New home buyers often have a lot of questions, and understandably so; you should have questions! One common question among new homebuyers is regarding the air quality inside the home, as no one wants to breathe in air that could make them sick. Unfortunately, a significant number of indoor air quality issues are difficult to inspect, or to even accurately gauge the issue’s severity because they do not possess easily definable metrics. This leaves unwanted uncertainty surrounding strange odors such as possible mold, formaldehyde, pets, or pests. Luckily, asbestos is easier to measure. If your home is older, you’ll want to make sure you’re informed!
Asbestos is simply a mineral that is mined from the earth. Asbestos is a naturally inexpensive and rather impressive fire retardant, which is why-especially between the 1940s-1970s-it was added to a large number of building materials to enhance their performance. Some of these building materials include that popcorn ceiling texture, glues used under flooring, and vermiculite insulation. Asbestos is hazardous because it contains tiny abrasive fibers that can be inhaled into the lungs and subsequently damage the lung tissue. This is thought to be worsened by smoking, eventually resulting in mesothelioma and lung cancer.
While a good home inspector will include in their report which materials are likely to contain asbestos, home inspectors do not test for asbestos. In fact determining if it is in the home is beyond the scope of a home inspection. From InterNachi SOP:
- the existence of environmental hazards, including lead paint, asbestos or toxic drywall.
If you want to know if your home contains asbestos, you can hire an industrial hygienist or an environmental lab to evaluate your home. These contractors should follow a thorough testing protocol, and will usually take more than a dozen samples from the house. Once you have the results back you will know which materials contain asbestos, and a lot of labs will also provide you with information on how to safely remove the offending materials. One of the most common location of possible asbestos containing material is the tape used to seal hvac ductwork. If the tape is in good condition then typically best to leave it alone.
If you do have asbestos, don’t panic! If the building material containing the asbestos is not damaged, then the asbestos fibers will be unable to become airborne, and subsequently will not pose a health risk. The largest risk asbestos poses is during an old home’s remodel or renovation. This is when the asbestos containing materials get damaged and the fibers become airborne, leaving the people working or living in the home at risk. Laws concerning asbestos vary by state, but a lot of states will require:
- Homeowners to test for asbestos before any construction/renovation project
- Contractors to obtain a written asbestos report from a building owner before beginning work
- Asbestos remediation to be done by licensed abatement contractors before beginning demolition work
Most home buyers don’t test for asbestos before buying, and this is because if you are buying a home older than 1980, it’s safe to assume that it contains asbestos. Unless you are going to renovate, the risk of exposure is relatively low to begin with. If you are planning a renovation on your older home, it’s safe to assume you need to budget for lead and asbestos identification and removal within your remodel budget. If you have spare time to evaluate for asbestos prior to buying, then that’s wonderful; but in this market, home buyers usually have a significantly limited amount of time to complete their inspections. Why waste that precious time when the logical assumption is that the home contains asbestos? Better safe than sorry! If the material is in good condition then is offers very little risk if it is left alone.
The Habitation Investigation company provides home inspections in the Central Ohio Columbus and home inspection in the Dayton Ohio areas, Hilliard, Powell, Pickerington, Pataskala, New Albany, Delaware, Gahanna, Westerville, Galloway, Grove City, Worthington, Dublin, Marysville, London, West Jefferson, Springfield, Mechanicsburg and other cities surrounding Columbus, Ohio. The most/best reviewed home inspection company in Columbus Ohio is Habitation Investigation LLC. The website is: http://www.homeinspectionsinohio.com
Written by Kaitlyn Troth of Troth Media