Is Asbestos in Your Home? A Guide to Safe Discovery and Removal

Many older homes contain asbestos in numerous places. Seemingly innocuous things like tiles, insulation, and roof shingles can all be guilty of having the dangerous additive that creates an unsafe environment by contaminating the air. While sheltered asbestos is not yet airborne (and therefore not dangerous), anytime deterioration or damage to an asbestos-containing substance occurs, the small fibers can be released into the surrounding area. If you are the owner of an aged home or are looking to purchase one, make sure to read the following asbestos management plan for searching for and eliminating this substance.

Is a visual inspection sufficient?

Because asbestos doesn't come in a uniform shape or color and is often within a building material, a visual inspection of your home is normally not enough to locate areas where it could subsist. Instead, you will need to send samples of suspected instances to a designated laboratory. While there are detailed instructions available for safely removing samples yourself, it is recommended that you instead hire a professional equipped with safety masks and other equipment. While it may cost more than a do-it-yourself job, the peace-of-mind afforded to you and your family is unmatched.

Once at the lab, polarized light microscopy or transmission electron microscopy will be used to analyze the supplied materials.

What if the sample comes back positive?

A positive result is no reason to panic since countless older homes contain asbestos, but this doesn't mean that you shouldn't act quickly. Your eventual game plan will depend on the condition of the material though as not every case is created equal. Friable asbestos should always be dealt with by professionals. It may already be deteriorated and its ability to crumble could release the substance into the air— meaning it is not the right subject for an at-home project.

An alternative to complete removal is a repair or isolation strategy. Because non-damaged asbestos containing products are not necessarily dangerous, smaller problems with insulation or pipe cement can be fixed and covered with an airtight material that prevents the possibility of airborne particles. This spray or material can normally be bought at your local home improvement store and is an option if you know the areas of your home are not currently dangerous.

Permanent Solutions

Despite temporary solutions, the only permanent fix is complete removal. If you decide to go this route, ensure the professional you hire is using a HEPA vacuum (has a complex filtration system) and a device to cleanse the air near his or her workspace to prevent the release of asbestos fibers.