My family has lived in this Pittsburgh house since the 1960s. We have popcorn ceilings and since we're looking at several remodeling projects, I want to know if there's an asbestos risk. Can we remodel the ceilings safely, or do we need to hire a contractor?
Alvin J. ~ Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Alvin, you are correct to suspect that your home's "pop-corn" ceilings may contain asbestos, because many of these types of ceilings which were installed in the 1950's and 1960's do contain asbestos, which is well known carcinogen that can cause serious health problems. Of course, your suspicions can only be confirmed by a properly conducted asbestos test and a professional analysis of the samples gathered from your home. While there are DIY home testing kits, I suggest that you hire an asbestos mitigation specialist who works in the Pittsburgh area to do the testing for you. I think it is wise to hire a professional to conduct the test, because it is important that suspect samples are gathered correctly and safely, which requires wearing an approved breathing respirator and other protective clothing.
If your popcorn ceilings are found to contain no asbestos, then you can continue with your remodeling plans, knowing that you are working in a safe environment. However, if the test determines that the samples taken from your ceiling do contain asbestos, then you should consult with a mitigation specialist about how best to remove the asbestos from your home. Different areas of the country require different levels of asbestos mitigation and have different laws on where asbestos can be properly disposed. The important thing to remember is that when asbestos is disturbed, it is a very dangerous substance that can have damaging, if not fatal, consequences for those that are exposed to its harmful fibers.