How Can I Detect Asbestos in My Home?
Asbestos used to be an insulating material until the early 1980s, when it was discovered that asbestos may become friable and release airborne fibers that can be detrimental to a homeowner’s health.
Because of those fibers’ carcinogenic properties, asbestos is no longer used in home construction. Homes that were built before the early 1980s, however, could still have asbestos in them.
If you own an older home and want to improve it, you may start tearing down walls, drilling holes, and removing construction materials. Unfortunately, by doing so, you may be releasing dangerous asbestos fibers into the air. Likewise, when you repair a wall or fix something that’s broken, you need to ensure you are not hammering, drilling, or screwing through an asbestos layer.
Many homeowners wonder how they can detect whether their home has asbestos and whether they can do anything about it. Valley Restoration and Construction has the answer.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in construction for its durability, low cost, and fire-resistant qualities. It was used extensively in homes throughout the US for decades and you could find asbestos in insulation, roofing, tile glue, drywall, window caulking, glazing, pipe insulation, boilers, HVAC systems, siding, and even fireplaces.
Since the 1970s, however, it gradually became apparent that asbestos could cause lung disease and lung cancer. More than half a million Americans have died from asbestos-related diseases so far. As a result, asbestos has been banned from construction, particularly in homes.
Given its decades-long popularity, however, there is still a large stock of homes that were built 40 or 60 years ago and that still contain asbestos.
How Dangerous Is Asbestos?
If asbestos is left untouched and has not gone through any sort of damage, it poses no risk to your health. That’s because the airborne fibers cannot be released until asbestos becomes friable, so solid asbestos is safe.
Problems can occur after natural disasters such as earthquakes or flooding that disturb the asbestos in the walls. Another common problem is homeowners who start home improvement work to fix broken parts of their homes without suspecting they might have asbestos behind their drywalls. In this case, they may disturb the asbestos already encased in the home and make it release its fibers as it is broken through.
Attic renovation, pipe insulation, drilling, scraping, or new flooring installation are typical activities that can lead to major asbestos breakdown and asbestos-related problems.
How Do I Know If My Home Contains Asbestos?
It can be difficult to be sure about the presence of asbestos in your home.
Generally speaking, if your home was built before the early 1980s, there is a chance that asbestos has been used somewhere in your home construction:
- Vinyl tiles often contained asbestos. If your home has vinyl tiles, perhaps you should check if there is any asbestos hiding in there.
- Plumbers used asbestos for pipe insulation and for ceiling tiles. This is another common area where asbestos can be found.
- Asbestos was used in roofing sheets as well. Tears and abrasions around these parts could be a sign that asbestos is deteriorating and crumbling, thus releasing fibers.
- Asbestos was also used in drywall texture and joint compound used for drywall surfacing. Also known as drywall mud, this is a gypsum-based paste used to finish drywall joints and corners in new drywall installations. As surfacing can become extremely friable during renovation activities, this is a serious potential risk for you.
If you can, draw a blueprint of all the home areas where asbestos may be present. Don’t scrape, drill, hammer, or do any home renovation around these areas without talking to an asbestos professional first.
What Should I Do About Asbestos in My Home?
If you suspect your home may have asbestos, you should reach out to professionals like Valley Restoration and Construction to take samples and send them to a certified lab for testing.
It is best if you don’t take the sample yourself. Our crews wear special protective gear to protect themselves from coming into contact with asbestos. Also, they know how to remove a sample without releasing fibers into your home.
Can I Take Care of the Asbestos Problem Myself?
The State of Colorado has stringent regulations regarding asbestos that include residential homes. Any home that requires the removal of 32 square feet or more of a suspect material, regardless of the age of the home, requires asbestos testing or the material should be treated as asbestos in lieu of testing.
The best way to handle asbestos is abatement, whereby a state-licensed contractor completely removes it for you.
Covering up or encapsulating is another way of handling it and can be effective depending on the situation. The aim is to seal the asbestos problem and stop it from leaking its fibers. However, the material is still there and may well present a problem in the future.
The State of Colorado, under certain circumstances, does allow a homeowner to opt out of state regulations regarding asbestos. Federal regulations, however, must still be adhered to. These include the proper disposal of the asbestos material in a landfill certified to accept asbestos waste—you can’t simply dust off the broken asbestos and throw it in the bin. Unfortunately, certified landfills are few and far between.
From the above, it becomes clear that most people don’t have the specialist knowledge, licenses, or gear to take care of an asbestos problem in their homes. Even the simplest way of dealing with asbestos—by encapsulating the area where asbestos has been disturbed—requires specific materials that bind the fibers together and stop them from flowing freely. Most homeowners are unlikely to have such high-end materials in their possession.
If we determine that you have friable asbestos in your home, the specialists from Valley Restoration and Construction will proceed with fixing the problem. We will remove the asbestos pieces that were disturbed and dispose of them in a licensed landfill, according to strict regulations.
Talk to Valley Restoration and Construction About Your Asbestos Problem
Call us at 970-964-4437 or contact Valley Restoration and Construction online and our technicians will come to assess the problem and offer affordable and effective solutions to any asbestos problems. We have the know-how, equipment, gear, and materials to encapsulate and seal the asbestos and ensure you and your family live in a healthy home environment.