Asbestos is again becoming a part of conversations around building and renovation sites in our region, specifically about how to dispose of materials containing it.
As most of you already know asbestos was used for many decades in materials such as insulation, flooring, stucco, and even drywall mud and plaster.
Although it has not been widely used since the late 1960s in North America, it is still in place in many thousands of homes and commercial buildings – places that we are now renovating and repairing.
As a contractor I am often removing things in homes in order to renovate or repair a bathroom or kitchen, and I am always aware of the possible presence of materials containing asbestos.
If asbestos containing materials, or ACM as they are called in the industry, are present then we must follow a completely different plan of attack when starting any renovation project.
The course of events for any renovation always begin with plans, budgets, and design. But they should also include testing and inspection.
If your home is more than 35 years old, built before 1975 or so, you should always include some simple inspections and ask some key questions before starting any demolition.
Even taking up old flooring like linoleum or vinyl flooring can cause problems if you don’t make sure it is asbestos free.
You have to take into account the fact that, even though your home may have been built in the 1970s some of the materials may have been manufactured long before that.
There are simple and easy ways to confirm the safety of those old products and, although there is some cost involved, the testing process is certainly well worth it.
A sample of the questioned material can be taken to a local lab and tested for about $50 a sample with the results available in as little as 24 hours. Test results even can be received in as little as four hours, for an extra fee.
You should remove the sample carefully, trying not to create any dust or loose particles, and then double bag it in a Ziploc-type bag.
Wear gloves and a dust mask or respirator, or have a professional do it for you.
The labs don’t need a very big sample, but there are requirements for what is included in the sample.
For old drywall, for example, they need some of the mud that would have been used on the joints, because that is what used to have asbestos in it, not the drywall board itself.
All of the local labs will send technicians to the site as well, and there are many asbestos abatement companies locally that will provide the same service.
If you have any doubt about anything in your older home, you should always call for quotes and consultations.
There may be a fee charged for an inspection, but it is well worth it to keep your home and family safe.
I have asthma and so I must be especially careful when working around dusty materials, and older products, and so I try to make sure I know what I’m dealing with.
Disposing of these materials can also be a problem, because more and more of our transfer stations and landfill sites are screening materials and adding things to the list of restricted products.
This is being done of course to protect not only the people working there, but also to protect the environment and the public.
Especially dusty materials like drywall and stucco have become more and more difficult to dispose of without first testing them or providing proof of the date of manufacture.
All drywall purchased now is stamped with a date along the edge and is not an issue but older products – used back in the ’60s and early ’70s – can have mud containing asbestos on it and does need to be tested.
I recently tested some stucco removed from a house built in the 1980s in order to satisfy the disposal company, and some drywall mud from an older home. The stucco was fine but the drywall mud had asbestos present and had to be dealt with in a completely different way.
You can find more information in a variety of ways, online, in the phone book, at your local garbage and recycling transfer station, and – of course – by contacting me.
Take care and always do your homework first before starting any work in and around your home.