When meeting clients for the first time to discuss a possible renovation, I typically ask the age of the home. When someone tells me their home was built prior to 1987 I know the swear word asbestos is going to come up. How do I know? Because I ask the question: “Has your home been tested for asbestos?” What typically comes back is a swear word.
Asbestos: Do I have it in my home?
If your home was built prior to 1987, the likely hood of having asbestos is pretty great. The areas where you may have asbestos are as follows:
- RESILIENT FLOOR TILES (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and rubber), the backing on VINYL SHEET FLOORING, and ADHESIVES used for installing floor tile.
- SOUNDPROOFING OR DECORATIVE MATERIAL sprayed on walls and ceilings.
- PATCHING AND JOINT COMPOUNDS for walls and ceilings, and TEXTURED PAINTS.
- ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOFING, SHINGLES, and SIDING.
- BOILER /PIPE INSULATION and/or elbow cement and joint tape
- ATTICK INSULATION (Vermiculite)
Your Role/My Role
Many homeowners have no clue that their home may contain asbestos. If your home was built prior to 1987 and you are wishing to undertake a large renovation with walls coming down and ceilings being touched, please – for the love of Pete, get the areas tested.
I would like to point out the following: IF your home as asbestos and it is NOT disturbed, everything is fine. There is nothing to worry about. However, if you are looking at a renovation that includes taking down walls, removal of ceilings, etc., then I believe it is my job to educate my clients. Here is what I say to my clients.
Prior to any work being done, let’s get a team in here to test the areas we are going to look at.
The reason I suggest this as the first step, even before design work starts, is to know if there is asbestos. Typically if there is, an abatement team would need to be hired to remove it safely and of course, that affects the budget as well as the renovation timeline. Cue the stress factor!
Is life over?
No – absolutely not. However many clients get very stressed when they realize their home has asbestos. The good news is that is that if the asbestos-known areas are not touched, you are fine. According to Top Quality Inspections and Consulting:
“Asbestos materials do not pose a hazard if left undisturbed.”
Will your budget for your renovation go up? Most likely, yes it will. This is the reason I ask to have this done before any design work happens. You may be thinking: hold on a minute, I have to have demo work done anyway. It should be a wash. Here is the reason why it is not. Although you will need to have demolition done with your renovation, the remediation you need to have is not the same price tag as a simple demolition.
Can I DIY?
While I would never DIY an asbestos issue myself, it is important to note that every case will be different. Recently, in a home that I had clients have a test done, 3 areas were tested and 2 were found to have ‘asbestos detected’.
- Asbestos materials identified should not be disturbed without the employment of accepted asbestos abatement procedures. These procedures are outlined in the Alberta Human Resource and Employment, Workplace Health and Safety Asbestos Abatement Manual (2012). Asbestos materials do not pose a hazard if left undisturbed. However, once asbestos materials are disturbed, fibres become airborne, which greatly increases the health hazards to building occupants if these fibres are inhaled.
- Approximately 160 sq. ft. of asbestos-containing drywall within the living room should be removed from the property by a qualified abatement contractor, following moderate risk procedures.
- Approximately 80 sq. ft. of asbestos-containing drywall within the main and ensuite bathrooms should be removed from the property by a qualified abatement contractor, following moderate risk procedures.
- Approximately 500 sq. ft. of ceiling texture coat within the main floor of the property should be removed from the property by a qualified abatement contractor, following high risk procedures.
- Please refer to the Alberta Human Resources and Employment, Workplace Health and Safety Asbestos Abatement Manual (2012) for details on the different work procedures. Compliance with the Asbestos Abatement Manual (2012) and the Occupational Health and Safety Code (2009) must occur. Disposal of all asbestos-containing materials is governed by the current Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and the current Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
- Air monitoring for asbestos fibres should be performed by a qualified individual during the removal of all asbestos-containing materials. Air samples should be taken before any removal (background samples), during removal (ambient air samples), and after final cleaning (final air clearance samples), to ensure fibre concentrations do not exceed occupational or environmental guidelines.
Did any of you read the words, “DIY”? I sure didn’t.
Listening to the Pros
While there may be contractors who may turn a blind eye and suggest handling it on their own (or pretending it isn’t even present), I strongly encourage you to stop for a minute and evaluate the risks. Asbestos is a known cancer-causing material. Period. End of story. Is your life worth $3500? $4000? $4500?
If you enlist the help of a professional team to test your home, the I strongly encourage you to take their advice on how to handle the situation. After all, it is your home, it is your family, and it is all of the other workers that will be entering your home to help you renovate it. I’m just going to say it. “Don’t be stupid.”
For my renovation projects, I enlist the help of Veroncia Waterfield with Top Quality Inspections and Consulting here in Calgary. Veronica takes her time, she is extremely knowledgable and will answer any questions you may have. I also know that if a client discovers they have asbestos, and the renovation has to be put on hold for the time-being, I totally understand. I know I can sleep at night knowing I gave my clients information to protect them (and to protect any crews as well as myself).
Please note, this is not intended to scare you. It is intended to educate you. I understand there are different views on this matter however for me, it’s pretty black and white.
Planning on starting a renovation. Download my FREE 7 Steps to Renovate With Confidence Printable guide here!