If you've bought an old house to renovate, one of the most important things you need to consider is if it has asbestos. It was a common building material at one time, so many older homes have it. You must be careful when working with asbestos-containing material, especially if you plan to demolish it. Here are a few things to know about asbestos in older homes.
Where Asbestos May Be Located
One of the good things about asbestos is that it is fire resistant. For that reason, it was often used in insulation, roofing, and siding to protect the home from fire. It was also commonly used in flooring, textured ceilings, and soundproofing materials. It could be in any room of the house, particularly in kitchens or rooms with a fireplace. It might be hidden in old tile flooring that is under a carpet or it might be exposed as pipe insulation in the basement.
How To Tell If The Home Has Asbestos
If the home has all its original building material, there is a good chance asbestos is present. If the home was renovated in the last few decades, much of the asbestos may have been removed already, or it could just be covered up. You can't tell by looking if something has asbestos in it. The only way to know for sure is to have it tested. If you plan to demolish a wall, tear off siding, pull up old vinyl tiles, cut through insulation, or do other types of demolition work in an old home, you should have it tested for asbestos first. The act of cutting, sanding, or otherwise disturbing the material is what releases asbestos fibers into the air.
How Asbestos Testing Is Done
You should hire a professional to test the home for asbestos. To test various materials in the home, samples must be taken. Cutting out small pieces of vinyl or insulation is enough to release asbestos fibers into the air, so sampling is dangerous work. Safety precautions must be taken that include wearing protective gear, clearing the area of people and pets, and wetting the surface so asbestos fibers won't float into the air.
In addition, an asbestos inspector knows where to look in the home for asbestos. This ensures materials with the substance aren't missed and mistakenly thought to be safe. When the inspector comes to your home, you'll discuss your plans for renovation so he or she knows what areas of the house will be disturbed. Samples are then taken from building materials, sealed in containers, and sent to a lab for testing. You should wait for results of the tests before beginning work on the house, because the results may affect how you proceed.
If testing reveals the presence of asbestos in the old flooring, it may be safer and less expensive to cover up the flooring rather than tear it out. As long as the material is still in good shape, the asbestos fibers will be safely contained in the floor, and if it is covered, it won't be disturbed in the future. If you decide to tear up the floor, you'll have to hire asbestos removal experts because it is too dangerous to do the work yourself. This significantly drives up the cost of the renovation project.