Water damage ceiling repairs are not uncommon, but they may present problems beyond the expectations of most homeowners. If you are faced with the need to repair water damage to a ceiling, be aware that you could be encountering a major project!
In the 1950’s 1960’s housing contractors discovered that they could save themselves large amounts of money by spraying what is commonly called popcorn texture onto ceilings rather than pay skilled workmen to provide a smooth finish on the ceilings of living areas. For some reason, people came to view this abomination (in my opinion)as acceptable, and even desirable.
During the 1970’s, as the dangers presented by asbestos became evident, many varieties of spray on ceiling finishes came under scrutiny and were discovered to contain dangerous levels of asbestos. Although the use of asbestos was discontinued in the manufacture of spray on ceiling textures, there remain many thousands of popcorn textured ceilings in homes throughout the country.
Spray on textured ceilings containing asbestos generally pose no threat to health, provided that they remain solid and intact. However, in a case in which there is ceiling water damage, the risk is considerable.
The primary method to remove asbestos material involves giving it a thorough soaking with water, which is precisely the situation in the case of ceiling water damage. This loosens the bond between the asbestos fibers themselves and the underlying material. If you experience water damage to a textured ceiling and you aren’t positive it was manufactured and installed after 1980, you are facing a risk of asbestos exposure, as the loosened fibers can become dislodged and infest the air you breathe.
If you face such a situation, the first thing to do is to collect samples of the materials from the affected area. This should be done as if you were certain that the samples are positive for asbestos! There are any number of testing facilities on the internet and the Yellow Pages which will test the samples, generally for about $30, with a discount for multiple samples.
These testing labs provide very detailed instructions for the collection of samples, which must be followed to the letter if you wish to prevent danger to yourself and your family.
If your samples test positive for asbestos, you can hire a contractor certified to perform asbestos removal (hiring any contractor not so certified to remove asbestos is illegal), or you can do it yourself, assuming all the attendant risks.
Before undertaking such a task, one would do well to thoroughly investigate the enormity of the undertaking. It’s not for the faint of heart, but there are detailed instructions to be found on the internet.
For my part, if I were considering buying a property containing textured ceilings, I would insist upon testing and professional certification that none of the materials contain asbestos before proceeding. The risks and cost associated with asbestos containing materials are exorbitant, and besides, many people today find that popcorn ceilings are not the most attractive of options available..