The word “asbestos” strikes terror into the ears of homeowners. It sounds like a big problem, and it often is.
But, how do you know if it’s an issue in your home? What should you do about it? And can it affect the sale of your property?
What Is Asbestos?
Although you may think asbestos was cooked up in a laboratory, it wasn’t. It’s a naturally occurring mineral that’s still quarried in some countries.
When it was found to have insulator and fire-retardant properties around the 1940s, asbestos was put into large-scale use. Asbestos in homes is often found as insulation in ceilings, floors, walls and around pipes.
Sadly, it was only later that researchers discovered it also posed a serious health risk, including severe types of respiratory cancer. In the 1980s, there was a movement to remove asbestos from public buildings such as schools and hospitals to make it safer for communities.
Private property owners were mostly left to handle the situation on their own.
How Do You Know If You Have Asbestos in Your Home?
If your house was built between the 1940s and the 1970s, it’s entirely possible that you have some form of asbestos insulation lurking somewhere.
But, don’t panic yet.
Asbestos only creates a problem for homeowners if it’s disturbed. Left intact, the micro-particles don’t enter the air and, therefore, won’t get into your lungs.
The trouble comes when you plan to build an extension or do heavy renovations.
So how do you know whether you have it and whether you should be concerned?
The only way to safely determine whether asbestos is present in a structure is to have it professionally tested… and then professionally removed while the home is unoccupied.
If you are buying or selling a home that was built before 1980, it’s likely that there is some level of asbestos unless you have a certificate regarding its removal.
But checking for this mineral is usually not part of the home inspection process unless specifically requested. And, the onus is on the buyer to check for asbestos, especially if renovations are in the cards after purchase. Naturally, the buyer will need permission from the seller to perform these tests.
All in all, it can become complicated if you are contemplating structural changes to the home, but it’s not a deal breaker in most cases.
Learn more about asbestos in the home and how to protect yourself and your family at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.