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sertiphyible 06-02-2008 06:47 AM

Old ceiling tiles - remove? repaint?
This is my first post here and I don't know if this is the proper forum for a question about ceilings, so if not please let me know and I'll take it elsewhere.

We moved into our 3-story 1929 Tudor in June 2007 and it was in great shape. Exterior walls are concrete up to top of 2nd floor and exterior covered in stucco. Fairly new roof. Gumwood everywhere interior, stained nicely and not painted in most rooms.

We have taken on the remodeling of the bedrooms one at a time. Wallpaper off, paint on - directly on the sealed concrete interior walls. We're now tackling the master bedroom. Again, wallpaper will come off, and I think we'll have the painting under control.

But this room (unlike any of the other bedrooms) has ceiling tiles. The rest of the second floor rooms have what appears to me (the untrained eye) painted drywall. In the master, the ceiling level is a few inches below the rest of the rooms, and is covered by some aging white ceiling tiles. I'm away from home on a business trip so I can't measure them or get a picture posted here, but I could do so in a couple of weeks if my description doesn't cut it.

They are perhaps 10-12 inches square, white (painted over once already, but yellowing in some spots again) and generally unattractive. I do not know the manner in which they were fixed to the underlying structure - I suspect somehow they have adhesive holding them in place. I also suspect that they may have been used to cover up something more sinister.

The 3rd floor bathroom is directly above the 2nd floor bathroom, so I don't think water damage could have been an issue, although the entire house was zoned for rental at some point in the past, presumably remodeled and rezoned to a single-family residence at some point before the prior occupants moved in (c. 1982). We're not sure what all went on in the 3rd floor - it may have held a kitchen at some point.

Mostly I'm just worried about what the tiles are made of. I don't want to tear them out and rain asbestos fibers everywhere if that's an issue.

Can anyone tell me how likely these tiles are to contain asbestos? I'm guessing they are anywhere from 15 - 30 years old. If they are safe to remove, what is the most likely thing I'm going to find underneath? If that is some drywall in bad shape, I'm probably getting into a project too big for my wife and me. We really just want a flat, paint-able surface in the end, but if that will involve re-hanging drywall, then we may just put another coat of white paint over the tiles.

Thanks, and sorry for the verbose description of our problem.

bofusmosby 06-02-2008 07:33 AM

Welcome aboard! I too have 1 bedroom with ceiling tiles installed. Mine wre put up because the plaster had fallen years ago, they put in a drop ceiling, using metal brackets or tracks to hold the tiles. YES, some of these tiles CAN contain asbestos. If there is any doubt, you can send a sample to a place, and they can check it for asbestor. I sent a sample of plaster a few months back, and mine came out negative. There are places located all over the country, but the place I sent my sample was a place called Accukits. They can be contacted on the web at They charge $25 of the testing per sample, so it might be worth your while. Now, if the tiles are still in god shape, it might be better to just paint over them. As long as they are in good shape, there is no danger. When I get to my bedroom with the tiles, I will probably be sending them a sample to have it checked. I plan on taking mine down to do a re-plaster job.


bjbatlanta 07-25-2008 05:23 PM

Sounds like 12"x12" stapled up to 1"x4" strips or on a grid system with "splines" holding them together. Either way, they could very possibly be asbestos. As mentioned above, they probably are covering some bad plaster or the likes. I'd definitely get it tested. It may be that they were installed after asbestos was outlawed. I know it was somewhere in the mid '70s as far as drywall products.

sertiphyible 07-26-2008 06:42 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Thanks for the tips, guys. I did send a crumbled sample away for testing and the tiles are asbestos-free! 95% cellulose and 5% non-asbestos other material. So I pried one away from the rest and took a few shots of the ceiling. The plaster underneath looks decent, at least in this spot. The tiles are indeed fixed (with adhesive?) to wooden strips that have been nailed to the plaster. I think we're going to move ahead with the removal and carefully pull out the nails and strips. We're just looking for a mostly smooth plaster finish so I'm sure we'll have some patching to do...:thumbsup:

bofusmosby 07-26-2008 07:24 AM

Glad to hear there is no asbestos in your tiles. I know that the plaster above my tiles had fallen years ago, so when I remove the tiles, I'll have to redo the ceiling. Its better that you make be able to just do some repairs, rather then start from scratch.


bmetzger 08-24-2008 10:36 AM

I believe I have the same tiles you show in the pictures stapled at a project I am working on. On the tiles you removed, did they have a random drill hole pattern?

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