If you're planning some remodeling (or demolition) in your pre-1970s home, you may be wondering what your walls or floor tiles have in store for you. You may be worried about the potential presence of asbestos, but reluctant to pay to have this asbestos professionally removed if you're otherwise intending a DIY remodel. Even something as simple as removing laundry room floor tiles to make room for a more efficient washer and dryer could release asbestos fibers into the air of your home. What should you do if you suspect your remodeling project is going to involve asbestos, and is it safe to remove asbestos yourself? Read on to learn more about this carcinogenic but efficient insulating material.
How can you tell if asbestos is present in your home?
Until the 1970s, asbestos was one of the go-to building materials relied upon by many contractors. Because of its flame-retardant properties, asbestos fiber or spray-in insulation was often used to insulate walls and attic spaces, and solid asbestos tile was used to create sound-proof and energy-efficient walls and floors. Unfortunately, when this asbestos insulation degrades or when these tiles are demolished, harmful asbestos fibers and dust are released into the air. Severe or long-term exposure to these fibers can cause an aggressive type of lung cancer known as mesothelioma.
It's hard to tell asbestos-containing materials from asbestos-free materials on sight. If your home's previous owners were diligent in their recordkeeping, you may be able to get some information on construction materials from the documents generated when your home was built (or last remodeled), but in most cases the only way to definitively tell whether asbestos is present in your home is to send a small sample to a lab for identification. You may want to first talk to your neighbors whose homes were built during the same time period. In many subdivisions planned and constructed during the time period asbestos was at its most popular, a single contractor or company was used -- which means that if several of your neighbors have had asbestos remediation in their homes, it's likely yours contains asbestos as well.
Is it legal to remove asbestos if you're not a licensed contractor?
In some jurisdictions, knowingly attempting to remove asbestos yourself without taking proper safety precautions or using a licensed asbestos contractor is an ordinance violation or infraction that could subject you to fines and other penalties. Improper disposal of asbestos-containing building materials is also illegal under federal law, as this poses a public health hazard.
However, so long as your state doesn't ban the removal of asbestos by a non-licensed individual and you take all measures required by the state and federal governments to properly dispose of asbestos waste, you should be legally permitted to remove your home's asbestos without using a professional.
What should you consider when deciding whether to remove asbestos from your home yourself?
There are a few situations in which DIY asbestos removal may be the ok. If the asbestos is in a solid form (like a flooring tile) and you only need to remove a small amount, it may be easier to do this yourself than pay a contractor to spend five minutes removing flooring tiles.
However, when you're removing any type of asbestos-containing product that could potentially go airborne (like insulation) or removing a wall in your home, it's a good idea to hire an asbestos removal professional. Not only will this keep you and your family out of harm's way, it will ensure that all applicable laws and regulations are complied with during the demolition and cleanup process. Using someone who removes asbestos for a living can give you the peace of mind you need when undergoing any type of home renovation.