professionals because they won’t make mistakes that could disturb the asbestos popcorn ceiling or leave its dust floating around to endanger your life.

Final Thoughts

Asbestos is best left undisturbed where possible. If its fibers are not loose, they don’t pose a danger to your health. But if you hate your popcorn ceilings and want to get rid of them, you need to ensure they don’t have asbestos. And if they do, then you need to have them removed or covered up safely.

However, you cannot look at popcorn ceilings and determine by sight if they have asbestos. You need to test samples to determine if that is the case. And you can’t test them at home. So, you need to know where to get popcorn ceiling tested for asbestos. However, you can buy and use a test kit and send it to a certified lab or hire an asbestos inspector to do it for you.

Consider hiring inspection professionals affiliated with an asbestos abatement company. You can work with them to remediate the asbestos in your ceiling and the rest of your home.


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.