What to do about Asbestos

Asbestos Magnified

When you are purchasing a home or getting ready to sell your home, the topic of Asbestos can pop up during a home inspection. Here are some common questions and answers that can arise.

What is Asbestos? Asbestos is a natural occurring fibrous mineral that may contain silicates. It is resistant to heat, fire and many chemicals and has been used for fireproofing, insulation and also as a decorative element.

Unfortunately, the very qualities that make asbestos great for use can cause adverse effects on people. Asbestos can break into microscopic fibers when disturbed which remain in the air for long periods of time and easily penetrate the human body when inhaled. The fibers can remain in the body tissues for many years and have been known to cause lung cancer and asbestosis.

When does it need to be removed? If asbestos is in good condition and has not been disturbed, there are no laws of regulations that require its removal. However, building owners are required to keep the asbestos in good shape to prevent the release of asbestos particulates. If a renovation or a demolition is going to cause damage to material containing asbestos, then it must be removed before the project begins.

Where is asbestos found? Asbestos is most commonly found in heating system insulation, floor tiles [typically 9”x9” squares] and vinyl sheet flooring, wallboard, mastics, joint compound, decorative plasters, and some siding and roofing products.

What is the removal process?  Choose a licensed DOS certified asbestos abatement contractor to do the removal. They will come in and test the items and can also do an air monitoring test to see if there are particulates in the air. For more specific information on Massachusetts regulations, visit the  MassDEPwebsite.Not all asbestos needs to be removed. If the material is in good shape, it can also be encapsulated, which is less costly than removal.

The abatement contractor will obtain the proper permits, encapsulate the area they will be working in, wear protective gear to do the removal, remove the asbestos, than test the area to make sure all asbestos particulates have been removed.  A large portion of the costs are related to permitting and preparing the area for asbestos removal. A small area can be similar in price to a larger area that needs to be taken care of since it is the preparation and removal costs that are costly, as opposed to the removal of square footage.

Your home inspector will be able to point out if there is a potential for asbestos in your home. The inspector will recommend whether you should call in an inspector for further testing.

Information obtained from the Mass DEP asbestos guide