All popcorn blankets have asbestos
Question: Should You Buy a House With Popcorn Ceilings?
As one reader asks, "After looking at hundreds of houses that we can't afford, my husband and I have finally found our dream home. The house is within our budget and it's in a good school. District, which is very important for me. Everything about this house is perfect except for one thing. It has popcorn ceilings. My husband says popcorn ceilings aren't a big deal, but what would he know? He smokes like a chimney and shows no signs of that he stops ... He says a popcorn blanket won't kill him any faster. What do you think? We have twin girls who are not yet three. Should we buy a house with a popcorn blanket? "
Answer: I hate to say that, but when it comes to popcorn blankets, your husband is partly right. Whether you call them popcorn ceilings, acoustic ceilings, or textured ceilings, it's the same type of cheesy home ceiling. The bumpy stuff stuck to the ceiling. If you're really unlucky, some popcorn blankets have those 1970's sparkles.
It reminds me of my neighbor who couldn't sell her house. She asked me what she could do to improve her sales opportunities. I suggested she remove the popcorn top. That was something she hadn't thought of. After the workers scraped away the mess, they revealed a beautiful, perfectly intact plaster ceiling. My neighbor liked it so much that she decided not to sell. The project encouraged them to tackle other home improvement projects.
Many homes that were built in the late 1930s through the 1990s have popcorn ceilings or some type of texture that has been applied to the ceilings.
That was before the government found out that asbestos was bad. According to the EPA, the use of asbestos in textured top paint was banned in 1977. Asbestos fibers inhaled in large quantities can cause lung disease, lung scars, and lung cancer. However, not all popcorn blankets contain asbestos.
In addition, if left undisturbed or contained, asbestos isn't dangerous, but many people still don't want it at home.
You may be wondering why would someone spray with a blanket? I suspect it's partly because they didn't want to finish the ceiling or couldn't hide imperfections. Sometimes a popcorn blanket will hide poor drywall and mudwork. That's because plastering a ceiling is an art. Not every building contractor or homeowner becomes an artist as a weekend warrior.
You could get off the popcorn ceiling and paint it in, or you could remove it. It's not that expensive to remove, so I wouldn't buy a home just because it has popcorn ceilings; you can fix this problem relatively easily.
Testing a popcorn blanket for asbestos
The problem is, you can't tell if a ceiling contains asbestos unless you test it. You can't see it with the naked eye. Identification requires a microscope and a trained eye. This means that you will have to get a sample of the ceiling and send that sample to a laboratory that specializes in identifying asbestos. It could cost you $ 50 or so to get the sample tested.
- Wear a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) mask for protection.
- Don plastic gloves to avoid contact with the sample.
- Fill a spray bottle with one teaspoon of soap and 16 ounces of water.
- Spray a small area to dampen the ceiling.
- Using a sharp razor blade, cut out a sample and seal it in the container.
- Send your sample to the lab and wait about a week for the results.
Your husband doesn't care if the product is dangerous. However, inhaling almost any type of building material is not exactly healthy. If you both choose to bypass the test but still remove the popcorn ceiling, it would be wise to hire a professional to do the job. Some people prefer to do the job themselves. If so, you should take precautions.
Basic steps for removing a popcorn blanket
- To be on the safe side, the professionals recommend wearing a breathing mask. Do not expose any body parts to the texture in the ceiling. Wear a long shirt and long pants. Cover your feet, hands, and head. Because no matter how careful you are, the stuff will fall on you. That's because you are under falling material.
- If you have pets, move them to another room. Pets and home improvements don't always go hand in hand. Especially cats. They are curious creatures and they end up in stuff and haunt it around the house. You don't want to bathe your cat. No.
- Cover the flooring. If you use a plastic wrap you could slip and lose your foot. I recommend these large brown wrapping paper rolls. Throw paper towels and cover them with brown paper. That way, if the mess falls on the paper, you can roll it up to dispose of.
- You can use a garden hose set on a mist option to dampen the ceiling. Work in small areas at the same time.
- Use a push bar with a blade to scrape the ceiling. This is easier to do from the ground than walking up and down a ladder to scratch it with your hand. Do not stand directly under falling plaster.
- After the ceiling dries, fill any furrows or holes with grout and sand. Multiple coats of grout may be required to achieve a smooth finish. If you are dissatisfied with your ceiling finishing skills, this is where you can always hire a drywall expert to finish off the final layer of mud.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE # 00697006, is a Realtor Associate with Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.
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