Finding asbestos during home renovations

Simple home renovation projects rarely turn out to be simple. If your home improvement plans uncovered the existence of asbestos in your walls, ceiling, floors or other areas, your project might have come to a screeching halt while you evaluated what to do next. Should you eat into your home improvement budget by hiring a professional to remove the asbestos? Or can you save some money by removing it yourself?

This is a decision to take very seriously because asbestos particles have a link to mesothelioma, which is a deadly form of lung cancer and other serious ailments. Before you begin ripping out ceiling tiles or pulling up old flooring, you should know the risks and the options.

Where does asbestos hide?

If you live in an older home, chances are there is asbestos in it. During your renovations, if you suspect you are dealing with materials containing asbestos, you can purchase an in-home test kit to identify the presence of asbestos, or seek the advice of an accredited asbestos professional. Asbestos may occur in many areas of your home, including:

  • Attic and wall insulation, especially blown-in insulation
  • Roof shingles and house siding
  • Popcorn ceilings or other textured surfaces
  • Vinyl floor tiles, adhesive and backing
  • Furnace door gaskets
  • Wrap or tape insulation on older pipes

Meanwhile, do not touch or disturb it. Asbestos particles become dangerous when they are airborne, and you and your family have a higher chance of inhaling or ingesting them and raising your risk of developing mesothelioma or other cancers. In some cases, such as with house siding, covering the asbestos materials is the safest course of action. However, you may want to remove the threat altogether, and that requires extreme caution.

Can I do it myself?

Currently, no federal regulations prevent you from doing your own asbestos abatement as long as it is for a single-family residential property. Commercial properties and multi-family units must have a professional to remove the dangerous materials. In North or South Carolina, however, you will want to check with the local authorities to see what permits you need to do the work.

However, doing the work yourself places you and your loved ones in unnecessary danger, and most health and safety advocates strongly recommend using certified asbestos removers. These professionals know the safest way to handle the materials with minimal risk of exposure. They have the appropriate tools for the job and understand the laws for properly disposing of asbestos products. Hiring a professional may be a small price to pay for this peace of mind.