Asbestos Inspections: What You Need to Know

Asbestos is the commercial name for a group of minerals used to make thousands of consumer goods, from insulation and fireproofing materials to fabric. While asbestos is still used in certain products, its popularity as a home insulation material began declining in the 1970s when it was found to cause cancer.

Homes built in the 21st century do not contain insulation made with asbestos, but older homes that haven’t been updated are likely to. This article will cover what you need to know about asbestos as a homeowner and what you can do to ensure your home is safe from its harmful effects.

What is asbestos?

What is asbestos found in?

Asbestos was, at one time, used in thousands of consumer goods. Once research proved that it was highly influential in causing cancer in those exposed to it, the number of products it was permitted to use dropped dramatically. 

Today, you can only find asbestos in certain products, most of which are commercial or industrial. The most common products in which you’ll still find asbestos are tiles, automotive parts, and cement. 

What is asbestos poisoning?

Unfortunately, unlike other toxic substances, it’s hard to detect harm from asbestos until a condition caused by this poisonous compound has created lasting damage. We used asbestos for decades until science proved that it caused cancer, specifically lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, a non-cancerous lung disorder. 

While other toxic compounds, like carbon monoxide, can have symptoms you might catch ahead of time, asbestos takes time to act within the body and does not cause immediate reactions.

Do home inspections check for asbestos?

Technically speaking, home inspectors do not test for asbestos. That said, a diligent home inspector will likely point out if you are looking at purchasing a home built during a time when it would have been common to use asbestos for insulation or fireproofing. To be clear, there are scientific tests to detect asbestos, and your home inspector will not do these as a part of a routine home inspection. 

Part of a home inspector’s job is to assess the quality of the systems in your home and bring to light any issues that might need to be addressed to ensure that your home is safe, both short and long-term. For example, a home inspector will not test specifically for mold, but they will call attention to areas that they see mold in or places that could be concealing mold. This is similar to asbestos — they will not run the test for it (because that requires specialized equipment that we’ll talk about later), but they will let you know if they see a likely culprit for asbestos. 

How much does an asbestos inspection cost? 

The cost of an asbestos test is similar to the cost of other third-party inspections that are not regularly included in a home inspection — it varies based on the size of the space you need to test. On average, an asbestos test costs between $225 and $808

For example, if you’re thinking of purchasing a three-bedroom home built in the 1960s and either your home inspector recommends an asbestos test or you decide that you want one just to be safe. In that case, you’ll likely pay in the neighborhood of the national average of $517.

On the other hand, if you have a home inspection done on an older home with seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a large, developed basement, a thorough asbestos test might cost you over $1,000. 

What if my home contains asbestos? 

The United States has yet to ban the use of asbestos. Despite that, it has become very uncommon to use in home insulation since the 1970s. If you are selling or looking at buying a home that was built with asbestos insulation, you’ll likely need to replace it, both for your own safety and that of future homeowners. 

Asbestos testing

If you suspect that a home you’re selling or buying has asbestos in it, the best bet is to pay for a professional to test it. They’ll use mobile testing units to assess your home and let you know where, if anywhere, you have insulation or fireproofing material that has asbestos in it. 

These tests are not overly expensive, especially as a potential home buyer when you compare it to the cost of removing and replacing your insulation and drywall — if you find out after purchasing your home has asbestos. 

Asbestos removal

If you find yourself having to remove asbestos in a home you’re buying or selling, don’t stress too much. The process has become very routine over the past couple of decades, and you can now hire professionals who can do it smoothly and quickly. 

Local companies will have crews that specialize in removing asbestos insulation and are familiar with the safety measures needed to do this safely. With a quick online search, you’ll be able to come up with professionals who have good reviews in your area and will be qualified to do this job for you. 

Selling a home with asbestos in it

If you’re selling an older home that is likely to, or you know to have, asbestos in it, there are a couple of options you can choose from. 

You can disclose this to the seller and drop your asking price to accommodate the removal and replacement of the insulation and drywall or make the repairs yourself before the sale. Whichever way you choose, asbestos is something that needs to be addressed.

There are no two ways about it; asbestos is a tricky compound that needs our attention. Scientific advances sometimes come with long-term consequences, and we need to be prepared to pivot and adjust when those become known. The good news is as far as asbestos is concerned, the detection and remediation have become routine. You can rest easy knowing that with the steps we outlined above, you can keep you and your home safe from asbestos.