Also known as ‘stucco’ or ‘textured’ ceilings, popcorn ceilings are fairly common in older New Zealand homes. Depending on your taste they can be a pleasant feature or an unsightly distraction. Yet their potential problems are not just aesthetic; for a number of years, asbestos was used as a component in creating the effect.


That said, not all popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, so you’ll need to take a sample to find a conclusive answer. There’s no need to panic - even if your ceiling does contain asbestos, it may not be causing any immediate danger. But if you decide that you do want to be rid of it, however, you’ll want to get professionals like the team at Chemcare to take care of your asbestos popcorn-ceiling removal.


Here’s what you need to know about popcorn ceilings:


What are popcorn ceilings?


Popcorn ceilings were a popular way of finishing a ceiling in the mid-twentieth century and would be installed for a number of reasons. For one, they acted as sound baffles, stopping some of the reverberation around the room and making the space sound less boxy. Another was to remove the need for painting and to cover up uneven surfaces. It can be difficult to get a ceiling looking perfectly flat and white, while with a textured surface, you don’t have to even try.

A commonly added component to these kinds of ceilings was asbestos. Before it was understood to be dangerous to human health, it was added to help make the surface textured, as well as making the ceiling less flammable.


How do I know if my popcorn ceiling contains asbestos?

As previously mentioned, not all popcorn ceilings have asbestos in them. To find out if yours does, you’ll need to take a sample of the material assumed to contain asbestos.

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service has guidelines for how to do so safely, but of course it is more practical and safer to leave it to asbestos testing professionals. Getting a professional to take the sample eliminates the risk of causing asbestos contamination or damage to the area. Aside from this, trained samplers know of areas that contain asbestos that perhaps you didn’t think of.

Read more → 7 questions to ask before getting an asbestos test or removal

Is it dangerous if my popcorn ceiling contains asbestos?

Not necessarily. Asbestos is only really dangerous when the tiny fibres are loose, circulate, and become part of the air you’re breathing. If the surface of your popcorn ceiling isn’t chipping or deteriorated, the risk from the asbestos within might not be significant. When your sample returns from the lab - and if it’s positive - the Chemcare team can help you determine the best course of action moving forward.


For a ceiling that contains asbestos but is still in good condition, removal isn’t always the best option. Taking down the textured surface increases the likelihood that asbestos fibres will spread into the air and throughout your home. Encapsulation, on the other hand, can seal the surface of the ceiling and minimise any chance that asbestos will be unable to escape. It’s important to not attempt this yourself - professionals with experience performing the encapsulation procedure can recommend the correct sealant to use, and apply it using the proper method.


For a damaged or deteriorating popcorn ceiling, however, the most likely solution will be removal, and in a timely manner. When the risk of airborne fibres is high, encapsulation is unable to adequately stop the surface from shedding fibres. If the textured effect is something you don’t like, this is the better option too, as you’ll have the chance to refurbish your new sealing with the method of your choosing.


Under New Zealand law, most asbestos removal in popcorn ceilings must be performed by a licensed professional. Because the asbestos is in a friable form - that is, easy reduced to powder - it isn’t safe for someone without the proper training to remove. The risk of fibres spreading and contaminating the rest of your home is simply too high.


The team at Chemcare are licensed to remove all kinds asbestos, so you can have peace of mind if you choose our experts to do the job. We have a great deal of experience removing textured ceilings, and can do so in a cost- and time-efficient manner. If you have a popcorn ceiling, and would like more information on testing it for asbestos, get in contact with the team at Chemcare today.

Related Articles