We moved into our house about 2 years ago, and at the time it had 2 bedrooms with asbestos popcorn ceiling texture (that we've since had removed). The rest of the house has either a (poorly-done) knockdown or orange peel texture that was done sometime before we bought it.

I'm trying to figure out how the previous owners dealt with the popcorn ceiling that was very likely throughout the house (besides the 2 bedrooms we know about). If they did it right, they would've scraped it, repaired the drywall and re-applied texture, then painted. There's one area where the ceiling meets the stone fireplace, that makes me wonder if they could've instead just covered it rather than removed it.

I am asking for help determining what prior work may have been done in my house based on the context I have and some visual clues.

I am not asking for determination of asbestos content based on photos or discussion of the varying degrees of danger that asbestos exposure represents.

top left of fireplace

This photo is from the top left of the fireplace. There's a little bit of texture that looks like popcorn texture to me, to the right in the photo. To the left, where the ceiling meets the wall, it looks like there's some drywall tape?

top left of fireplace, wider view

This is basically the same shot, but from a little further away for context. What's the likelihood they covered or contained the old asbestos popcorn texture, rather than properly scraped? The knock-down is pretty thick and not very well done. Seems possible that they sprayed on a bunch to contain the old texture, but I don't really know how common that is.

To clarify in response to some of the comments - the popcorn ceiling we had removed was tested independently and contained asbestos. I'm trying to determine the likelihood that the previous owners removed vs covered the popcorn ceiling in the rest of the house.

  • 2
    Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. That does look like drywall tape, but I don't know what it would signify. In terms of probabilities, I don't think we could comment; you need to find a hidden place, take a sample, and get it tested. Jan 23, 2019 at 12:50
  • Did you have the popcorn ceiling texture tested by an independent lab before you had it removed? If it was tested by the same people that removed it, they have a huge incentive to exaggerate the asbestos content. Jan 23, 2019 at 13:26
  • @DanielGriscom I was hoping people here would be able to comment on the likelihood that, for example, additional drywall had been placed over the old ceiling, or some other means of encapsulation (vs removal) had been performed. The drywall tape sticking out seems like it could indicate drywall added after initial construction, but I'm not familiar enough with that process to make a guess.
    – nkanderson
    Jan 23, 2019 at 15:11
  • Can you give a little detail as to why you are concerned about this? If they covered up asbestos, it should pose no immediate danger to you. Are you planning on disturbing it?
    – JimmyJames
    Jan 23, 2019 at 15:52
  • 2
    "If they did it right, they would've scraped it". If there's a chance there's asbestos, scraping is a close second to sanding as the one the worst ways to deal with it. Any process that breaks it apart and send it airborne is to be avoided. I guess removing the ceiling in the largest size (unbroken) sections possible (least cuts) with vacuums and water sprays during any cuts would be the way to do it.
    – JimmyJames
    Jan 23, 2019 at 16:17

3 Answers 3


In my experience it is very rare to overcoat popcorn ceiling texture. The reason is because the texture has very little body (even less than popcorn). If you have ever painted popcorn texture the stuff comes off with the lightest pressure so on many jobs we got it damp and just scraped it off. I am not saying an overcoat could not be done but think there would be much more of a mess than I see. Look closely at the texture it looks more like a sponge or rolled mud application. For me personally I would poke the ridges if they are solid like dry mud I would not be concerned. If they are spongy like a spray paint over the top of a sponge then it is encapsulated and is safe. If you want to work on the ceiling the little bumps at the edge would be the closest thing I see that may be residue that was not totally removed, have those bumps tested prior to working on the ceiling.

  • Thanks @ed-beal, this is helpful! Have you very often seen new drywall hung to essentially just cover up the old ceiling, popcorn-texture and all? The messiness of having the drywall tape showing like that had me wondering if that was an addition after initial construction.
    – nkanderson
    Jan 23, 2019 at 19:22
  • 1
    I have not seen it done to cover popcorn, I can take down a large room of popcorn in a very short time, it takes longer to tarp, and clean up. Popcorn would be a very spongy backer if I was going to do an overlay because of an ugly job I would still remove the popcorn once it is wet it compacts down to less than a trash can worth for a very large room, in my area I can double bag and take it to the land fill (not allowed to drop off at transfer station or have a trash service take it). So my cost is a tyvek suit & respirator, 2 heavy trash bags and a roll of plastic sheeting.
    – Ed Beal
    Jan 23, 2019 at 19:56
  • @EdBeal I suspect this is a US/UK difference. This is exactly what 70's/80's textured ceilings looked like in the UK - including those that contain asbestos. Being hard rather than spongey was the norm - the spongey "popcorn" type texture was pretty rare, much more common was pointy, hard bumps, swirls and other abominations. Covering with a new layer of plasterboard was a pretty common thing to do instead of removal (though that isn't what happened here, otherwise it would be smooth).
    – Niall
    Jan 23, 2019 at 21:01
  • Here we put it up with a texture gun, it had the consistency of oatmeal, if the owners wanted sparkles I had a glitter gun that shot the silver flake with a stream of air, I probably did several hundred and 3x to 4x that many removals since. The material was always spongy. When we just went with orange peal or a wet mud sprayed from a texture gun the surface and base is hard, you could have had asbestos in your mud but the main concern here in the US is the stuff that is soft and spongy, to me that photo looked like a DIY sponge or roller applied mud texture as I mentioned.
    – Ed Beal
    Jan 23, 2019 at 23:10
  • Hah, yeah, our house was built in 1975 (in the U.S.) and the asbestos-laden, popcorn-style texture totally had the glitter in it. Glad to be rid of it.
    – nkanderson
    Jan 24, 2019 at 0:11

The only way to tell if a ceiling contains asbestos is to take a sample and have it tested. There is lots of "popcorn texture" (Artex in the UK) which doesn't have asbestos and some that does.

  • On top of that, not all asbestos is created equal. There are various forms of the mineral with varying degrees of danger.
    – JimmyJames
    Jan 23, 2019 at 16:09

Welcome to DIY!

If you're looking for someone to guess what someone may or may not have done in a house that contains popcorn ceilings which may or may not have asbestos because not all popcorn does, you won't get answer you're looking for because people don't like to play the guessing game with asbestos. The answer will be pure speculation. Some people will fix it properly and others will just cover it.

My answer is to get it tested because it's the only answer that will give you peace of mind. You don't want to be 20 years down the road and say "some person on the internet said not to worry about it and now X has happened". There should be multiple places around you that can do the testing and not just the previous contractor you used. There are even kits you can buy at the big box store that you can mail in.

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