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What to Do About Asbestos?

What to Do About Asbestos?

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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15 thoughts on “What to Do About Asbestos?

  1. It’s helpful that you mentioned that a lot of dust will be involved in the process of asbestos removal. My daughter is asthmatic so it’s probably best to send her to my parents’ house when I get such a service soon. It’s unfortunate that the asbestos insulation is one of the things that I overlooked when buying the house a year ago.

  2. So I might have it in my house (1963); I’ve covered the kitchen floor with vinyl plank and plan on doing the same in the basement. Since I haven’t had it tested so I’m not positive that the house contains asbestos, do I have to test it before I sell? My inspectors failed to find any asbestos because they “couldn’t see any glue”. This is my first house, I’m really young, I plan to sell in 10-15 years after modernizing it a little.

  3. Hi Scott,
    Good and informative post. Indeed the asbestos material being a hazardous material so far, the people who handle it should be made aware of the risks. Particularly, it more dangerous to the kids who are around. If a small course is given to the people associated with it, I think it will be of great use.

    Visit https://asbestosawareness.training/ for more information

  4. We had loose fill insulation in the attic of our house. Vermiculite to be specific. I learned a tremendous amount about this stuff. Much of the vermiculite loose fill insulation came from Potter Mountain and approx 70 to 90 percent was contaminated. It went under the name Zonolite and was manufactured by WR Grace. In our house, removal was absolutely necessary and had to be done professionally. The cost of removal was approx 7,000 as the house required gutting. If we had just contained it, it would have rendered the entire attic unusable and running new electrical, etc. would be problematic. We were able to recoup about 4000 from the Grace Fund, but the additional expenses incurred drove our renovation costs sky high.

    In order to get the refund from Grace, complete documention and removal was required. It could not be removed by the homeowner and testing had to be by a testing lab personnel. In the long run, this is better as in NJ, if we were to sell the house, we would have to disclose knowledge of asbestos. While this was a total pain in the neck, I can now say I have a clean house. We did remove non friable and possible asbestos ourselves, but I would never touch this stuff that we found.

  5. This can be a case of “pick your battles.” Our second home is a 118-year-old seaside house in Nova Scotia. We know the tiled kitchen flooring covers old wide pine boards and is held down with a mastic that contains asbestos. Same story in other rooms. Considering we also need a septic system and several other pricy items, the floor is going to be covered with wooden or even laminate flooring. It’s not ideal, but we cannot afford asbestos removal. Covering up asbestos is sometimes the best choice.

  6. We recently had a weatherization inspection for our 1930’s home. The inspector found a obvious pipe that was insulated and contained asbestos that needs to be removed in order to continue the process. After they left my wife noticed another piece of a different pipe that was insulated coming from the ceiling in the basement laundry room which the inspector had seen but did not mention, but was painted with about 4″ of insulation present. My question is should we worry about this piece? Will the blow test (seeing where we lose heat) be a concern as to pipes that may be insulated located inside the walls being disturbed? What about when they blow the insulation inside the walls will it disturb anything? I have young children and this is now a concern. What is your professional opinion on this.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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