Do Popcorn Ceilings Contain Lead?

Scraping Back a Popcorn Ceiling

Popcorn ceilings are old and outdated and nowadays considered ugly. If you’ve been thinking about removing your popcorn ceiling to improve your home, you’ve probably heard about the dangers of asbestos. But you might also wonder if popcorn ceilings contain lead.

The truth is that depending on how old your house is, your popcorn ceiling could contain both asbestos and lead. This is because most popcorn ceilings made before 1978 were covered in a single coating of lead-based paint.

Is Popcorn Ceiling Toxic?

Popcorn ceiling is only toxic if it contains lead or asbestos. Popcorn ceiling from between the 1950s to the 1980s was generally made with between 1% to 10% asbestos. Any percentage of asbestos is dangerous. Even if there’s just a tiny bit inside your popcorn ceiling, it’s still toxic. Although, a huge percent of asbestos is definitely more toxic than a smaller percent.

But here’s the deal. The toxic asbestos in your ceiling can’t actually hurt you so long as the texture is undisturbed. Also, the asbestos or even lead can’t harm you if it’s been properly covered by ceiling tiles or extra drywall.

If you’re worried about asbestos, the best thing you can do is purchase a testing kit from your local hardware store. A quick test will prove whether you have asbestos in your ceiling or not. If your ceiling has asbestos, chances are pretty good that it also has lead. These two building materials were used together before both of them were banned.

What is so Bad About a Popcorn Ceiling?

Popcorn ceiling itself isn’t bad. Popcorn ceiling was once an inexpensive way to cover a ceiling while adding a layer of sound-dampening material to a room. Popcorn ceiling really helps mitigate noises heard throughout the house.

The bad parts about popcorn ceiling include toxicity from asbestos and lead and an ugly and outdated appearance. Popcorn ceiling can also make a room appear darker because of its texture. You don’t get as much natural light and rooms tend to appear more shadowy.

Perhaps the worst part about popcorn ceiling is just how dirty it gets. Popcorn ceiling is a magnet for dust, dirt, and spider webs. You should definitely clean any painted ceiling once in a while, but popcorn ceiling requires regular maintenance unless you want spiders roosting above your head and dust particles trapped inside the textured grooves.  

Should I Remove My Popcorn Ceiling?

Removing popcorn ceiling is always a good idea. Nobody wants their house to look outdated. If you’re trying to sell your home, getting rid of an old and possibly toxic texture on your ceiling is recommended.

Removing popcorn ceiling can brighten up the room, it can make the room appear more spacious than it really is, and it removes any chance of inhaling toxic asbestos dust or lead particles. You can also cover a popcorn ceiling using decorative ceiling tiles, wooden planks, or even a new coat of fresh paint.

Is Removing Popcorn Ceiling Dangerous?

Removing a popcorn ceiling can be very dangerous. Scraping off the popcorn texture will result in dust and flakes falling from your ceiling and getting caught in the air. If your popcorn ceiling contains both asbestos ad lead, you’ll have toxic particles in the air that can easily be sucked into your lungs and cause serious health problems.

To remove a popcorn ceiling safely, lead dust containment must be practiced. You also need to make sure the asbestos is contained. For this reason alone, removing popcorn ceiling is very dangerous. It’s recommended that you never remove popcorn ceiling yourself. You should always hire a person who is certified in dealing with these types of contaminants and who can remove the popcorn ceiling safely.

If you do decide to remove popcorn ceiling yourself, keep in mind that it will require special equipment such as respirators and eye protection. It can also take a long time, and if you don’t quite know what you’re doing, particles of lead and asbestos can become trapped elsewhere in your home.

Do all Popcorn Ceilings Have Asbestos?  

Not all popcorn ceilings have asbestos. However, many of them do. Up until the late 1970s, white asbestos fiber was used in the material for creating popcorn ceiling. Asbestos was also used in many other construction materials.

But even if your house was built in the 1980s or early 1990s, there is a chance that some old material was used in the construction. Just because asbestos was banned doesn’t mean it stopped being used overnight.

That being said, if you have a newer home built with popcorn ceilings, you’re probably going to be safe from asbestos. You can still install a popcorn ceiling in a home with a totally safe mixture today. It’s just that nobody really wants popcorn ceilings anymore, so there isn’t a huge demand.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, your popcorn ceiling could be infected with asbestos and lead. Both these things are highly toxic and should be avoided at all costs. Removing your popcorn ceiling is the best way to rid yourself of dangerous lead and asbestos, but be sure that you always hire a professional contractor. Never risk the health of yourself or your family.


There’s Lead in Your Popcorn Ceilings (

Asbestos Popcorn Ceilings: What Is Considered Safe?

  • Gregory A Seely
  • Gregory A Seely

    Greg is a self taught home renovator and writer for RenoViso. His shares his experiences with Southern Living, Traditional Home and other publications.

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