Many of us have heard of asbestos and that it is dangerous and known to cause health problem. But what exactly is it and where do you find it.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is the name for six different fibrous minerals that occur naturally in the environment. These six types are Chrysotile, Amosite, Crocidolite, Anthophyllite, Tremolite, and Actinolite. If you would like to read more about each type, asbestos.com has a great article. These fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. This is why it was used in many different industries. However as of December 2018, the mining and use of asbestos was banned.

Where Do You Find it in Your Home?

If your house or the house you plan to purchase is pre 1980s, there is a good chance it contains asbestos. Some of the most common areas you would find asbestos in your house are as follows.

Insulation

When is comes to insulation there are 2 main areas of the house you need to look out for. The first one is the insulation wrap around old duct work or pipes. Second, would be the actual insulation in the house. Builders used to use a type of insulation called Vermiculite. Many types of vermiculite insulation has asbestos in it because both minerals are located in close proximity in the ground. To learn more about vermiculite insulation, you can read Beth and Ryan’s blog “Is Vermiculite Insulation Dangerous?”

Drywall and Plaster

Asbestos in plaster helps insulate buildings and increase fire resistance. You can also find it in the joint compound used to attached sheets of drywall together. Additionally, the same compound was used to create textured ceilings. This can pose a problem for home owners as anytime they would like to drill a whole in their walls, it would send asbestos fibers into the air. Best practice is to test your plaster and drywall compound before any renovations are done.

House Siding

The addition of asbestos to siding materials strengthens them, increases their durability, provides a limited amount of insulation and fireproofing to your home. Many people choose to cover their asbestos siding with new vinyl siding rather than removing it. This type of siding is very brittle and has a tendency to crack and break, which can release asbestos fibers into both the air and ground. Experts recommend removal. If you should choose to remove it, be sure to have a licensed company perform the removal. Beth and Ryan Waller recommend Reitzel Bros. by AGS Environmental to perform samples of your siding and removal.

Floor and Ceiling Files

Many old vinyl floor tiles contained asbestos. Furthermore, the glue that was used to adhere the tiles to the floor could also contain it. These tiles are commonly 9in x 9in in size. Majority of the time these tiles do not pose any health risk. As long as the tiles are in one piece there is no risk of asbestos particles becoming airborne. If you plan on removing the tiles, be sure to contact a licensed company to complete the removal.

You can also find asbestos in ceiling tiles and drop ceiling panels. Common ceiling tiles are in 2×2-foot and 2×4-foot sizes. Asbestos was a popular additive to ceiling tiles from 1950s to 1980s.

Cost to Remove Asbestos

Removal costs vary widely depending on circumstances: the scope of work, risk level, access, amount of waste generated, materials required and timeline are all factors that will dictate the cost of asbestos abatement. If you live in a pre 1980s house and plan on doing some renovations, it would be best to have a hazmat removal company in to collect samples of various materials in your house. They then send the samples to a lab to test for asbestos. If found, the hazmat company would quote you on the removal of all material containing asbestos.

Each type of material (popcorn ceiling, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, insulation) pose a different level of risk. This is because each type of material emits a different level of asbestos into the air when disturbed. For example, vermiculite insulation will emit a much higher amount of fibers into the air than say a floor tile. Depending on the risk level, the hazmat company will need additional equipment which in turn raises the cost of removal.

How Does Asbestos Affect Your Health?

Asbestos fibers are not harmful unless they are released into the air. When they are released, the fibers break down into tiny particles. The particles become airborne, and we inhale them. Then they collect in the lungs, causing scarring and inflammation. Additionally, they cause fibrotic lung disease (asbestosis) and changes in the lining of the chest cavity (pleura). These diseases can lead to reduced respiratory function and death. Long-term inhalation of asbestos fibers also increases the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Some factors that can increase someone’s risk of developing asbestos relating diseases are exposure time, intensity, type of product asbestos is bonded to. You cannot tell when asbestos is in the air or is hurting your lungs. It will not make you cough or sneeze. It will not make your skin or throat itch. The fibers get into the air when asbestos materials are damaged, disturbed or removed unsafely. When asbestos is crushed, it does not make ordinary dust. Asbestos breaks into tiny fibers that are too small to see, feel or taste. Because of this, it is very important to have tests done before any renovations. You could be causing serious damage to your lungs without even knowing.

Beth and Ryan are always here to answer any questions you may have related to real estate. They have many trusted contacts that they would be more than happy to put you in touch with if you have any worries about your current house or future house containing asbestos. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Beth and Ryan here!

Related: This post is part of a larger series that Beth and Ryan assembled on “16 things to consider when buying an older home”.