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Asbestos

In order to make sure that your home is asbestos-free, you shouldn’t by any means try to tackle this serious issue yourself. Doing so can create even more damage and is not advisable. If you’re suspecting that there might be asbestos present in your home and are thinking of dealing with this problem yourself, read this before you have any asbestos-containing materials in your home removed or repaired.

Why You Should Not DIY: Risk of Asbestos Removal

What is asbestos?

A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos is present in rocks and soil. It has long and strong fibers and it’s often praised due to its heat-resistant properties, which is why it’s been used in the past as a construction material for insulation of residential and commercial buildings. Identifiable only under a microscope, asbestos is different from any other material – it’s indestructible and does not decompose or decay. In addition to being heatproof, asbestos is also resistant to water and chemicals. Although most of the products nowadays do not contain this mineral, asbestos is still present in older homes and buildings.

Where is asbestos found?

A majority of houses built before the 1980s were constructed using materials that contain asbestos due to its insulating and fire-resistant properties. That means that there were some common products that contained asbestos and may still be present in older homes. Floor and ceiling tiles as well as the adhesive used to install them might have contained asbestos, and sanding or scraping them during the removal may release fibers into the air which can be health-hazardous. Most products available on the market today do not contain asbestos, and if they do, they’re required to be labeled as such in order to prevent inhalation of this mineral.

What is the impact of asbestos on our health?

Asbestos exposure leads to an increased risk of developing a number of serious diseases such as lung cancer. People who work with asbestos and who are frequently exposed to high levels of this mineral are at higher risk of getting asbestosis, and in case the person inhaling asbestos is a smoker, the risk of developing lung cancer is even higher. Consequently, breathing high levels of asbestos fibers leads to a reduction in the respiratory function and as such, can often be fatal. A majority of people are exposed to asbestos in their everyday lives. However, exposure to smaller concentrations of asbestos will not cause you to develop these serious health problems.

Why You Should Not DIY: Risk of Asbestos Removal

What measures can you take to prevent health issues?

If you’re suspecting that there are asbestos-containing materials in your living space, consult with a professional first to make sure whether asbestos is actually present in your home. Since the biggest issue with asbestos is actually breathing it in, materials that may contain asbestos aren’t necessarily deemed to be health hazardous. If those materials are intact and aren’t damaged in any way, asbestos won’t pose any health risks to you and your household. Asbestos is only health hazardous when tiny fibers of this mineral become airborne, which could happen during renovations or remodeling. The best thing to do is to call in a professional who is trained to handle asbestos. They will take samples and repair or remove it, so you can rest assured that everything is done properly.

Why You Should Not DIY: Risk of Asbestos Removal

Why should you opt for professional asbestos removal?

While some homeowners are eager to DIY everything to save some money, asbestos removal is a risky DIY project. Whether the repair is minor or major, it still presents an issue that should only be tackled by an asbestos-trained professional. Improper handling of asbestos by an untrained professional is dangerous since it may create a health hazard where none existed before handling the asbestos-containing materials. While repair is a cheaper way to eliminate asbestos, it can make the removal process more difficult in later stages. Even though removal is more complex, if the asbestos damage is so big it’s irreparable, it may be the only option you have in order to remove any health risks asbestos may pose for your home.

Although not health hazardous when left intact, asbestos can lead to serious health issues when asbestos fibers are released from damaged materials. If after a professional asbestos inspection your home turns out to be contaminated with asbestos, hire a corrective-action contractor who will handle asbestos safely, eliminating the potential health risks that come with the presence of asbestos.

Your older home may be full of charm with its original woodwork, stunning light fixtures, leaded glass windows, and built-in seating in the dining area, but what your beloved home doesn’t have is space. For many modern homeowners, who love the look of classic early to mid-century 1900’s architecture, the obvious lack of storage space and the small bathroom or kitchens leaves many homeowners considering a big home improvement project. As with any remodeling project, it’s important to know what (or if any) dangers lurk behind the walls or beneath the floorboards. One of these dangers is asbestos.

If you live in a home that was constructed between the 1930’s and 1970’s, there’s a good chance that some of the materials contain asbestos and can be found throughout your home. While the mineral fiber, used for its heat and fire resistant properties, is no longer widely used in home construction materials, it can pose a threat to your health if it is in poor condition. Before you begin tearing out a wall or ripping up some flooring, make sure you’re not disturbing materials that contain it.

Asbestos fibres
Asbestos fibres

Where is Asbestos in Your Home?

Asbestos can be on your roof, in your attic, in your ceilings, on the walls, in the kitchen, and even in the basement. Before you panic, halt your home improvement project, and put the house on the market, it’s important to know where to look for asbestos and how to identify if it’s hazardous or not.

While asbestos exposure has been known to lead to deadly lung diseases like mesothelioma, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that asbestos is typically harmless if it is in good condition and left undisturbed. Here are some of the places where asbestos may be located in your home:

  • Blown-in attic insulation, such as vermiculite
  • Vinyl or linoleum floor tiles
  • Window caulking
  • Roofing material, such as tar paper
  • Heating and Cooling duct insulation
  • Siding materials
  • Acoustic ceiling tiles
  • Textured paints
  • Artificial embers in gas fireplaces
  • Door gaskets in wood stoves or furnaces

The best way to determine whether or not the materials are damaged is to look for tears, abrasions, or water damage. If you suspect damaged asbestos materials in your home, don’t disturb them or try to remove the material on your own.

The beginning of a renovation project
Renovation

Call Professionals Before You Start the Renovation Project

Even if you are certain that asbestos is located in your home, but is in good condition, it’s always a good idea to hire a professional asbestos inspector before making any changes to your home. Failure to seek professional advice can increase your chances of unintentional and potentially dangerous exposure to asbestos. Upon inspection, he or she will determine the condition of any asbestos in your home and will advise you if you can go ahead with the home improvement or hold the project until you have the asbestos removed.

Before you go ahead and try to make the most of your attic space or rip up the old linoleum in your kitchen, make sure you’re given the “go ahead” by a professional for the safety and health of yourself and your family.

 

About the author: Landon Biehl is an avid writer, and enjoys spreading awareness for health issues on a global level. He enjoys informing others on potential health hazards that are not always speculated. In his free time, Landon enjoys kayaking, running, and being outdoors. Landon also enjoys spending time at his local beach when time permits.

Feature image credit: Flickr