Asbestos is a mineral fiber undetectable to the human eye. After World War II, it was commonly used in residential, commercial, and public building construction. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) banned most asbestos-containing products in 1989, but the ruling was later overturned. To this day, it’s still found in construction materials: attic insulation, popcorn ceilings, floor and roof tiles, window caulking, plumbing fixtures, some paints, and drywall. Although asbestos is still manufactured and distributed, it’s (thankfully) on the decline in the U.S.
If there’s asbestos in your home, rest assured it doesn’t mean you’re in immediate danger. Asbestos is most dangerous when it’s disturbed — during, say, a home renovation. Studies have shown that it could potentially lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other types of cancers. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) National Cancer Institute, there were 228,150 lung cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. in 2019. And Asbestos.com indicates that “more than 80% of mesothelioma cases are the result of asbestos exposure.”
This is definitely a case of safety first. Here’s what you need to know about having it removed.
There are plenty of projects where watching a home construction TV show or online video is enough to get you ready to do it yourself. But asbestos removal is simply too dangerous to risk your health or the health of your family. After all, it can take 10 to 40 years or more for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear. Additionally, it’s a complex, messy process. If you’re about to remodel your home, or completely demolish it, it’s important to first eliminate asbestos. And that requires a professional.
The right person, the right tools
Abatement is the identification, removal, repair, and encapsulation of materials. But like all service providers, not all asbestos abatement companies are equal. So do a little homework beforehand. And check your city and state regulations too.
Other tips: get multiple bids for the removal project. And make sure the contractor provides a written work plan detailing what methods will be used to remove and clean up the area. These plans should meet all state and federal regulations to ensure the job is done correctly. The EPA states that “federal law does not require persons who inspect, repair or remove asbestos-containing materials in detached single-family homes to be trained and accredited; however, some states and localities do require this. For safety, homeowners should ensure that workers they hire to handle asbestos are trained and accredited.” Another good idea: call your State Asbestos Contact to determine which professionals have completed up-to-date training courses. Be sure to ask for contractor references.
Have it tested
Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) are materials containing more than 1% asbestos. If you’re not a professional, there’s a very good chance you won’t see it. So hire someone who is. For $400 to $600, you can get a licensed inspector to look for hazardous materials. If they find any questionable material, they’ll take a small sample back to the lab and see if there’s asbestos present. This lab analysis should cost somewhere in the range of $25 – $75.
How much does removal cost?
Asbestos abatement ranges in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. An initial inspection will cost around $400 – $600. Total removal is usually anywhere between $20,000 – $30,000.
Or they might suggest encapsulation, which is typically a tad cheaper. That’s when they cover the asbestos with a protective barrier to reduce the risk of exposure. Encapsulation is a multi-step process, including the repair of damaged fibers with lag cloth, followed by a spray-on encapsulation coating (or an asbestos-binding compound).
Also keep in mind that a standard home insurance policy might not cover asbestos removal unless a covered incident occurs — like, say, if a windstorm damages your roof and disturbs previously dormant asbestos.