Monthly Maintenance Reminder: Asbestos Mitigation

Appraisal and Home Inspection
Foundations
Walls
By Contractors.com Team May 06, 2021

Whether you’re an enterprising DIYer or just someone who prefers to leave home improvement projects up to professionals, this is your monthly reminder to remember asbestos abatement. Asbestos can be found in millions of homes built before 1980. This toxic fiber can lurk in old buildings for years before the forces of decay - or your next remodeling project - cause it to come out of hiding and contaminate your interior air. 

There was once a time where asbestos was heralded as a modern marvel prized for its durability and high fire resistance. But in recent decades it has been revealed to be a major health risk, and it is necessary to take precautions if you live in a home that has asbestos. So, it’s important to know what it is and what you can do to be rid of the health risks asbestos can pose.

Why is Asbestos Mitigation Important?

Why It's Important to Determine If You Have Asbestos In Your House

Why It's Important to Determine If You Have Asbestos In Your House

There’s much more behind what at first looks like dust. Asbestos may be durable, but it is also a major carcinogen. When it is disturbed, asbestos releases many long fibers into the air which can have big negative health effects if they are inhaled. Asbestos cannot be broken down by the human body, so any asbestos which is inhaled will remain forever, scarring lungs and causing respiratory issues. Asbestos poisoning can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other respiratory diseases decades down the line. For this reason, anyone who plans to work on a home that has asbestos needs to exercise caution. Likewise, residents of a home that has asbestos in it need to take precautions as well, because some forms of the material are prone to breaking down as they degrade, releasing carcinogenic fibers into the air.     

If you are planning a major home renovation, it’s a good idea to go ahead and remove asbestos from your home, particularly if it is degrading. As with lead abatement, removing asbestos will add time and cost to your project. Once it is done though it will pay off tenfold in peace of mind, not to mention it will free your home from carcinogens. 

Where In My Home Might I Find Asbestos? 

At the end of the day, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know for sure that some part of your house uses asbestos just by looking at it. However, if your home was built before 1980, there’s a good chance that it could have asbestos in the following places: 

  • Insulation: Many homes from the 1960s have asbestos insulation in the attic. Asbestos insulation comes in the form of Vermiculite which was used in many homes as an insulator. This asbestos-containing material resembles a collection of brown pebbles and it will start to fall apart as it decays. If you suspect your degrading insulation contains vermiculite, avoid working in your attic if there are signs the insulation is breaking down.
Where You May Find Asbestos In Your House

Where You May Find Asbestos In Your House

  • Drywall: Asbestos used to be put into drywall to make it more durable, and drilling or cutting this type of drywall will release the carcinogen into your house.
  • Vinyl floor tiles: If your home uses vinyl floor tiles, it may be using an asbestos-based adhesive. As this decays and the tiles come loose there is a risk that asbestos could be released into the air. 
Vinyl Floor Tiles May Be Home to Asbestos

Vinyl Floor Tiles May Be Home to Asbestos

  • Popcorn ceilings: This one’s a dead giveaway. Popcorn ceilings were almost invariably made with asbestos, so you’ll need to take precautions if you want to scrape it off to give your ceiling a more minimalist look.
Beware of Popcorn Ceilings

Beware of Popcorn Ceilings

  • Pipe insulation: Many older homes used asbestos for pipe insulation. This insulation will begin to flake as it breaks down, posing a health hazard.  
Where To Check for Asbestos In Your Home

Where To Check for Asbestos In Your Home

  • Siding and roofing: Asbestos has also made its way into the roofing and siding of millions of homes. Asbestos roofing can come in the form of asphalt shingles, cement shingles, roof underlays, sealants, and flashings. Asbestos can be present in wood shake siding barriers, cement siding, and even in slate siding. Because it is located on the outside of the house, these asbestos pieces are the most likely to degrade. Once they begin to come apart, these asbestos pieces are most likely to make their way into the air you breathe. If you see evidence that these asbestos pieces are falling apart, take quick action to remove them. 
Why You Should Inspect Your Roofing

Why You Should Inspect Your Roofing

How Do I Find Out If My Home Has Asbestos? 

To test individual parts of your house, you can scrape off a sample piece of the material and send the sample to a lab for testing. Of course, it is highly recommended that you don protection such as gloves, an N95 mask, and some construction goggles. The only way to get the full asbestos picture for your home however is to hire a home inspector. Your local asbestos home inspector might know about potential asbestos risks in your home and will be able to locate them for you. It is recommended that you only hire professionals who are certified in asbestos inspections. This usually costs around $500.   

How Asbestos Is Tested

How Asbestos Is Tested

If asbestos is found in your home, your asbestos inspector should give you a written evaluation that describes the location of asbestos, the extent of any damage, and recommendations for mitigation or abatement measures. If you opt to have asbestos removed from your home, having a post-project inspection will help you verify that asbestos removal was effective. 

My Home Has Asbestos In It, What Should I Do?  

One important thing to note is that the mere presence of asbestos in your home shouldn’t on its own be a cause for alarm. As long as the asbestos is undisturbed and undamaged, it should not pose any immediate threat. Generally speaking, any asbestos that appears undamaged or in good condition should be left alone. The main thing to do is avoid doing any construction work in the affected areas and keep an eye on the material to see if it is degrading. 

What to Do If You Have Asbestos In Your House

What to Do If You Have Asbestos In Your House

If you believe that fibers are being released from a damaged piece of asbestos, try to avoid the affected room as much as you can. Do not sweep or vacuum places where asbestos fibers are present. If you must clear them, use a mop since this will prevent the fibers from taking flight. Do not sand or wax asbestos flooring, and be mindful of tracking asbestos fibers throughout your home. Damaged or degraded asbestos is a sign that it’s time to permanently remove the asbestos. Some asbestos-removal jobs - such as scraping off popcorn ceilings - can be DIY projects provided that some precautions are taken. However, asbestos can be very tricky to work with, and for this reason, it is recommended that you leave the abatement jobs up to a certified professional

Before hiring an asbestos abatement professional, it pays to take some measures to ensure you hire the best person for the job. Feel free to ask an asbestos professional to present you with proof of federal or state-approved training and evidence of accreditation to do asbestos work. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, refrain from hiring abatement professionals from the same firm your asbestos inspector works for. For added peace of mind, you can also do some research on the firm(s) you’re working with to see if they have any safety violations or pending litigation.  

What You Should Expect to Pay for Asbestos Mitigation

If you opt to hire an asbestos abatement professional, you will have a few options for dealing with asbestos in your home: repair, removal, or a combination of the two. 

Repairing involves either sealing or covering the degrading asbestos so that it cannot spread any more carcinogens. Asbestos is not removed from the home when a repair is done. When asbestos is sealed, this involves covering the material with a sealant that will either coat the material and keep fibers from being released or will make the fibers bind back to the asbestos. Covering the asbestos merely entails covering it with a protective wrap or jacket which will contain the asbestos even as it degrades. This is a good solution for insulated piping. Repairing asbestos costs around $1,000 on average when all is said and done. 

How Much Does Asbestos Testing Cost

How Much Does Asbestos Testing Cost

Removing asbestos is a lot more complicated and expensive than just repairing it. An asbestos professional is needed for this project because improper asbestos removal could increase your and your family’s asbestos exposure rather than lessen it. Asbestos removal companies can charge up to $3,000 for full asbestos removal.  

How to Keep Up With Critical Home Maintenance

Asbestos abatement isn’t the only task needed to keep your home a safe and healthy center of family life. Regular home maintenance is an important part of homeownership. By keeping things running well, you can keep your house in good condition, preserve its curb appeal, and even increase its value. The average suburban home has several things that will require regular maintenance, including HVAC maintenance, caulking, roofing, testing smoke, and carbon monoxide alarms, and watching out for leaks. Our Monthly Maintenance Reminders will give you the pointers you need to stay on top of monthly maintenance and eliminate health hazards, so be sure not to miss the next one!

Keep Your Family Safe and Test for Asbestos

Keep Your Family Safe and Test for Asbestos

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team