What to Do About Asbestos?

By Scott Sidler April 21, 2014

Image credit: gordo25 / 123RF Stock Photo

Asbestos is that persnickety little thing that can be hiding anywhere in an old house. From siding to plaster, vinyl floor tiles to insulation it can be almost anywhere. What makes matters worse is there is no simple way for the average homeowner to determine if they have asbestos in their house.

You can’t tell by looking at a material if it contains asbestos. You can’t tell by smelling, feeling or even tasting (would you really want to though?) Asbestos is one of those hidden dangers that may be all over your house or no where at all.

What to Do About Asbestos?

For us contractors there is only one option. Hire a company to test and hire yet another company for any necessary removal. In most states homeowners have the option to act as their own asbestos remediation contractor.

Let me make one thing extremely clear. I am NOT recommending that you go it alone to deal with asbestos in your own home. Asbestos poses a very real health hazard and exposure (even once) can lead to deadly cancers later in life. My first recommendation is always to choose a licensed asbestos remediation contractor to handle your asbestos removal.

My purpose in writing this is to inform you about asbestos, its dangers, and how it is safely dealt with by the professionals. The more we understand things the less we fear them. Information is power, right?


How to Test For Asbestos

There are countless companies across the country that can handle your testing. Local companies are usually easiest, but there are many affordable companies like Western Analytical Labs that accept samples by mail.

Anthophyllite asbestos
Asbestos Fibers
Image Credit: Wikepedia Commons

Taking a sample is something that anyone can do. Find out what size sample your testing facility requires and remove a piece of the material in question. Package it according to their requirements and send it off for testing. The testing fee is usually $20-$40 per sample and results don’t take long.

If it comes back negative you’re in the clear to proceed. If it comes back positive it’s time to call a remediation company.

How Asbestos is Removed

Remediation costs can vary greatly so shop around. There are no federal requirements for asbestos licensing unlike the EPA’s guidelines for lead paint licensing. Each state has its own requirements for asbestos licensing so check with your state for more information. Here is a listing of the contacts in each state regarding licensing and requirements //www2.epa.gov/asbestos/state-asbestos-contacts

The secret to asbestos removal is really no secret at all. There are a few important things you should know about asbestos that will help protect you.

3 Things You Need to Know About Asbestos Removal
  1. If asbestos containing materials (ACM) are intact and undisturbed they pose no immediate danger – The danger is when the asbestos fibers become airborne through sanding, cutting, breaking or anything else that disturbs or damages the material.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment is required when working with ACM – Tyvek suits, goggles and P100 respirators are required protection.
  3. Dust containment is absolutely essential – Many companies spray water on ACM as they are removing it to prevent particles from becoming airborne. Completely sealing the area with plastic is another standard practice.

While it is possible to act as your own asbestos contractor the real problem is knowing when to stop. How do you know you’ve removed all of the ACM to be safe? That’s what the pros are paid to know. They know where and how much to remove to keep you and your family safe.

Asbestos is a real health hazard in some homes and not in others. Each house is unique and so if you have any questions about whether a material is a threat you should have it tested. Below I’ve included a list of some of the most common places you’ll find asbestos. This is not an exhaustive list, so be aware it may be lurking in places not listed below.

  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Mastics and glues used for linoleum and vinyl tiles
  • Shingles (roofing & siding)
  • Tar paper
  • Plaster and joint taping materials
  • Caulk
  • Window glazing putty (more typical from 1930s and later)
  • Loose fill insulation
  • Pipe insulation and tapes
  • Ceiling tiles


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9 thoughts on “What to Do About Asbestos?”

  1. great article scot, you know your stuff, if people are in doubt if they got asbestos its actually quite quick and simple to get it checked out, a local asbestos removal company normally can check this for you and it takes around £48 and cost under £100

  2. I’m buying a 1916 Craftsman home in Gilroy. I’m very concerned about the asbestos risk for my kids. This article helps!! Thank you.

  3. This is really informative! I am having vinyl flooring for my home. Last week I had professionals in asbestos removal from Healthy Environment at Oakville inspect and abate asbestos that existed in every nook and corner of my home. This is actually very important for those having kids, to keep away from minor diseases, which can result severe, under long term inhalation or exposure to asbestos.

  4. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot
    about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is wonderful
    blog. An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

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