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How Do I Recognize Asbestos Ceiling Tiles?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 16, 2024
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It can be a bit difficult to recognize asbestos ceiling tiles. If you have an old home with old ceiling tiles, there may be a good chance that they contain asbestos. Also, certain types of ceiling tiles are more likely to contain asbestos than others. It is nearly impossible to tell if your tiles contain asbestos just by looking at them, however, and hiring an asbestos expert may be necessary.

Asbestos was once a very popular building material, particularly because it is fireproof. This material was often used in the United States from the early 1900s until the early 1970s. In the mid-1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of asbestos in construction. Despite this, some homes constructed a few years after this may still contain asbestos in their ceilings. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), individuals should suspect that any ceiling tiles installed before 1981 contain asbestos.

A suspended ceiling is more likely than other types of ceilings to contain asbestos tiles. These types of ceilings are also referred to as dropped ceilings or acoustic ceilings. They are created by suspending a framework from the roof or upper floor and inserting ceiling tiles into the open spaces, thereby creating a space between the ceiling and upper floor or roof.

Some asbestos ceiling tiles may be labeled. If these labels exist, they will be on the top of the ceiling tiles. This is rare, however, and most asbestos tiles are not labeled in any way. They will almost always resemble regular ceiling tiles.

Since it is almost impossible to recognize asbestos ceiling tiles just by looking at them, you may want to hire an asbestos expert. These experts are trained in asbestos detection. An asbestos inspection will typically involve the contractor coming to your home and examining any areas that may contain asbestos. He will also usually obtain a sample of the ceiling tiles.

These samples will typically be sent to a laboratory for further testing. Testing these samples is considered to be the only way to positively identify asbestos ceiling tiles and other materials containing asbestos. Polarized light microscopy is a technique often used to identify this substance.

As a general rule of thumb, any old ceiling tiles should be treated as though they contain asbestos. When removing asbestos ceiling tiles, it is important to follow a number of safety guidelines outlined by OSHA. It is often advisable to hire an asbestos removal specialist, as opposed to trying to tackle the job yourself.

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Discussion Comments

By Melonlity — On Jan 27, 2014

The good news is that asbestos should have been removed years ago in most commercial settings. That isn't always the case, of course, but there was a lot of building rehab going on after the EPA declared asbestos a no-no.

Besides, any commercial building that has been renovated in the past few decades will probably have had all its asbestos ceiling tiles removed. What contractor would risk his license so he could install asbestos when he knew it wasn't legal and what store would sell those things?

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