How to remove popcorn ceiling with asbestos?

by Abby

I want to remove my popcorn ceiling, but it has asbestos in it. How do I go about this safely?

  57 answers
  • Paul Dempsey Paul Dempsey on Jul 20, 2018

    Popcorn from that time may contain asbestos. As the homeowners you can remove it yourself, but use a respirator and wear a tyvek suit and eye protection. Mask all walls and floors with disposable plastic sheething and tape it all together so you don't track the dust into other areas of the house. Wear footies too.

    Wet the popcorn and scrape it off letting it drop onto plastic tarps on the floor. Bag it and dispose of it.

    Remember that the drywall seams will not have been finish quality and you will likely have gauges also from the removal process to patch.

    Of course, you could always just hang new drywall right over the popcorn and leave it in place.

  • Lynn Sorrell Lynn Sorrell on Jan 29, 2019

    Half water & half Downy in spray bottle spray then scrape clean up well and keep it contained in room your working in; most popcorn ceilings have asbestos in it. Keep cleaning as you go along wear face mask gloves eye protection and don't let kids/pets in it.

  • Judy Capone Mantell Judy Capone Mantell on Apr 06, 2015
    If it has been painted, it will take more time to soak in the water. A steamer might work. We used hot water by connecting the hose to the hot water heater and using the mist setting on the hose sprayer. Don't forget protective masks as it has a small amount of asbestos in it. Most communities consider it hazardous waste, so check to see how/where to dispose of it. Good luck!
    • Yenniefair Yenniefair on Jan 30, 2022

      Thanks for making a point on "hazardous waste"! The instructions above by Paul Dempsey, were excellent. Asbestos is nothing to be casual about.

      I'm more of the drywall over it type. You are left with a smooth finish to paint

      and all the yuck of the other finish is all but forgotten. Definitely have professionals

      do this and you can't go wrong. The taping of the seams will be smooth, etc.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Mar 10, 2013
    I have been working on a condo where the ceiling was a very fine popcorn. This popcorn contains asbestos, so we are doing an encapsulation method of mitigation. Basically it is a Venetian plaster overlay.
  • Montnan Montnan on Sep 12, 2017

    Asbestos must be professionally removed, with the whole area sealed off, an airlock, proper disposal (you aren't supposed to just put it in your garbage nor take it to the dump), and is very expensive, due to all the regulations.. We had most of our house ceilings done during some remodeling. But for the remaining 3 bedrooms and office, we are going to cover over the popcorn, which will be relatively inexpensive. Get your popcorn tested! Our house was built in '76, when a lot of asbestos was still being used. We put a new type of flooring over the basement tiles rather than pay to have them removed and disposed of. Your house, built in the 80's, is much less likely to have asbestos, but better safe than sorry. Don't risk your health.

    • Mike Williamson Mike Williamson on Feb 12, 2022

      Montnan, your reply is the best one I've read.

      Asbestos removal is for the pros. Besides spreading the particulates, the surrounding rooms will be contaminated. That will also need thorough decontamination.

      As you pointed out, wrapping & disposing of the waste is as specialized as the removal process.

      Do us all a favor, Abby, hire a pro, or encapsulate the ceiling. If asbestos is present and it isn't disturbed, it's not a concern. By touching it or scraping it, particles will fly through the air and find their way outside. Now you're putting your neighbors in danger.

      This material is very cautious.

  • 2dogal 2dogal on Sep 12, 2017

    I've removed the popcorn from ceilings the way others wrote. It works well.

    The only caution you MUST be aware of is that many of the popcorn ceilings have asbestos in them. Wear a mask. Wetting the popcorn will keep most fibers from becoming airborn so you don't breathe them in, but please, wear a mask just in case.

  • Bren Bren on Sep 12, 2017

    If you suspect there is asbestos in the texture, take a sample in for testing. If asbestos is present, it must be removed professionally. The dust can get on your clothes, Your shoes, and all over everything in the room. It is strongly recommended you not do this yourself but hire a professional if asbestos is present.

  • Elaine Simmons Elaine Simmons on Sep 23, 2015
    When asbestos is dry and you try to scrape it, that is what causes the problems of inhaling in the chemicals. Keep it wet and you won't have a problem. Sometimes they used it to cover up dry wall mistakes so it might not be as smooth as you like underneath the popcorn.
    • Sheros Sheros on Feb 04, 2022

      Yes..our entire basement has asbestos tiles and the whole outside of our house has asbestos tiles. We were told by professionals that as long as we didn't mess with them there would be no health concerns. We have been here forever with no problems.

  • Sheri Gomez Sheri Gomez on Apr 28, 2017

    Get some of those painters coveralls with hoods and it will save you a lot of time getting cleaned up afterward because it can get pretty messy. We used the hot water in a sprayer then came back with a large squigee type tool and it comes off pretty easily. Like the comment above, remember asbestos is deadly so wear a mask or respirator if you have one. Keep it wet so it's easier to scrape off.

  • We have done this a few times in our house and still have more rooms to do. Wear a mask to protect you and consider if it has Asbestos, which would further determine what kind of mask you will need. Removing popcorn ceilings although a simple process it is a lot of work. You will have to spray the ceiling with water then scrape and remove the popcorn with a putty knife. Then you will need to sand it and mud any uneven areas. Then you will need to apply texture to the ceiling to match your current wall texture. When that is dry you can prime it and paint it.

    • Nancy Woelfer Nancy Woelfer on Nov 25, 2021

      We rolled two coats of paint over ours which made it appear a bit smoother or softer. Did scrape some off where we will be installing bead board for ceiling, and want it to lay smooth. Hot water in a mister soak it in and scrape with putty knife. Ours is not safe either built 1976.

  • Lmallarts Lmallarts on Sep 22, 2015
    Just an FYI: In early formulations it often contained white asbestos fibers. When asbestos was banned in ceiling treatments by the Clean Air Act of 1978 in the United States,[1] popcorn ceilings fell out of favor in much of the country. However, in order to minimize economic hardship to suppliers and installers, existing inventories of asbestos-bearing texturing materials were exempt from the ban, so it is possible to find asbestos in popcorn ceilings that were applied through the 1980s. After the ban, popcorn ceiling materials were created using a paper-based or Styrofoam product to create the texture, rather than asbestos. Textured ceilings remain common in residential construction in the Upper Midwest of the United States. Although the process is messy, popcorn texturing can be easily removed by spraying it with water to soften it, then scraping the material off with a large scraping trowel or putty knife.[2] As the texturing may have been applied before the ban on asbestos, its removal should only be done by a licensed professional or after testing of a sample by a qualified laboratory has ruled out asbestos content.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Feb 20, 2013
    Here is an article I wrote on this. Also depending on the size and nature of the popcorn there are other means to redo it. I'm currently working on a project where the very fine sized popcorn tested positive for asbestos. We are undergoing an "encapsulation" mitigation plan. This entails a skim coat of drywall mud, we are hand texturing it in a rustic venetain plaster type look.
  • Precious Pins Precious Pins on Sep 18, 2017

    this should not be done by ones self, it's highly toxic and require professionals to come in for removal. Once you see how seriously they take it (dressed in head to toe suits) you'll be glad you didn't attempt it yourself.

  • Cheryl A Cheryl A on Oct 31, 2021

    you have to call in someone who does that for a living and can suit up, wear masks, etc not something you should try yourself unless you know the codes and correct way to do this without causing harm to yourself and your home

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Nov 01, 2021

    Unless you have a way to isolate this from your home, HVAC, and a full hazmat protective gear I would not recommend you removing. Either hire a professional or cover over it.

  • Hire a professional is the only answer here as they have the tools and capabilities to keep everyone safe.

  • on Nov 01, 2021

    I wouldn’t mess with asbestos! It’s so dangerous. This is a job for professionals.

    Maybe cover the ceiling instead with an idea like one of these?

  • Phaedra Phaedra on Nov 01, 2021

    BTDT. I know from experience that the ceiling will most likely not be smooth and blemish free once the texture is removed. Most of the time the joints are not taped and mudded properly. Also there are bound to be gouges from the removal. And sometimes the texture was done to cover up things like leaks and other bad stuff.

    You dont want to be breathing that stuff. And if it gets in the air the furnace will circulate it all over your house. So save yourself a headache and encapsulate it with drywall. Drywall is not that expensive. A 4x8 sheet of 3/8" drywall at Home Depot costs about $8 a sheet.

  • William William on Nov 01, 2021

    Don't even think of messing with asbestos. They particles are so fine the will go everywhere. My crew and I used to remove popcorn ceilings before and after 1978. Any with asbestos needs to be removed by pros. There are regulations and standards that have to met from the time of preparation for removal, handling asbestos, to the proper disposal. It's a terrible health hazard. Drywall manufacturers started making 1/4" drywall that can be used to cover the popcorn ceiling. That is what my crew eventually used. Less work, less mess, and less cost to the homeowner. You can also use wood planks, ceiling tiles etc. to cover the ceiling.

    • Ellis Ellis on Jan 09, 2022

      I agree, it is not something anyone should be doing on their own. The proper removal and disposal, as well as sealing off the area, air vents, etc., is beyond the ability of most do-it-yourselfers. Asbestos is truly a terrible health hazard; my beloved grandfather, a carpenter, worked in construction where asbestos was widely used. He was too sick to work for many years, and eventually died of a lung disease caused by asbestos. His last 10 years were spent gasping for air, an agonizing death.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Nov 01, 2021

    Either have it professionally removed or cover it up.

  • Ellis Ellis on Nov 21, 2021

    I agree with everyone who cautions against dealing with asbestos popcorn ceilings. I say this having seen a loved one die as a result of breathing asbestos. Do not take chances with your health and that of your family!

  • Barbara Buchan Barbara Buchan on Nov 25, 2021

    Has anyone mentioned styrofoam tiles? Square foot tiles with a variety of patterns. some like old fashioned tin ceilings. Just put up with mastic, rather like tiling a floor.I read about this here on Home Talk, I think.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Nov 26, 2021

    Please be safe! Call in the EXPERTS for this job!

  • If there is asbestos, you need to hire a professional.

  • Deb K Deb K on Jan 09, 2022

    Hi Abby, you can remove it yourself providing you take all the precautions to ensure the asbestos does not get into you lungs or air system. I would advise you to plank or panel over the popcorn ceiling rather than removing yourself, or hire pro, they have all the equipment to do this and the proper way to dispose of the remains.

  • Janie Lewis Janie Lewis on Jan 16, 2022

    What was the last year absbetos was used, own home was built in 1977?

  • Erin Fieser Erin Fieser on Jan 25, 2022

    Hire an asbestos remediation expert. I was an Industrial Hygienist for a bit. We did mold remediation and asbestos abatement. One of the building we were working with had asbestos popcorn ceilings. Every time they disturbed the ceiling at all they had a huge setup. You really must, by law, follow proper steps for hazardous material handling. It only takes one unseen tiny asbestos fiber and twenty years later you will have mesothelioma. There is a specific protocol that must be adhered to when disturbing asbestos. They work is a full Hazmat suits and proper respirators not a N95 mask. Containment and air capture must run for several days after disturbing asbestos with pumps running zero for hours before it can be completed. I did not do abatement myself but I want to say the minimum for air pumps clearing the air was 72 hours of zero readings. Also there are very specific protocol to remove asbestos as well. I never went in during abatement in a Hazmat. I did the inspections not the physical labor. I do believe there is a wet method. Everything is wrapped in thick plastic with suspended plastic sheeting around the work area and then disposed of properly for hazardous materials. All parts of workers are covered, specific tools and air pumps are used. NEVER disturb asbestos. You will be responsible for your own death and the deaths of many other people as it can be transferred through clothing, hair, skin, improper removal, air. The fibers don't just disappear they must be removed.

  • Agnes Chrzanowska Agnes Chrzanowska on Jan 31, 2022

    Call proffesionals

  • Chloe Crabtree Chloe Crabtree on Feb 04, 2022

    You CANNOT remove any asbestos by yourself! You will put yourself at risk! Call professionals.

  • Deb K Deb K on Feb 06, 2022

    Hello, I agree with William, much too dangerous to do yourself!

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Feb 07, 2022

    Do Not take the risk! Call in the experts as they have the overalls and all the equipment, and will clean up after. It is really Really REALLY not worth the risk of your health and anyone around at the time that breaths in the particals.

  • Janice Janice on Feb 16, 2022

    Hello Erin, In your question to Hometalk you said that the popcorn has asbestos. You have received LOTS of good information and advice about how to deal with asbestos. Please also consider a few years into the future when you might want to sell your home. You'll need to fill out a form indicating as to whether you are aware of asbestos in your home. To be honest, you'd need to say yes and that it was removed. Better to be able to say that it was professionally safely removed would be a major plus for the quicker sale of your home. It might scare buyer's away, kowing that it was a diy removal of "some" of the asbestos in your home. Keep the receipt from the professional company who removes the asbestos popcorn.

    Lead-based paint was also a major consideration beginning in 1978 and in our state, the renter has to be informed that the building might have lead-based paint on certain areas such as window sills, trim, etc. Better to be safe!

  • Marty Ayers Marty Ayers on Mar 03, 2022

    Under normal circumstances this is a job that anyone can do... but... if the popcorn ceiling does contain asbestos... then you should have it professionally abated because you cannot risk the dust from going thru out your home.... NOTE: in many cities and states... codes allow for the asbestos to be "encapsulated" so you could go over it with 1/4 inch drywall or bead board, etc. Compare the costs for abatement and installing the drywall to make your decision

  • Noni Noni on Mar 06, 2022

    Yup to all those who advised professional abatement; my dad died with both lungs' bases full of asbestos. This man who never abused any substance spent decades with impaired breathing and the fear of developing lung cancer. He 'only' endured COPD and emphysema...all due to those sub-microscopic fibers in the air.

  • Sharon Sharon on Mar 14, 2022

    Read this then decide to call in the pro's....,sheeting%20during%20the%20removal%20process. Not worth dying for.

    Not to mention you have to put all the contaminants into barrels taped shut and clearly marked asbestos, and then take them to a special dump for contaminates that is gonna cost you., Can't be taken to city dump.

  • Definitely not a DIY job. I'd hire a pro for that one.

  • Kmdreamer Kmdreamer on Apr 06, 2022

    You realy need a professional if you touch it you will get it in the air in the whole house .the room needs to be sealed with plastic.and it needs to be scraped and vacuumed you have to wear protective mask ,clothing,no Joke causes cancer. My husband when he was alive did that for a living he would paint he had to take a course .if it gets in the air you will have to call department of health. Get a Pro not worth it.

  • Hire a professional. You do not want to be exposed to asbestos.

  • Agnes Chrzanowska Agnes Chrzanowska on Apr 30, 2022

    Either call a professional or cover with one that doesnt have it

  • Ken Erickson Ken Erickson on Jun 23, 2022

    You can get an asbestos or lead testing kit at the big box or hardware stores. if the popcorn contains either, let a pro do it. It is messy. We had a 1977-built house and there was asbestos in the sheetrock mud. Fortunately, it was being removed under an insurance claim and the hazmat team was part of the restoration.

  • Linda Ascencio Chavez Linda Ascencio Chavez on Jul 31, 2022

    If you don’t want to hire a pro, definitely 1/4” drywall over it!!! Don’t mess with asbestos. Cheaper DIY is not the cheapest in the long run. Your health is worth more.

  • Plantation Pandemonium Plantation Pandemonium on Sep 12, 2022

    NOT ALL POPCORN CEILING HAS ASBESTOS!! I am from California, where I'm pretty sure there was a government mandate requiring all homes be covered in popcorn between the years of 1972 and 1985. It is EVERYWHERE. It's NOT asbestos.

    It's worth having someone come out to test it, though.

  • Simple answer: You need to hire a professional.

  • Smj Smj on Nov 23, 2022

    We used a spray bottle and water with a scraper.itvwas thick of cig smoke too

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Jan 02, 2023

    Call in the Experts! It is not worth your health - OR - Live with what you have and don't disturb!


    with a water based cleaner

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Feb 09, 2023

    Surely you have the answer now!

  • Hire a professional. You don't want to be exposed to asbestos!

  • Chloe Crabtree Chloe Crabtree on Mar 14, 2023

    I would only hire a professional to remove this. Asbestos is much too dangerous to fool around with.

  • Goob Goob on Jun 01, 2023

    Scrap some and have it tested. You can send a sample to Western Analytical Laboratory, Inc. and they will test it for a fee and give you exact types.

    I did my upstairs and basement and got these results:

    Both acoustic ceiling spray samples contain 1 - 2% asbestos (type: Chrysotile).

    Chrysotile is not the blue/brown asbestos. Though still bad for you, but is not a leading cause of mesothelioma. Most tiles contain blue/brown from the 70's and earlier and those must be done with extreme caution as that is the bad stuff.

    For popcorn with Chrysotile you don't need a professional if your willing to take the necessary steps and put in the work. Professionals will charge you 20X especially with 'asbestos' present.

    Plastic the floor with 3-6mil and the walls with 2.5mil(overlap wall to the floor). Tape it all together. Get a garden sprayer mix with water and soup, spray and wait 5min in sections and scrape it into a bucket or onto the plastic. Tyvek suit and proper pink N95 respirator. (Use a 12" drywall tapping knife, don't fall for that popcorn scrapping gimick scrapper that holds a bag) Spray the floor periodically too keep the mess wet. Key here is to not have any dust or let the sludge on the ground dry out. After your done scrapping its a good idea to go back over the ceiling with a sponge and 'wash' more of the junk off.

    Clean up -- start in the far end of the room and roll up the mess into the plastic sheeting - working out of the room. Bag it all up in 40/60 gallon contracting bags and tape them up. Take it to the dump (remediation services do the exact same...) If it was asbestos tile that might be a different story and would take much more precaution there.

    Lastly I took an extra step of 'encapsulating' the bare drywall ceiling by applying a coat of Guardz over it. This will seal any dust left on the drywall and provide a good surface to 'refinish/remudding' the drywall later to a smooth surface.

    TLDR - Hire a professional if you're not prepared for the work - planning, prep, physically working over your head for long periods of time. Do it yourself if your not a fool and are physically able.


  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Aug 25, 2023

    Unless you have the hazmat gear, don't try it. You will need to have a full suit and a respirator. We wore the ones my husband has for painting vehicles. There should be zero exposure of your body. Then you have to get in touch with a hazmat waste company to remove the material. You may be better off hiring a company to remove it.

  • Claude R. Bourbonnais Claude R. Bourbonnais on Apr 12, 2024

    Call a specialist

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Apr 12, 2024

    Asbestos can cost you your health, go professional.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Apr 13, 2024

    Call in the professionals to do this for you - cheaper and better and quicker in the long run. Look after your health!