Asbestos FAQs

We scoured the internet to find the web’s most asked questions about Asbestos. Read the Asbestos FAQs below to gain understanding and security regarding the possibility of asbestos in your home.

What is Asbestos?

You’ve likely heard about asbestos, and it’s scary. But, what exactly is it? Asbestos refers to a group of naturally occurring hydrated mineral silicates characterized by a distinctive crystalline structure. These minerals are non-combustible in air and can be separated into fibers. Exposure to asbestos fibers has been associated with serious health conditions such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Historically, asbestos was valued in the construction industry for its durability, fire resistance, and insulation properties. Mined from natural deposits and processed into fibrous form, asbestos exhibits thin yet robust characteristics. Its resistance to heat, chemical stability, and insulating abilities, combined with its capacity for weaving, made it a desirable material for various industrial applications.

How does Asbestos Exposure Happen?

Asbestos can enter the environment through weathered natural mineral deposits or as fibers released from manmade asbestos-containing products. Common products containing asbestos include floor tiles, roof shingles, cement, and automotive brakes. Asbestos is also prevalent in electrical, plumbing, acoustical, and structural insulation applications. Disturbing these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air, posing a risk of exposure.

Do All Older Homes Contain Asbestos?

Many houses constructed before 1980 may contain asbestos in materials such as old floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roof shingles and flashing, siding, and insulation (particularly around boilers, ducts, pipes, sheeting, and fireplaces). Additionally, asbestos might be present in pipe cement and joint compound used on sheetrock seams. While more common in older homes, asbestos may also be found in some newer constructions.

Is Asbestos Abatement Safe in Occupied Buildings?

Yes, asbestos abatement in occupied buildings can be conducted safely. Contractors performing asbestos abatement must adhere to stringent regulations to prevent the spread of asbestos into unaffected areas. With proper precautions and protocols in place, individuals outside of the abatement zone are not at risk of asbestos exposure.

Is Living in a House with Asbestos Dangerous?

Merely inhabiting a home containing asbestos materials doesn’t necessarily result in illness. However, when these materials deteriorate, decay, or are disturbed, microscopic asbestos fibers can be released into the indoor environment. Common scenarios for exposure include renovations, water damage, vibration, aging, wear-and-tear, or even simple activities like walking on old vinyl floor tiles. Due to their minuscule size, these fibers are easily inhaled without detection. Moreover, diseases associated with asbestos exposure often manifest after considerable latency periods, sometimes emerging decades later. According to Asbestos.com, approximately 90,000 individuals worldwide succumb to asbestos-related diseases annually.

Do I Need to Take Precautions for Asbestos in My Home?

In most cases, immediate action isn’t necessary when asbestos is present in common home construction materials like floor tiles, roofing, and siding. These materials are typically durable and do not readily release asbestos fibers unless subjected to significant force. However, other materials such as pipe insulation and thermal insulation, like batt or blown-in insulation, may occasionally contain asbestos. If such materials are identified through inspection and analysis by a qualified professional, seeking guidance from a consultant is recommended to determine appropriate remedial measures. While undisturbed asbestos-containing materials may not pose a direct threat, planning for asbestos abatement during repair or renovation projects where disturbance is anticipated is prudent.

What Precautions Should I Take Before Renovation or Demolition?

Before undertaking renovation or demolition activities in your home, compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) regulations is essential. In Colorado, the Colorado Dept Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) regulates all asbestos testing and abatement. This includes conducting a survey to identify asbestos presence and notifying relevant authorities before commencing the project. These rules often mandate licensed professionals to conduct asbestos surveys and oversee its safe removal.

What is ACM?

ACM, which stands for asbestos-containing material, denotes any substance containing more than 1% asbestos content. While there exist six asbestos types, Chrysotile is the most commonly encountered variant, representing approximately 95% of all asbestos in use. Chrysotile finds application in various areas, including the roofing, ceilings, walls, and flooring of residential and commercial buildings.

What does Asbestos Look Like?

It’s tough to tell if something contains asbestos by looking at it. Numerous materials used in construction, renovation, and demolition may contain asbestos. These encompass piping, spray-applied and blown-in insulation, mastic, roofing materials, caulking, exterior building materials, cement siding, HVAC duct insulation, roofing shingles, spackling compounds, and fireproofing materials, among others.

Does My Home Contain Asbestos?

Before the 1980s, asbestos was prevalent in building materials, automotive components, and textiles due to its fire-resistant, durable, and flexible characteristics. Despite the cessation of asbestos mining and processing in the United States, it persists in certain products like vinyl floor tiles, brake pads, and cement pipes.

Asbestos Containing Materials are found in these materials and others:

Insulation on pipes, ductwork, and boilers
Vinyl floor tiles and sheet flooring
Roofing and siding shingles
Vermiculite attic insulation
Cement exterior shingles, siding, and roofing
Joint compound and textured paints/plasters

Of particular concern is vermiculite insulation, notably from a mine in Libby, Montana, which was contaminated with asbestos. This loose insulation, often found in attics, resembles small rocks or bits of mica and can easily aerosolize, posing risks of exposure. Accurate detection necessitates sampling and analysis in an accredited laboratory by trained professionals equipped with safety gear and testing methodologies to ensure minimal disturbance to your home environment.

What is the Cost of Inspection and Testing for Asbestos?

The expense of asbestos inspection varies based on factors such as home size, location, and the number of samples tested. On average, inspection costs range from $200 to $400, although larger or more complex homes may incur costs exceeding $1,000. While this initial investment may seem substantial, it’s crucial for safeguarding your long-term health and home integrity. Detecting asbestos early mitigates future risks, and investing in high-quality testing upfront can prevent costly removal endeavors arising from renovation projects or age-related deterioration.

Is Asbestos Removal the Sole Option?

While asbestos removal is often deemed the safest approach, in some cases, encapsulation may offer a cost-effective alternative. Encapsulation involves sealing asbestos materials with specialized substances such as epoxies, polyurethanes, or polyureas, effectively containing them and reducing the risk of fiber release. Engaging qualified professionals is essential for successful management and removal of asbestos, ensuring compliance with safety standards and regulations throughout the process.

What Actions Should I Take if Asbestos is Detected in My Home?

Upon discovering asbestos in your home, it’s important to remain calm. Generally, intact asbestos materials pose minimal immediate health risks, but it’s prudent to develop a comprehensive management strategy. This involves proper labeling of materials, implementation of operation and maintenance protocols, and awareness of materials to avoid disturbing without adequate safety measures. Enclosure or encapsulation techniques may also be viable options to seal asbestos materials, provided they are executed with specialized coatings. Severe damage or delamination may necessitate professional removal. A knowledgeable inspector can advise on suitable options for managing asbestos in your home, ensuring a safe and healthy living environment.

Can I Perform Sampling and Removal on My Own?

Sampling and analysis in an accredited laboratory are imperative for determining asbestos presence. While homeowners in most states can collect samples and remove asbestos from their residences without special licensing or training, it’s not advisable due to health risks and a lack of knowledge in the ‘how and what’ needs sampling.  Additionally, if you’re planning on using the testing results to support a removal of the asbestos, a report by a certified testing company must be provided and testing companies will not write a report for a project where someone else took the samples. Commercial structures require asbestos sampling and removal by licensed professionals. Hiring an asbestos abatement contractor ensures adherence to rigorous regulations and safety protocols, minimizing exposure risks for all parties involved. Again, Colorado has stringent laws around asbestos. 

Do I Need an Asbestos Survey for Demolition Permits?

Full asbestos surveys are typically required for building demolition permits, alongside lead surveys. This thorough inspection facilitates compliance with Colorado Dept public health and environment (CDPHE),  the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for asbestos, guiding project planning and materials management. Asbestos NESHAP prohibits the reinstallation of certain asbestos-containing materials, emphasizing safe demolition practices and proper disposal of hazardous materials.

Is Remodeling Legal if Asbestos is Present?

Laws concerning asbestos vary by state, but many, like Colorado necessitate homeowners to test for asbestos before construction or renovation projects. Licensed abatement contractors typically handle asbestos remediation prior to demolition work, ensuring compliance with regulations regarding asbestos-containing materials’ handling and disposal.

Maintaining awareness of asbestos risks and engaging qualified professionals are critical for ensuring the safety and integrity of residential, commercial, or public buildings.

How Can I Ensure Safety After Asbestos Abatement?

Following asbestos abatement, air clearance testing by a third-party testing company is mandated to verify the cleanliness of the area before reoccupation. Onsite testing ensures compliance with safety standards and provides reassurance regarding air quality post-abatement.

Is Asbestos Identification Included in Home Inspections?

No. Home inspectors typically do not identify asbestos due to the non-invasive nature of inspections. While inspectors may note materials likely to contain asbestos, comprehensive identification requires destructive testing not feasible during standard inspections. Asbestos evaluation is often pursued separately, especially in pre-purchase due diligence.

Do Home Sellers Have to Disclose Asbestos?

While most states don’t mandate asbestos testing before selling a home, failure to disclose asbestos presence could result in future liabilities for health-related issues. It’s advisable to check local regulations, as laws vary by state.