Asbestos Ceiling Tiles: How to Identify & Cover Them

Asbestos ceiling tiles aren’t common today, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no asbestos-containing tiles in your house. When buying a house with asbestos ceiling tiles, testing, and knowing when these tiles are dangerous is also so important. First, you need to know what asbestos ceiling tiles look like.

So in this article, we are going to discuss asbestos ceiling tiles, their differences from cellulose tiles, how to test them, and what to do if you have asbestos ceiling tiles.

What Are Asbestos Ceiling Tiles?

Asbestos is a mineral substance that occurs in nature. It is later broken into soft fibers for creating products including building materials (like asbestos ceiling tiles).

Because it was marketed as a material that resists heat and is a good insulator, the demand for this material peaked In the middle of the 20th century. Therefore, asbestos fibers were mixed into many products in multiple industries.

But from the 1970s, there were reports stating that inhaling the small fibers of asbestos ceiling tiles can be dangerous for your health. If these odorless and microscopic fibers enter your body, they never dissolve.

Studies have shown that people who breathe high levels of asbestos fibers have an increased risk of Asbestosis, respiratory diseases, Mesothelioma, or even lung cancer in some cases.

When Did Ceiling Tiles Stop Using Asbestos?

Around the time that reports came out – the early 1970s – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started banning certain uses of asbestos. This was also coined with the decline of asbestos use in general. But in 1991, an appeals court revoked a 1989 EPA rule that banned most uses of this material. Since then, many uses of asbestos have remained technically legal.

Although there are rules about the healthy use of asbestos in building materials, still, there are many houses from past decades with asbestos ceiling tiles.

Asbestos Ceiling Tile

What Do Asbestos Ceiling Tiles Look Like?

Instead of telling you what asbestos ceiling tiles look like, we are going to tell you how to find asbestos ceiling tiles in house or basement using more effective tips. Because simple inspecting visually can throw you off sometimes. Let’s see how you can find asbestos ceiling tiles in house or basement:

Ceiling Material

Some ceiling tiles are made of fiberglass and you can recognize them by visual inspection. Keep in mind that it is not possible to identify all forms of asbestos by simply looking at them. However, you can recognize some materials that are not asbestos for sure, like homogeneous fiberglass.

Packaging Data

To identify asbestos ceiling tiles, you can also check the stamps or statements on the tiles, their packaging, or the installation records. Using these, you can often find out if you have asbestos ceiling tiles in house or not.

Building Age

Compare the age of your house with the last date of using these kinds of tiles in your country. If the building age is newer, then you can be sure that there are no asbestos ceiling tiles pictures in basement and in your house.

Ceiling Age

In addition to the age of your building, you can use the age of the ceiling itself (dates or records of renovations) to see if they are in fact asbestos ceiling tiles or not. Buying a house with asbestos ceiling tiles in the U.S. is only possible if it was built before the mid-1980s.

Manufacturer Statements

Some manufacturers let their customer know that their products never contained asbestos, or state the dates after which producing asbestos ceiling tiles stopped. Remember that a ceiling installed shortly after its production date could still contain asbestos, in case new old stock asbestos ceiling tiles were used.

Asbestos Ceiling Tiles Test Kit

In addition to the mentioned tips, there is a better way of asbestos ceiling tiles testing. If you’re not familiar with the ceiling and don’t want to make a dusty and hazardous mess, there are more convenient options too, like using an asbestos ceiling tiles test kit.

An asbestos ceiling tiles test kit usually has a two-step process. First, you need suspected asbestos from your home, and then mail it to a laboratory. After a few days, the asbestos ceiling tiles test kit result is sent back to you.

Sometimes the asbestos ceiling tiles test kit includes both the kit fee and the laboratory fee. In other cases, you pay twice for the kit and the lab results separately. When buying an asbestos ceiling tiles test kit, find out about the payment method. It also helps you know whether or not a pre-paid mailer is included.

Tip: When collecting solid, friable, or dust samples, ensure your safety by wearing disposable coveralls, gloves, safety glasses, boot covers, and respirators with HEPA filters. Also, keep loose asbestos fibers out of the air by liberally spraying down 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with cool water.

What to Do If You Have Asbestos Ceiling Tiles?

These tiles are dangerous if only they are damaged, broken, and releasing dust or fibers so it is possible that you can inhale or ingest them. Many of the asbestos ceiling tiles fibers will trap in the nose and the throat mucous nose and throat. However, some may pass into the lungs or the digestive system, and that’s when they can cause health problems.

The tiles that contain asbestos are most dangerous when they are friable, meaning that they easily crumble by hand, and release their fibers into the air. Among asbestos-contained products, sprayed-on asbestos insulation is highly friable, but asbestos floor tiles generally aren’t.

To avoid this problem, you need to know how to cover asbestos ceiling tiles and the steps for painting asbestos ceiling tiles.

How to Cover Asbestos Ceiling Tiles

First of all, ensure safety (like the way you did before using an asbestos ceiling tiles test kit). Then, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the air circulation or heating systems. You need to do this so they can’t spread asbestos fiber into the air and cause danger.
  2. Remove all the furnishings. Because for painting asbestos ceiling tiles, you need to spray it and it might land on them. If there are some items that you can’t remove, cover them up with plastic sheeting. Also, cover the floor, remove the light fixtures, and remove the smoke alarms.
  3. Mask the walls with plastic sheeting as well, to prevent the sealing paint from splashing on them. For plastic sheeting, we recommend the ones that come with masking tape for the best sealing.
  4. Fill up the holes and cracks with the spackle so the paint doesn’t penetrate them. Then, remove all cobwebs with a duster and wipe the dust off.
  5. After covering friable or sagging asbestos ceiling tiles, it is time to paint them. For painting asbestos ceiling tiles, spray the ceiling tiles to seal them.
  6. For a better result, we recommend repeating the last step twice. But wait for the first coat to dry before spraying the second layer. Read the latex paint directions to know how much you should wait for it to dry.

Painting asbestos ceiling tiles is the seal. So give it enough time to dry up completely (the recommended time is at least 4 hours). When dry, remove the coverings from the furniture, the walls, and the floor. Your asbestos ceiling tiles are now successfully sealed.

Paint and Primer in One vs. Separate

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