Where to Look & What to Do!

Where to Look & What to Do!

Asbestos is often off-white; less-common types are blue or brown . Its appearance generally depends upon the material it was mixed with to make it workable: cement, polymers, starch, asphalt, or other binders.

Here's where to look for asbestos and what to do if you find it:

Heating ductwork. Some ducts, particularly in Southern California, are made largely of asbestos; other metal ducts are wrapped with a cellulose-asbestos, air-cell insulation. Both look a bit like off-white corrugated cardboard; asbestos sheeting insulation has a similar appearance but not the corrugations. In addition, registers may have asbestos taping inside.

Ductwork made of asbestos is a major concern because when it begins to deteriorate, fibers are blown into the house. Talk with an asbestos abatement contractor about removal. Removing ductwork costs from $12 to $25 per lineal foot --from $1000 to $2000 in a standard basement. Replacement is additional.

Wrapped ducts should be removed if wrapping is friable. A stop-gap measure for duct wrapping that's sound is to have it encapsulated.
The furnace may have an asbestos lining at the base or sit on an asbestos pad. A special asbestos cloth may join furnace or boiler to ductwork. If any of these are exposed to damage, they should be encapsulated or removed.

Plumbing. Some pipes, particularly those connected to radiators or steam heat, are jacketed with asbestos. Asbestos pipe wrap, often covered with canvas, has a crumbly white surface. If pipe wrap has small holes, it's generally better to repair it than remove it. You can caulk holes, then wrap with rewettable glass cloth. Don't use duct tape-- it will fall off with time.

Wiring. Be wary of old knob-and-tube wires that have a white coating covered with black fabric. If you're remodeling, avoid pulling out these old wires; bypass with new wiring.

Fireplace. Artificial logs or ashes manufactured prior to 1978 probably contain flaking asbestos. The ashes are a serious concern; remove them immediately. The logs don't release fibers unless friable.

Wood-stove gaskets and protective panels for wood stoves or ovens may look like grayish-white stone. If exposed to damage, remove and replace with acceptable material.

Crawl space or basement floor. Remember that fibers may have collected on the ground or floor beneath ductwork or piping. Have this area cleaned by a trained asbestos abatement professional or-- if you must--wet mop to clean up. Never sweep or vacuum asbestos fibers--they are about one-thousandth the thickness of a human hair and will go right through a household vacuum and into the air.

Walls and ceilings. Sprayed acoustical "cottage cheese" ceilings generally have a very low percentage of asbestos, though some may contain as much as 40 percent. Avoid doing anything that will loosen the material (for example, don't sweep the ceiling). Removal can be quite expensive (from $5 to $30 per square foot).

Most patching plaster and drywall joint compounds-- until 1979-- contained a small amount of asbestos. Avoid scraping and sanding them.

Some plaster walls in older homes contain blown-in insulation that includes asbestos; it looks like hard cotton. Only have this removed if you're remodeling.

Flooring. Even recently-manufactured vinyl floor tiles contain a modest amount of asbestos. Because it is ingrained in the material, it doesn't pose a threat. The tile and its felt backing only become a problem when you're renovating. Don't sand or scrape these materials. Rather than remove old vinyl flooring, the best recommendation is to cover it with underlayment, then add your new floor.

Roofing and siding. Some older shingles are made from asbestos mixed with cement or asphalt. Asphalt-asbestos shingles don't release fibers easily; asbestos-cement shingles can, so be careful during a remodel. Avoid breaking or crumbling either kind. Roofing tars and felts also contain asbestos but, again, are unlikely to release fibers unless heavily damaged. Find a Pre-Screened Asbestos Abatement / Removal Pro in Your Area


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