Should I be concerned about an asbestos ceiling?

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What types of ceilings have asbestos?

We’re all familiar with Artex and textured coating ceilings that were prevalent in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, many of which contained asbestos, but is an asbestos ceiling dangerous?

Perhaps you have planned to do some decorating or renovations and you’re concerned about the old asbestos ceiling.

Will the ceiling be ok to paint over?  Can i drill holes into it?  Can it be sanded?  These are just a few of the queries you may have.

Let us first give you some background information on what an asbestos ceiling is.

Spray on textured coatings such as Artex were very popular in construction from the 30’s right through to the early 80’s.

Another common name for an Artex textured ceiling is a ‘popcorn ceiling’.

Artex was popular because it was an easy way for builders to hide imperfections due to it’s texture.

The most common ingredient within Artex coatings at that time was asbestos.

Asbestos was used in many common building materials such as Artex because it was strong, flexible, it was fire resistant, a great insulator and was also a cheaper alternative to wood.

Is asbestos in the ceiling dangerous?

Well, the asbestos is only harmful when in a powder form, for example if the textured ceiling is being sanded.

Providing it is left alone and undamaged it will pose no risk to health.

So you won’t be able to drill into a ceiling that contains asbestos or hammer nails into it, but you can paint over it or encapsulate it.

Older textured coatings that contain asbestos pose a particularly serious health hazard.

If a person inhales microscopic asbestos fibers then it can cause diseases like asbestosis or mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the lung.

There is also a disease called peritoneal mesothelioma which is a cancer of the lining of the abdomen.

Symptoms of an asbestos related illness can take anywhere between 10 and 50 years to develop.

Asbestos fibers become trapped in the respiratory system and can stay there without any complications for a very long time.

Repeated asbestos exposure over time increases the chances of developing an asbestos related illness.

People most at risk from asbestos are those who have worked in jobs such as construction, ship building, textile factories, teaching in old schools, boiler maintenance, mechanical plants and car manufacture.

But people who aren’t exposed to asbestos through their jobs can also develop an asbestos disease through secondary exposure.

There have been many cases where wives, children and other family members have come into contact with asbestos contaminated clothing that a tradesman has worn home.

Many years later, after repeated exposure to the asbestos fibers, they have gone on to develop an asbestos illness.

artex asbestos ceiling
artex asbestos ceiling

How do I know if I have asbestos in my ceiling?

Up until the mid 1980s, Artex coating was made with white asbestos (chrysotile) which was used to strengthen it.

Therefore, it is likely that if your home has an artex ceiling that was installed before that time period, it will most probably contain asbestos.

Asbestos was banned in the UK in the year 1999, so any artex coatings applied after then may not contain asbestos.

However, it’s difficult to tell just by looking, so the only way to know for sure is to retrieve a sample of the ceiling and have it tested for asbestos.

But you would only need to do this if you are planning on doing any kind of renovation or DIY work that may disturb or damage the ceiling.

It’s possible to take asbestos samples yourself if you follow the correct safety guidelines, but we would always strongly recommend you ask an Asbestos Surveyor to do this for you.

Any asbestos samples taken are sent off to a laboratory for testing and you will usually receive the results back within a few days.

Can I remove an asbestos ceiling myself?

We would strongly advise that you seek some professional advice to identify the presence of asbestos if you think you have an asbestos ceiling and you plan on doing any sort of renovations that could disturb it.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 stipulates that only a trained and competent individual can remove the textured coating, and they must wear effective dust proof protective clothing and masks, as well as sealing off the area to be worked on.

Most of the time though, this type of removal work falls within exemptions to the licensing requirements which means it does not usually require a licensed contractor.

But in high risk situations, the UK regulations state a licensed contractor must be used.

Once the asbestos ceiling has been removed, it needs to be disposed of correctly as hazardous waste.

Your local waste management centre run by the council will provide this facility.

Although, providing the textured coating is left alone and undamaged, it will be safe to leave the asbestos ceiling in place and make sure it is given an annual inspection.

If you’re not planning on doing any renovations to your property, then there is also the option of leaving the textured coating in place and painting it or skimming over it with ordinary multi finish plaster, or a special coating called Artex Ceiling Finish.

The ceiling in question should then be labelled in order to warn future occupants or builders of what lurks beneath.

Artex should never be drilled into, scraped or dry sanded as this risks releasing asbestos fibers into the air.


Did you find this article interesting?  Then check out our other interesting articles below.

Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their properties, carrying out an asbestos survey in their building so as not to put employees at risk.

So make sure you contact our Armco office to arrange asbestos testing or an asbestos survey, before it’s too late! 

Whether you need an asbestos management survey, or a refurbishment/ demolition survey, contact us on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting https://www.armco.org.uk/

Finally, for all your asbestos training needs call 0161 761 4424 or visit https://www.armcoasbestostraining.co.uk/to book an asbestos awareness training course.

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Published Nov 28, 2018
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