If you’re a homeowner, or even a renter who has been given permission from your landlord, you might be considering home renovations. These days, many home improvers go the DIY route and figure out their project on their own. Between the cost of a contractor and the widespread availability of tutorials online, many renovators and home improvers are taking the solo approach.
However, if your house was built before 1980, there’s a pretty serious consideration regarding your DIY renovation plans that you may not have thought of—and a pretty good reason why some things need to be left to the professionals to handle.
That consideration is asbestos. Asbestos is a type of mineral fiber that was widely used in the construction of homes and other buildings for many years. We have since learned that when asbestos fibers are disturbed into the air and inhaled, they can cause a very serious cancer called mesothelioma.
Where is asbestos usually found in homes?
You probably won’t find asbestos in your home unless it was built in the 1970’s or earlier. Most asbestos use in home products occurred between the 1930s and the 1970s, so homes built during that time should be checked thoroughly. In those homes, asbestos may be found in:
- Vinyl sheet flooring tiles: Asbestos may be found on the backs of these tiles. Fibers may be released through sanding or scraping.
- Hot water and steam pipes, boilers, furnaces, furnace ducts, and woodburning stoves: Asbestos was often used as an insulator for these products, and for the floors, walls, and ceiling materials around them. Fibers may be released if the products are repaired, damaged, or removed without an expert, or by cutting/tearing, sanding, or drilling the insulation. Door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves may also contain and release asbestos fibers.
- Cement roofing, shingles, and siding: Roofing and siding may contain asbestos, especially if it is made from cement.
- Soundproofing and decorative materials: Asbestos was commonly applied as soundproofing or “popcorn” decoration on ceilings. Fibers may be released as the materials age and decay, especially if they become loose or crumbly or retain water damage. Drilling, scraping, and sanding may also release fibers.
- Textured paints and patching compounds: Asbestos was commonly found in textured paints and patching compounds. Fibers may be released by sanding, drilling, nailing, or scraping through the layer of paint or patching compound. Use of these paints was banned in 1977.
- Attic and wall insulation: This sort of insulation, especially if it contains “vermiculite”, may contain asbestos. Drilling and cutting may release fibers.
If I think I have asbestos in my home, what should I do?
If you are not considering renovations and the asbestos is in good condition, you may want to leave it the way it is – at least initially. Asbestos is only dangerous if fibers are released into the air and inhaled. Asbestos in good condition that is not disturbed by construction efforts should not release fibers. Call a professional or continue to monitor any material in your home that you know contains asbestos for wear and tear and water damage, as this may cause the asbestos to release fibers.
If you are still planning on doing your renovations and they require you to disturb the asbestos materials, or if the asbestos materials are damaged and need to be removed, it is of utmost importance that you hire a professional to repair or remove the asbestos-laden product or material.
Even if you’re not sure if something has asbestos in it, it’s better to be safe than sorry: call an expert in to examine it. A qualified asbestos professional will know how to safely handle the material, test it for asbestos, and mitigate asbestos danger if necessary. Sometimes people have better results if the testing company is different than the remediation company, so there is no conflict of interest.
You should not attempt to remove asbestos, or even remove a sample for testing, on your own. Doing so is often more dangerous than leaving the asbestos undisturbed.
If there is asbestos in my home, how will a professional handle it?
There are many options to mitigate the harm that asbestos may cause in your home, depending on the type of asbestos and its condition. These may include:
- Leaving it alone. If asbestos is in good condition, some people simply choose not to disturb it, but if it gets accidentally disturbed, it could pose a serious health risk.
- Repairs: Sealing (encapsulation) or Covering (enclosure): If you have damaged asbestos material in your home, there are options for neutralizing it. One is encapsulation, which is treating the material with sealant that binds or coats the fibers, so they are not released. This is often used on pipes, furnaces, and boiler insulation. Another is enclosure, which means putting something over or around the material, often a protective wrap or jacket, to contain the fibers and stop them from being released.
- Removal: Often the last option (for both health reasons and expense reasons), removal involves the greatest risk, but may be required if you are proceeding with renovation or remodeling plans, or if the asbestos product/material is damaged beyond repair.
Asbestos repair or removal should always be handled by a trained, licensed professional. Attempting to repair or remove asbestos yourself may put your health and the health of your family at risk. Always check credentials and recommendations carefully and try to find an asbestos contractor who has personal experience handling similar situations.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Mesothelioma or other asbestos related injuries, call 855-385-9532 today for a free case review.