If you love to tackle a big project, you may have bought a "fixer upper" in recent time, with plans to renovate and turn it into a proper home. As you walk around your new acquisition, you may be bemused by some of its older features and the techniques used by builders in the old days. You may be even more confused when you stare up at the ceiling and look at the "popcorn" effect used by decorators and home builders in the 1980s. You intend to place that project on the top of your list for renovation, but before you roll your sleeves up, why should you take a few steps back?
If you cut into that popcorn ceiling, you may find a certain product known as vermiculite. Up until the 1990s, some variations of this product were made using asbestos, especially if they were linked with the Zonolite brand. While your particular ceiling may have been made with more innocent products, such as Styrofoam or cardboard, you really do not know. As such, you should be very careful before you even touch the popcorn ceiling.
What to Do?
Still, you can't imagine living in a home with such a monstrosity above you, and in any case, part of the ceiling may have fallen into disrepair. You have to do something about it, so you first need to check exactly what you're dealing with.
Step-By-Step Testing Process
To do this, you should test a tiny piece of the ceiling very carefully and will need to take precautions before you begin.
- Make sure that the air conditioning system is switched off so that it cannot distribute any fibres should they be released.
- Get everybody else out of the home.
- Cover yourself with appropriate clothing and put on a mask and disposable gloves.
- When you are ready, spray a fine mist of water onto a small piece of material, and then carefully cut a sample out.
- Use a very sharp knife, but go in quite deeply so that you get a meaningful sample to work with.
- Put this piece into a "ziplock" bag or similar container, and seal it tightly.
- Attach a label on the outside to say exactly what it is, and record the date as well.
- Patch over the area with a piece of duct tape and make sure that you clean any residue carefully, using a damp paper towel.
- Dispose of any plastic sheeting, towels or gloves properly, to round up your work.
- Locate a local laboratory, certified to test for the presence of asbestos. They will be able to tell you whether your sample is "positive" or not, so you know what to do next.
Yes or No?
If you get a green light, then you can get to work. All you need to do is to soak the area with water and vinegar, and you can then scrape the popcorn ceiling. However, if asbestos is present, you will need to call in a licensed asbestos removal expert and stand well back to let them get on with their work.