Asbestos: Get It Tested. Asbestos Textured Coatings (AKA Artex/ Popcorn Ceilings).
Updated: Jul 8
Get It Tested
Nobody can tell you just by looking if the textured coating on your ceilings and walls contains asbestos. Its just not possible without some very expensive hardware.
The cheapest and most effective way is to send samples off to a UKAS accredited (ISO 17025) laboratory. But before you rush off and order an online test kit the first thing you need to do is note down every area or surface that has an applied textured coating. This could be on ceilings and walls and our advice is to test each surface regardless of the pattern. For this it is useful to have a floor plan of the property. You don't need to go crazy here, a good sketch will work just fine.
Our sketch plan shows the rooms within a two bedroom bungalow. We have labelled each room and noted which ones have a textured coating and where it is located. Its a good idea to measure the approximate area in each room now while you are in the swing of things in case you need to pass this information to an asbestos removal company later.
No we have our plan drawn and we know where the potential asbestos textured coatings are located we can count the required number of samples. As a general rule one sample would cover up to 20.00sqm of a surface such as a Living Room Ceiling. If you have areas bigger than this then we recommend more than one sample is taken, and always from multi points on the same surface.
Walls can be tricky as the likelihood of damage and subsequent repair is much higher so again we recommend testing from multiple locations on the same surface and avoiding any obvious repair patches. It is advisable to treat each difference in pattern or texture separately as they may not have been applied at the same time.
All of the above is important for two reasons. Firstly if you make a mistake and miss the asbestos containing textured coating you are putting yourself and any contractors at risk of asbestos exposure. Secondly because there were both asbestos and non asbestos variants of textured coating available at the same time it is possible that not all surfaces have asbestos present resulting in a much cheaper Asbestos Removal Cost.
Based on our simple sketch plan we will need 7 samples to cover all the surfaces we have identified. At this point you can either order a home testing kit and follow the provided instructions or instruct an experienced Asbestos Company to complete the tests on your behalf.
Understanding The Results
You collected your samples and sent them off and the results are finally back. But what does it all mean. If your lucky all the samples taken will be non asbestos. This will be reported as NAD (No Asbestos Detected) or NADIS (No Asbestos Detected In Sample) on your Bulk Sample Analysis Certificate. You can now safely remove the textured coatings or pass the results onto your contractor.
My results say Chrysotile, what does this mean? Chrysotile is more commonly know as White Asbestos and is used as a binder in many products before finally being banned in 1999. Unfortunately this means your textured coatings do contain asbestos fibres and should not be disturbed. What you do next depends on how much you hate the stuff or if it needs to be removed for other reasons such as refurbishment or because its damaged.
Removal vs concealment is still a highly debated topic but the one thing that should never be done is over skimming. In almost all situations this will involve wire brushing or abrading the surface or at least taking of the high spots (knocking the nibs off).
If cost is the main issue then we recommend over boarding by a competent contractor using approved and controlled methods. Done correctly this is a safe option but you will need to remember that the asbestos is still there, so don't decide to fit spotlights a year later. Trust us, we have seen it all.
Large scale removal of Asbestos Textured Coatings will always be notifiable to the Health and Safety Executive and is 100% not a DIY task. Seek professional advice before having any work on Asbestos Materials completed or undertaking work yourself.
Ryan Powell is an experienced Asbestos Building Inspector.
You can contact him directly to discuss any asbestos concerns
on 01384 505758