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How to identify a popcorn ceiling

Updated July 20, 2017

There have been many design trends for residential construction, but few are more prevalent than the ubiquitous popcorn ceiling. This ceiling finish was used as a cheap alternative to paint in many homes starting in the 1950s. It was very popular until the ban on asbestos materials in the late 1970s. Asbestos was used in many of these ceilings, and it is a good idea to identify and remove older popcorn ceilings, as the asbestos is a dangerous hazard for lung health.

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  1. Check the ceiling for the presence of a texture. All popcorn ceilings have a distinctive texture, so if your ceiling is smooth, similar to the adjacent walls, it is not a popcorn ceiling.

  2. Feel the ceiling texture. A popcorn ceiling is a rough texture with a very course grain. The ceiling will appear sandy or gritty in texture, but usually covered in a white paint.

  3. Look for patterns in the ceiling. Many ceilings have a repeating pattern that is created using various tools such as brooms, brushes and rags pulled across drywall compound. This is not popcorn ceiling, as popcorn ceilings have a random texture. If your ceiling has texture that is random in nature and consists of small, round bits of material, it is a popcorn ceiling.

  4. Warning

    Older popcorn ceilings often contained asbestos. If you own an older home, you should have your ceiling tested for asbestos-containing materials. If asbestos is present, a licensed professional should remove the material, as serious health issues can result from inhaling the dust and debris of asbestos materials.

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About the Author

Brandon Maxwell

Brandon Maxwell began writing professionally in 2007 by creating how-to articles and tutorials for production software within the design industry. In addition to the training guides and technical resources he has written, Brandon also has in-depth knowledge of home improvement and repair; landscaping and outdoor maintenance; and various subjects involving outdoor recreation. He graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Virginia Tech in 2007.

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