Asbestos is often found in Rhode Island homes. This find during a home inspection often has varied opinions, concerns, and certainly loads of questions. I figured I’d put together some things to help explain, identify and inform you on the remedies for deficient conditions.
Asbestos was used in residential applications until 1978.
Airborne particles, or friable particles are microscopic and are cancer causing.
Most applications do not pose an immediate hazard if left undisturbed.
Asbestos removal is licensed buy the RI Department of Health, however they do not actively regulate 1-2 family homes, that are not being demolished.
The most common application we see is insulation on steam heat pipes, here’s a picture if me inspecting some asbestos insulation. Asbestos was used because it is a great insulator. The hazard here is this configuration is easy to damage and often, the encapsulation is damaged exposing the hazard. The remedy here can be encapsulation or removal. This should be performed by a licensed pro, as this product has a high potential for releasing particles into the air. Encapsulation is allowed, the product looks like plaster. It is not acceptable to encapsulate it in plastic, trash bags, duct tape, or any other non approved product. Removal is typically slightly more expensive than encapsulation. Typical removal costs $10-12 per linear foot.
The next areas we se it are VCT tiles, they look like old vinyl floor tiles like you’d see in an old school. Generally the hazard here is very low, these tiles present very low risk, and can be left in place. They can be removed, by a pro. Do not cut or use powered tools on this product.
Cement fiber tiles, for exterior siding are also common in our area. These are extremely durable, and, like flooring present very little to no risk if left in place.
Vermiculite insulation. This product may or may not contain asbestos. If I come across it, I recommend it be treated as if it contains asbestos, unless tested and found to be asbestos free. Most of it does contain asbestos. It’s a gravely insulation that came in bags and is typically found in attics. This stuff is easily distributes airborne particles and is extremely hazardous because of this. I will not enter an attic if I see this product.
The last main area I see is asbestos roofing. These roof surfaces are very durable, lasting over 40 or 50 years, or more. The shingles/roof tiles are often different looking, perhaps diamond shaped roof tiles. Like siding, not a real hazard until disturbed.
The big thing to remember, if an asbestos system is failing or renovation may disturb it, it should be done by only licensed pros. It will also be much more costly, as its considered hazardous waste, and disposal is expensive.
In general, its a good idea, as Realtors, that you know the basics regarding asbestos. Basically, be able to identify it, know the hazard, and help your clients do the same. If you have any questions on asbestos, or any other home item, please feel free to contact me directly, or visit www.homeinspectorri.com.
Mike Auger, CMI