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For those who enjoy to DIY, it’s always exciting to start a new project. From large projects like new flooring to smaller room decorating projects like painting, you have the power to make your home exactly how you’d like.
Experienced DIYers know that there are just some projects you should leave to the pros. After all, we want to keep home improvement fun and safe. If you live in an older home, there are certain materials that DIYers should let the pros handle, one of those being asbestos. See what you need to know about this toxic material and how you can handle it.
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What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with six variations, each one a hazard to health. It's known for its strength and heat resistance within materials. You can commonly find it in homes built between 1930 and 1950, as that was when it was most popular.
Until 1970, the use of asbestos was unregulated. There have been multiple attempts at banning the material all together, but those have been overturned. In the workforce, exposure is highly regulated by OSHA and the EPA. The use of asbestos is banned in some products such as paper and flooring felt. However, it’s still allowed in homebuilding materials such as vinyl tile. Generally, asbestos is no longer used in new construction.
Where Can Asbestos Exposure Happen?
Asbestos is linked as a cause of lung disease, lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. Frequently, it’s found in older insulation, flooring and walls. Alone and undisturbed, it's not hazardous. However, you are exposed to asbestos when you inhale the fibers. For homeowners, exposure can happen when these fibers are released into the air, such as a remodeling project.
Since asbestos is odorless and tasteless, it’s highly important to know if any of the changes to your home may involve removing asbestos. Here’s a few common household places you may find asbestos:
- Floor Tile
- Window Caulk
Given the number of places that can contain asbestos, testing before starting a new home improvement project is crucial. Projects like removing a popcorn ceiling, new flooring installation or remodeling in older homes should always be tested for asbestos before beginning. While it is a cost you must factor into your project, the hazards of the material are too great.
The average cost to test for asbestos is $907, with most homeowners spending between $497 and $1,027. There are home-test kits that cut costs. Homeowners can pick up a kit from their local hardware store and mail in the sample to a lab. Though, due to hazardous qualities of the mineral and the challenge it may be to identify, we recommend contacting a pro who can help.
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According to The Mesothelioma Center, asbestos insulation was the biggest source of exposure. This is now banned in household use. However, for homes built between 1919 and 1990, there is a good chance you may have a type of insulation that contains asbestos. If your insulation is secluded and in good condition, it’s best to leave it alone. However, in a frequently visited attic or crawlspace, you may want consider removal. Movement around the area can disturb the fibers allowing them to be released into the air and then turns into a health hazard.
Commonly found in vinyl tile flooring, asbestos flooring is generally nothing to worry about unless you're preparing to remove them. Asbestos flooring was common between 1920 and 1960. You can also tell by the size of the tile if there’s possible asbestos contamination. Floor tiles with this material came in 9”x9”, 12”x12” and 18”x18” sizes. If these two factors are true of your flooring, it may contain asbestos. If you have any concern that your flooring may contain asbestos, get it tested before beginning your next project.
When it comes to asbestos removal, it’s always best to leave this job to a pro. Because this material is hazardous when disturbed, they will have the proper equipment to keep you, your home and themselves safe from this. Also, the house must be empty while the asbestos is being removed, for your family’s safety. Keep this in mind as you plan. Asbestos removal costs are generally under $2,000 alone. This depends on the size of the space.
Though it is quite a process to remove asbestos from your home, it’s a necessity if you’re remodeling and could also help sell your home when the time comes. Asbestos is a material that requires professional experience. Consider getting your home tested before you begin your next project.