Home Improvement--General/asbestos in plaster


QUESTION: I have a home built in 1920. Is it likely that the plaster ceiling contains asbestos?  It is a plain ceiling, no tiles or decorative plastering.  I've read that plaster containing asbestos was only used between the 10940's and 1980's.

I recently sanded a 1 foot by 8 inch section of my ceiling keeping a piece of cardboard closely underneath the area to collect dust.  If my 1920 celing does contain asbestos, did my sanding cause any significant risk?

Thanks so much,

ANSWER: There are test kits available at most hardware stores. Simple and easy to use. Get one to check a raw part of the ceiling to see. Wear a mask when doing anything like this, or better a respirator. Also wet the area you want to sand. It will not hurt the plaster. If the test shows asbestos don't sand in the future without the proper technique and equipment. Or hire a pro that specializes in asbestos. This can be expensive.......
Please feel free to contact me for any reason.

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QUESTION: Thanks Glen.  I'm still confused however.  Was asbetos put in plaster in 1920?  My reading seems to indicate that it was later.  Also, I've read the quantity placed in plaster when it was used was not heavy as it was on pipe, etc.  And even if the paster does contain asbestos, I've also read that the small 10" x 6" area I sanded (even if I had not collected the dust and not allowed it to float through the room) could only produce negligible contamination at best.  Does this sound accurate?

Sounds very accurate. It is the "fines" in the materials that we need to be careful with. You can lick a solid piece of it for jimminey's sake. The amount used in plaster was small but why risk it. You are fine with the small amounts you may have been exposed to however.

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Glen W


I can answer almost any question about residential construction / renovation


I have worked as a General Contractor for 25 yrs. in 10 states.

BA in Architecture

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