My Home May Contain Asbestos, Now What?
As a professional home inspector I often inspect homes that were built before the 1980’s that contain some form of possible asbestos material. Asbestos is a loose term for the minerals amphibole and chrysotile, the latter is the less harmful of the two, and still mined and available today. Asbestos was originally thought a great product because of its durability, non-combustible material and mining abundance. However, in recent years have we seen a rise in health concerns (mostly respiratory problems) due to the handling and inhalation of asbestos.
So where may a professional home inspector find possible asbestos? While many areas may not be accessible without cutting a hole in the wall, floor or ceiling, a qualified and highly trained inspector will know where to look for clues and evidence of asbestos.
Heating Duct Tape
While this may just look like old duct tape there is good chance if your home was built before 1980 it’s not just duct tape, it may be asbestos tape. Often times we find this tape to be in good shape without any tear or damage. Health Canada even states that there is minimal risk of personal harm if this tape is not damaged and not disturbed as the chance of airborne fibres would be low. However, if it is fraying and looks damaged it should be tested by a professional and removed if found to contain asbestos.
This is a faded white wrapping that looks like paper mâché around the duct work. It is usually found in unconditioned areas (attics), non-heated crawlspaces and in poor condition. If it is loose or friable (damaged/deteriorating) the recommendation is that it be removed and remediated by a professional asbestos company for health reasons.
Attic (Vermiculite) Insulation
Vermiculite is the mineral material that was used mostly as attic insulation from around the 1900’s-1970’s. It is possible to have vermiculite insulation and it may not contain asbestos fibres. However, it is reasonable to assume that if your home was built between these years the vermiculite could contain asbestos. Although the percentage of airborne asbestos in bulk vermiculite is low, it can be more harmful if disturbed.
We have reviewed the most common material known to contain asbestos. However, vinyl floor tiles, ceiling tiles, joint compound, textured paint, furnace door gaskets, artificial ashes, exterior siding and roof tiles may contain asbestos as well. Bottom line is that asbestos is most harmful when it is airborne and inhaled, so if you think you have it in your home, leave it alone or have it tested by professionals before removal. If you want to minimize any risk of asbestos it is recommend to have it tested by a qualified professional and removed if it tests positive. Always remember to seek out a qualified professional when having asbestos handled, tested and removed.