Asbestos-based pipe insulation can be found in many homes, particularly in older homes. As a professional Raleigh Home Inspection firm, we most often see asbestos used as a piping insulation…although other materials e.g. exterior insulation, acoustic (drop-ceiling) tiles, interior floor covering tiles, etc. also often contain asbestos.
The presence of asbestos is not typically or automatically considered a reason for concern…unless it has become friable. Asbestos in a friable condition is material which can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure and where the asbestos fibers are able to become airborne and ingested into the body usually via inhalation. As a general rule, if the material can be easily/readily disturbed and become airborne, by the effect of a breeze, simply creating a breeze by walking past it – it is in a friable state (condition).
Very few products that are manufactured today contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. Up until the 1970′s, there were many different types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include:
- Boiler, steam, or water distribution piping that has been insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape.
- Resilient floor tiles – the backing on some vinyl sheet floor covering , and adhesives used for installing floor tiles. Sanding tiles can release fibers. So may scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal.
- Cement sheet, mill-board, and paper used as insulation around furnaces and wood-burning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers. So may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling or sawing insulation.
- Asbestos exterior siding and some roofing shingles…these products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, drilled or cut. Many times we find that the asbestos-based siding has been covered with a different material.
So, how does one know whether there is asbestos in the home and, if so, what should be done about it?
The positive identification of asbestos-containing materials can only be confirmed through testing. The determination of whether or not there are any such materials present is typically, by definition, outside the scope of a Home Inspection. A Home Inspector may make a note regarding potential presence…a comment in the inspection report such as “Materials similar to those observed have been known to contain asbestos…” may well be appropriate, but any definitive determination would need to be the result of testing.
As mentioned previously, there can be asbestos present that does not constitute any cause for alarm because it is in a non-friable condition. Should it be discovered or determined that there are friable asbestos-based materials present, then a certified remediation specialist should be consulted to assess and correct the condition.
Gary Gentry – The Raleigh Home Inspector