Asbestos Inspections: What You Need to Know

The mineral asbestos is commonly used in residential and commercial applications and in the production of thousands of consumer products. You can find this material in everything from automobile brake pads and insulation to fabric and fireproofing materials. Asbestos is still utilized to make specific products, but its use as a home insulation material began to decline in the 1970s when it was found to be a cancer-causing agent.

Today, any home built in the 21st century does not contain insulation or siding made with asbestos. But many older homes in the United States are still likely to contain the material. This guide discusses essential information and things you need to know about an asbestos inspection as a homeowner. You’ll also learn how long asbestos testing takes and how to protect yourself and your family from its harmful long-term effects.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos consists of six naturally occurring minerals made up of heat-resistant fibers. For decades, people used it to make thousands of U.S. consumer products well before they knew its dangers. Research eventually showed that asbestos is a factor in causing several types of cancer, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other forms of cancer. Today, asbestos is regulated in the United States but is not banned. After scientists found it to cause cancer in those exposed to it, the number of products allowed to use asbestos dropped dramatically.

You may still find asbestos in specific products, but most are not commercial or industrial. You’ll still find it in some products, like certain types of tiles, automotive parts (like brake pads), and some types of cement.

What is asbestos poisoning?

The physical harm caused by exposure to asbestos is similar to that caused by other toxic substances; it is difficult to detect until symptoms of poisoning manifest. Builders and manufacturers used asbestos for decades until scientific research proved that it caused mesothelioma, lung cancer, and a non-cancerous lung disorder called asbestosis. Certain toxic compounds like carbon monoxide have symptoms you may catch ahead of time. Still, asbestos takes time to react in the body, which means most people don’t notice any physical reactions immediately. Over time, asbestos infiltrates the lungs and can cause many severe and fatal health problems.

Do home inspections check for asbestos?

Most standard home inspections do not include an asbestos survey or independent testing. However, some diligent home inspectors will let you know if you’re interested in buying a home built during a time when asbestos would have been common for use in things like siding, insulation, or fireproofing. Some scientific tests can detect the presence of asbestos, but your home inspector likely won’t do this as part of a standard home inspection.

Your home inspector’s job is to check the condition and quality of the systems in the home and make you aware of potential issues that need addressing. The inspection ensures that the property is safe for both the short and long term. For example, the inspector won’t specifically test for mold, but they could point out areas in the home where they see mold or areas where mold could be hiding. They may also point out plumbing leaks or moist areas of the home where mold could become an issue. That same concept is similar to asbestos. The home inspector won’t test for the material since it requires specialized equipment, but they could inform you about areas where asbestos might be present. If this is the case, you can ask for a separate asbestos inspection performed by a different professional.

How much does an asbestos inspection cost?

Since an asbestos survey or inspection is distinct from a standard home inspection, you’ll need to pay a separate cost if you want this test performed. The price is usually similar to other third-party inspections that aren’t typically included in the general pre-sale home inspection. Your cost will vary depending on the home’s size or the size of the area you need to test. On average, it costs approximately $225 to $808 for an asbestos inspection.

Let’s use an example of a three-bedroom home built in the 1960s. If you’re interested in purchasing the home, your home inspector could recommend an asbestos test, or you may decide to have one done independently, just to be safe. If this applies to you, you’ll likely pay the national average for an asbestos inspection and test, which is $517. If the home is older and much larger and includes a total of seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a large, finished basement, then a complete asbestos test will likely cost closer to $1,000 or more.

What if my home contains asbestos?

Currently, the United States does not ban asbestos use. Despite this, it’s pretty uncommon to use asbestos in home insulation, which has been the case since the 1970s. If you’re looking at buying a home that was built using asbestos insulation, it’s best to replace it both for your safety and your family’s safety, as well as for the protection of any future homeowners.

Asbestos testing

What does an asbestos inspection entail? If you think a home you’re buying or selling has any asbestos, it’s always recommended that you pay for professional, scientific testing. The asbestos inspection company will use mobile testing units to assess your home and inform you of any areas where there is any insulation or fireproofing materials where asbestos is present. Asbestos testing isn’t too expensive, especially if you’re a potential homebuyer interested in a property and want to ensure your new home is safe. The cost is relatively low compared to removing insulation and drywall after you find out the home has asbestos and you’ve already closed on the home.

Asbestos removal

If you find any asbestos in the home you’re buying or selling, there’s no need to panic. The asbestos removal process is considered routine, especially over the past few decades. Today, you can easily hire a group of professionals who can remove asbestos quickly, safely, and efficiently. Look for local companies with crews who specialize in removing asbestos insulation and other building materials. They are familiar with the appropriate safety measures required to ensure that the asbestos is removed correctly. Do a quick online search to find local professionals in your area who have good reviews and are licensed and qualified to do this work.

Here are some steps involved in asbestos removal:

  • The mitigation company will turn off all HVAC units and seal all vents and ductwork to prevent the asbestos fibers from circulating throughout the home.
  • They will completely seal off the entire work area with plastic sheeting.
  • Wet cleanup tools and a special HEPA filter vacuum are used to clean the area.
  • All materials removed from the home will be placed in clearly marked, airtight, leakproof containers.

The technicians should wear a full-face mask, respirator, and protective coveralls whenever they remove asbestos-containing materials. When the job is complete, the workers must adhere to strict decontamination procedures. They should properly contain any soiled clothing, and the workers should change and shower in a clean room away from the job site before changing their attire. After removing the asbestos, the professionals will safely dispose of the materials per state and federal regulations.

Selling a home with asbestos in it

If you are selling an older home that most likely contains asbestos, you have a few different options. First, make sure that you disclose this information to the seller and be willing to lower your asking price to accommodate the cost of removing and replacing any insulation or drywall that contains asbestos. Alternatively, you can offer to make the repairs yourself before the sale is complete. Whichever option you choose, asbestos is always something you must address before the home sells to a new buyer.

Asbestos is a dangerous material that requires the proper attention, testing, and mitigation. Detection and removal have become routine parts of the home buying and selling process. You can have peace of mind knowing that when you’re armed with the information mentioned in this guide, you’ll be able to keep your home and your family safe from the harmful effects of asbestos exposure.