Dear Barry,

My home was built in 1978 and has “popcorn” ceiling texture in most rooms, some of which is peeling and cracking. I began to scrape off the material, but then became concerned about asbestos. Is there an inexpensive way to determine if this material contains asbestos? I’ve read that spraying with water makes it safe to remove it yourself. Do you know if this is true? Also, I am concerned about past and current asbestos exposure to my family. – Lauri

Dear Lauri,

1978 is the year that asbestos began to be phased out of use in newly textured ceilings. At that time, the further manufacture of asbestos-containing ceiling texture had been banned, but the installation of existing supplies of the material remained legal. Therefore, most textured ceilings installed in that year did contain asbestos.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

The cracking and peeling in your ceiling may have released some fibers into the air, but most likely not in large amounts. Scraping, on the other hand, could produce a significant release of asbestos fibers. To determine whether your home currently contains airborne asbestos, a qualified asbestos inspector would need to take air samples for testing by an EPA-approved laboratory.

Removal of asbestos ceiling texture by means of dry scraping is particularly hazardous. Applying water prior to scraping makes the removal process safer, if (and only if) the ceilings have never been painted. Unpainted acoustic texture readily absorbs water and assumes the consistency of mud, thereby preventing the release of airborne fibers. Once the ceiling texture has been painted, however, the material is rendered impervious to water penetration. Thereafter, safe removal requires the services of a licensed asbestos abatement contractor.

To determine whether the acoustic texture in your home contains asbestos, place a small sample (about the size of a nickel) in a plastic zip lock bag and mail to an EPA-certified laboratory. The cost for such testing is nominal (in the neighborhood of $20), but three separate samples are generally recommended. For the name of a certified lab in your state, check your Yellow Pages or contact the EPA.

Dear Barry,

Our home has a tile roof. When we purchased the property, our home inspector recommended installing bird stops, but we’re unable to locate a supplier. How can we obtain bird stops? – Jerry

Dear Jerry,

Bird stops are not essential to the watershed function of a tile roof, but they are advisable and are typically installed where the tile design at the roof edges provides openings large enough to invite feathered occupants. In some areas, they are also known as fire stops and are used to reduce fire exposure to the flammable materials beneath the tiles. To obtain bird stops, contact a nearby roofing contractor who installs tile roofing.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


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