What Should You Do If You Suspect Asbestos When Doing a Renovation?


Good indoor air quality is vital, and for a good reason. Most people spend at least one-third of their time at home. If the air that you breathe contains toxic material, then you could easily get sick. There are no proper standards for many common indoor air toxins, so it is not easy to gauge them accurately. One such toxin that comes up a lot in this discussion is asbestos. Homeowners that are thinking about renovation, especially those of old homes, might worry about asbestos.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from the earth. It is inexpensive and has amazing heat protection abilities. It is also resistant to water and corrosion. That is why it was used a lot in building products. Asbestos use had peaked in the 1940s to the 1980s. It has two forms: non-friable and friable. Non-friable asbestos is prone to becoming powder. Friable asbestos is mostly safe as it is sealed in the product by cement, resin, or similar material. The latter form of asbestos is safer than the former. Common building materials that contain asbestos includes the following:

  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Vermiculite insulation
  • White tape around heating ducts
  • Old cement siding
  • Popcorn ceiling texture
  • Window panels
  • Adhesives used under floors and much more

Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos, if cut, drilled, or damaged, may produce airborne particles. Asbestos has small microscopic fibres that, if inhaled, get lodged in the lungs. They can cause scarring, inflammation, and other damages to the lungs. It can also cause various kinds of cancer. Homes constructed or remodeled before 1990 most likely have asbestos-containing products.

How Can You Check If Your Home Has Asbestos?

If the home you have been living in is old and you plan to renovate, but you are worried that there might be asbestos, then you should get it checked. The outside of your home may have asbestos sheets. You may also find asbestos in the switchboards, cabinet, sewage pipes, gutters, roofing, chimney flues, down water and stormwater pipes, etc.

Asbestos can be found in the bathroom, shower area, kitchen and basements. The list goes on, but you can’t just tell by looking at the products. You may have to contact a licensed company to come and inspect where you suspect asbestos to be. They’ll take samples and test them following scientifically approved protocols and tell you about the presence or absence of asbestos. If your home was built before 1990, we suggest to be very careful and not under any circumstances embark on DIY renovation of your home. Have your whole property inspected by licensed asbestos professionals first. The results will tell you what materials have asbestos. They will most likely also tell you how to remove it safely.

Is it Necessary to Check for Asbestos?

If you are renovating or buying a house built before the 1990s, then you can assume that there is at least some asbestos. You should put aside some money for asbestos and lead identification and remediation. If your old house is in good condition and you are not planning on renovating it, then you probably do not need to worry. In the case of remodeling, your chances of exposure would be very high. That is why you should have it properly evaluated by an environmental lab or industrial hygienist.

What Do I Do if There is Asbestos?

As we said earlier, there is friable and non-friable asbestos. So, if your asbestos-containing building material is not damaged or is friable, then it will not become airborne. Friable asbestos will be trapped and will not pose any health risk. That is why old houses with friable asbestos are safe to live in and have not been demolished.

They pose a greater risk if they are demolished or renovated. This is when they are released out in the open and have a chance to become airborne. People who live in there, work there or even pass by there regularly will be at risk.

Manual Disposal of Small Amounts of Asbestos?

Don’t try to dispose of asbestos yourself manually. In fact, in some places the removal of asbestos manually is illegal. It is far safer for professionals to handle removal and disposal. If your property has asbestos, anyone handling it must make sure that they are insured.

If you are not insured, and something that you do causes asbestos contamination, you may end up paying hundreds and thousands of cleaning costs.

Some Asbestos are More Hazardous than Others?

Yes, some types of asbestos are more dangerous than others. One such type is vermiculite insulation. This material is used in loose form for insulation. It may be present in your attic. It looks like small bits of rocks. This material can quickly become airborne if disturbed. You, your family members, and workers could get exposed to it. It is always best to assume that there is asbestos in this insulation. So, seek remediation from professionals.


Asbestos, although useful, has properties that make it very toxic to humans and animals. If you are planning on renovating an old house or buying and remodeling an old house, then you must keep in mind that it could be contaminated with asbestos. The best thing that you could do is keep aside some money for inspection and remediation of your property. It is always good to be safe rather than sorry.