Skip to Content

Drilling Into Popcorn Ceiling | Is It Safe?

Home improvement is a fun and fulfilling task for anybody looking to better the space they live in. Whether that is installing a new fan or even hanging up a new potted plant, the ceiling provides a lot of room to enhance a space.

But drilling into your popcorn ceiling can have dangerous effects on your health. It is, therefore, important to understand why it is dangerous and how to avoid causing harm to your family.

Drilling into popcorn ceiling is safe unless the popcorn ceiling contains asbestos. Drilling into asbestos popcorn ceiling will release the fibers, which can then be inhaled and cause diseases like asbestosis and cancer.

Risk With Drilling Into Popcorn Ceiling

While it may seem quick and easy to drill a hole into your ceiling, you can very easily endanger yourself and your family if you are not careful.

This is because older popcorn ceilings are infamous for being made out of asbestos. Asbestos is now known for its negative impact on health, which is why new production and use of asbestos has been banned in the United States.

Popcorn ceiling with a vent

Asbestos has been found to cause lung cancer over time when inhaled. In addition, inhaling asbestos can cause other forms of cancer to develop around the lungs and heart areas. 

The fibers can also physically damage the respiratory tract, causing a condition known as asbestosis.

When you drill into a popcorn ceiling containing asbestos, you release the fibers into the air in your house. This means that anybody in the room will inhale asbestos.

It can also easily travel or transfer to other areas of the house.

While the side effects would not be apparent immediately, you would begin to feel them years down the line by which time the effects are permanent. This is why it is important to take the necessary precautions before drilling into popcorn ceiling.

Do All Popcorn Ceilings Contain Asbestos?

Fortunately, the public was made aware of asbestos’s effect on people’s health, and it was subsequently banned in 1989. This means that modern-day houses with popcorn ceilings are safe to drill into.

However, if you live in the US and your house was built in the 1980s and 1990s, you need to be wary before drilling any holes. This is because the ban on asbestos was a phase-out ban as opposed to a complete ban.

As such, many houses built between the late 80s and early 90s may still contain asbestos popcorn ceilings.

If you are unsure if your ceiling contains asbestos, it is important to test it first before drilling into it because it is almost impossible to visually identify.

Testing Popcorn Ceiling for Asbestos

If you are unsure if your ceiling contains asbestos, it is in your best interests to get it tested. There are many labs in any state willing to analyze your ceiling if you reach out.

When getting your ceiling tested, you’ll oftentimes have the option between onsite and offsite testing. With offsite testing, you will need to scrape off a part of the ceiling to send in.

Removing and scraping off popcorn ceiling

This is not recommended because by just scraping off a little bit of the ceiling, you could cause some of the fibers to become airborne. If the ceiling is made from asbestos, then you can inhale the toxic fibers.

While it is oftentimes more expensive, the better course of action would be onsite testing. Professionals would come and take the sample themselves, which is much safer and will not risk exposing your family to asbestos.

Safety Tips if You Want to Risk It

We would under no circumstance recommend drilling into asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling (or one that may contain asbestos). The health effects are too detrimental.

However, if you are willing to accept the risk and drill into it anyways, there are some things you should do to protect yourself.

It is essential that you wear proper equipment when dealing with asbestos. For one, you need to wear a respirator that is designed for asbestos work. This prevents you from inhaling any fibers while drilling.

You should also be wearing safety goggles that seal around your eyes. You don’t want the fibers to cause damage to your mucus membranes.

DEWALT DPG82-11C Concealer Clear Anti-Fog Dual Mold Safety Goggle, Clear Lens, 1 Pair

In addition, you can and should purchase a full-body, disposable, fiber-resistant suit. When done wearing it, you should take it off inside out and immediately dispose of the suit. Never re-wear it.

You should also set up a decontamination station at the door. This is so you can clean the equipment used immediately after taking it out of the room. In addition, this allows you to take off your protective equipment immediately after leaving the room.

To keep the loose asbestos contained in the room, you will need to turn off your HVAC and seal the vents in the room.

It is also in your best interest to drill only once to limit the amount of asbestos in the room, so do your measuring carefully.

Before drilling, it is recommended to wet the area in an attempt to clump the fibers of asbestos together.

You should also set up a local ventilation system (like a vacuum cleaner) and cloth suspending just below the area to catch loose asbestos and prevent it from hitting the floor. 

You should also be sure to clean the room thoroughly before removing your protective equipment and leaving the room.


Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc, or its affiliates.