Do All Popcorn Ceilings Have Asbestos? (How To Test)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray


When you are renovating a room, or you are looking to buy a home, the one part most people overlook is the ceiling. But it might be concerning if you have rooms with popcorn ceilings. It happened to me a few months back when I was helping a friend renovate her home. The dining room had popcorn ceilings, and she wondered if all popcorn ceilings had asbestos? 

In the 1970s, experts found the asbestos they used as a bonding agent in popcorn ceilings directly contributed to cancer. So in 1978, the U.S passed a law to eliminate asbestos in popcorn ceilings. So if you have a home with a popcorn ceiling that dates back to the 1970’s it might contain asbestos. 

After doing extensive research and speaking to an expert contractor, we had to get the ceiling tested for asbestos. My friend had to pay an expert in popcorn ceilings because her ceilings tested positive for asbestos, and she had to have them removed. So I thought I would share what we found in this post.

Do All Popcorn Ceilings Have Asbestos?


Not all popcorn ceilings have asbestos, but the possibility of asbestos in popcorn ceilings is real. To understand why some houses have asbestos in their popcorn ceilings and why others don’t, we need to look at the history of popcorn ceilings.

When Was Popcorn Ceilings First Used?

Popcorn ceilings first became popular to use between the 1920s and 1930s. They were so popular because it was a noise dampener, and they saved builders a lot of time and money. The finishing touches of a ceiling can be costly and take time to fix any dents or defects, so builders used popcorn ceilings to cover these problem areas; it was quick and easy.

Popcorn ceilings became more popular during the 1970s as interior designers and homeowners discovered the noise dampening effects that these ceilings had, and it was a way to give life to an otherwise flat ceiling. Hence, they used it as an added design element.

Why Was Asbestos Initially Used In Popcorn Ceilings?

Builders used asbestos because it is a natural fiber resistant to chemical degradation, heat resistant, solid and flexible, making it the perfect binding agent for popcorn ceiling mixtures and valuable building material.

It was a trendy building material that builders used to insulate pipes, make floor tiles, roofing materials, and shingles.

When Was The Dangers Of Popcorn Ceilings Discovered?

In the late 1970s, the U.S did studies that show asbestos is a carcinogen to mesothelioma, a type of cancer, and other health issues. As a result, the U.S passed a law in 1978 that banned using asbestos in these building materials. It is now called the National Emissions Standards For Hazardous Air Pollutants. 

Even though this ban was in place, many building materials still had asbestos. That was until the 1990s when the real effects asbestos had on the human body were found. Any home with popcorn ceilings installed after 1990 are usually asbestos-free.

Can I Live With Popcorn Ceilings In My Home?

While most homes that have popcorn ceilings installed after 1990 are most likely safe, it is best to let have the ceiling tested. Because popcorn ceilings become fragile over time, the slightest knock, scrape, or even light dusting can cause the texture in the popcorn ceilings to come loose.

With time the fragility of these ceilings causes them to flake and peel away no matter how careful you are not to disturb them. If there is asbestos in your popcorn ceilings and you inhale these particles, it could cause health issues. Prolonged exposure to the asbestos in popcorn ceilings can lead to severe health problems, including:

  • Lung Cancer
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Asbestosis
  • Mesothelioma
  • Other respiratory issues

Here Is How To Test If You Have Asbestos In Your Popcorn Ceiling

Because of the health risks asbestos pose, it is best to get your popcorn ceiling tested to ensure your home is safe and asbestos-free. There are two ways to do this; you can hire a professional to test your ceiling for the presence of asbestos, or you can buy an at-home test kit that you can buy online. 

The safest option is to use a professional inspector because they give you more information on how to remove the ceiling should it contain asbestos. Removing popcorn ceilings containing asbestos is not a job you should do unless you have experience, all the right equipment, and knowledge. 

The one advantage of choosing to test for asbestos yourself is that the kits include the lab fees, which lowers the costs a lot; professional inspectors are more expensive as the lab fees are added with the testing and labor fees.

If you do want to do the DIY test, you can follow these easy instructions, and in no time, you will know if your house is safe or if you need a ceiling renovation in the near future:

Step 1

The first step is to buy the asbestos testing kit. 

Step 2 

Carefully follow the instructions on the test kit to ensure you get the best possible sample, and remember to use safety goggles, dust maks with a respirator, and gloves when collecting the sample to avoid any direct contact between your skin and the popcorn ceiling.

Step 3

Seal the sample properly and send it to one of the approved labs to have it tested. Lastly, you need to wait for the test results to come back, so you will know the next steps you need to take. For example, if it comes back positive and you don’t want to remove the popcorning, you could cover it up with drywall, ceiling tiles, etc., to lessen the amount of asbestos you and your family are exposed to.


When you have popcorn ceilings in your home, it’s best to have them tested. Popcorn ceilings are fragile, and if the popcorning was installed before 1990, the chances are high that it could contain asbestos. So it’s always better to make sure before exposing yourself and your family to a potential health hazard.

Popcorn ceilings can still be used to create a textured look to ceilings and hide any flaws, so as a design element, it still works. However, these days, the chemicals and ingredients used in popcorn ceilings are much safer and less fragile than the original ones.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.