Asbestos containing materials may be present in homes of all ages, but it is most commonly found in homes built before 1980. The “popcorn ceiling” product is one of the most recognized forms of asbestos, but many other products may contain asbestos.
There are several locations in a home where asbestos might be present. This it is not necessarily a cause for concern as long as it is maintained in an undamaged state.
This illustration shows some of the common areas where asbestos-containing products may have been used in homes.
Minimize the Danger
Anyone who is living or working in a home that will be undergoing repairs or remodeling needs to take the necessary asbestos precautions before starting any projects. Work done on both the interior and exterior of a home may cause asbestos exposure by unknowingly impacting asbestos-containing materials. Some examples include cement asbestos siding, niccolite paper under cedar shake roofing, sheet vinyl, and vermiculite insulation.
If the remodeling project is taking place in your Owner-Occupied, Single-Family Residence*, you as the homeowner residing in the home may remove asbestos yourself, but the process is labor intensive with cautionary steps that must be followed. Many homeowners find that hiring a certified asbestos abatement company is the better option. Homeowners who choose to do the asbestos removal project themselves must be prepared for the task.
If the project does not qualify as an Owner-Occupied, Single-Family Residence*, then a certified AHERA Building Inspector must perform an asbestos survey. If asbestos is found, then a certified asbestos contractor must abate or encapsulate the asbestos.
Identify Suspect Materials
If you qualify as an Owner-Occupied, Single-Family Residence,* you can hire a trained, certified AHERA Building Inspector to take and submit samples of materials for laboratory analysis or you can take samples yourself. Note: Taking samples is not the same as having an AHERA survey performed. Be sure to sample everything that may be disturbed during the renovation project. If you decide not to check for asbestos, assume the material contains asbestos and treat it accordingly.
Submitting a sample to a laboratory is easy and inexpensive in advance of your project. Labs usually require a sample to be about the size of a quarter, more instructions follow. For surfacing materials like “popcorn” and other textures, and plaster, we suggest you take more than one sample. AHERA protocol requires sampling of texturing to follow the 3-5-7 rule: 3 samples from less than 1,000 square feet, 5 samples from 1,000-5,000 square feet, and 7 samples from greater than 5,000 square feet area.
*An Owner-Occupied, Single Family Residence means any non-multiple unit building containing space used for living, sleeping, cooking, eating, etc., by one family who owns the property as their permanent and primary residence. Refer to SRCAA Regulation 1, Article IX for more information.
1. Spray down the materials with a mixture of dishwashing soap and water. Allow time for the liquid to soak in before taking the sample. This reduces the potential release of asbestos fibers.
2. Do not disturb the material any more than is necessary to take a small sample. After taking the sample, you can use a light application of hair spray to lock-down the area you sampled.
3. Place the sample in a clean airtight container such as a zip lock bag or small glass jar. Seal the container tightly. Use a damp disposable cloth to clean up any materials on the outside of the container or that might have spilled onto the floor. Never use a vacuum to clean up materials that may contain asbestos.
4. Clearly label the container, stating where and when the sample was taken.
5. Deliver or mail the sample to an accredited laboratory for analysis.
#3 of a 4-part series: It’s Asbestos. Don’t panic. There are options.