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All About Asbestos Testing

When do you need to get asbestos testing done on your home? Youll likely need to test for asbestos in certain remodeling situations, and you may also be required to do it if youre about to put your house on the market and need to make a disclosure on the material on the roof, siding or ductwork.

Will you have to knock $20,000 off the selling price if you have to list it as being topped with asbestos shingles? Maybe, even though most people cant tell the difference between a slate roof and an asbestos one. If fact, most people dont even know what the stuff is, but without full disclosure on the contract you could be setting yourself up for a lawsuit if you dont get asbestos testing done.

What is Asbestos?

In a nutshell, asbestos is the common name for a group of natural fibers which are highly regarded as a building material for their thermal insulating properties. But with the good, comes the bad: if these mineral fibers become airborne and are inhaled, they attach themselves to the tissue in the lung and stay in the human body forever. Breathing asbestos has been linked to respiratory diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma asbestos cancer.

The EPA recommends that you leave asbestos alone unless its the friable type. But if you suspect asbestos present in floor tiles or insulation (its not visible to the naked eye) in a home improvement job you intend to do yourself, its recommended that you get asbestos testing done by a certified contractor who will send a sample to a qualified laboratory.

Asbestos can be present in some very common materials found in your home, including: pipe insulation, shingles, siding, floor tiles and the backing of vinyl sheet flooring, textured paint and ceiling spray, and joint compounds. Here are just a few examples of what to do with asbestos products you may encounter in your remodeling projects:

  • Vinyl flooring often contains asbestos and its best to cover it with new flooring rather than rip up the old.
  • Pipes are often wrapped in insulating material that contains asbestos. If it the material is old and crumbles in your hand when you touch it, it should be tested.
  • Drywall and plaster made before 1980 usually contains a small amount of asbestos and is perfectly safe unless you have to scrape or sand it, in which case it can become airborne.
  • Wall insulation, the type that looks like hardened cotton, may also contain this hazardous material and would be a good candidate for sampling and an asbestos test.

If you want to test for asbestos yourself, get a professional asbestos testing kit and send the samples in to a lab for analysis. These tests can identify asbestos fibers embedded in materials as little as 1% content by weight.

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