Asbestos is not the first thing many people think about when looking at an old home. When looking at a property, most people focus on what is visible. Desired amenities, such as open floor plan, updated kitchen and bathroom, number of bedrooms and baths shape our impression of a home and we often do not think about what lies beneath. In fact, many people mistakenly assume that if the kitchen was updated, what lies beneath was also checked. Do not be so sure.
Many older homes were built with asbestos. Up to the 1970s, asbestos was still a commonly used building material because of its fire-retardant properties. In many older homes, asbestos remains, posing a potential danger to the health of its occupants.
The best way to find asbestos in an old home is to know where to look. Below are the most likely places you will encounter asbestos in an older home:
- Ductwork, boilers and steam pipes — Anyone who has walked into a basement containing an old octopus furnace likely has asbestos. The duct work leading from the furnace was wrapped in asbestos laden insulation. This ductwork and boilers themselves are often insulated with asbestos lagging.
- Popcorn ceilings and other textured coatings — Textured coatings were used on a variety of surfaces around the house, most often in a ceiling covering known as a popcorn ceiling, which was often used to cover up defects in the ceiling.
- Ceiling tiles and soundproofing — Ceiling tiles were used to provide access to wiring and other elements in a ceiling, but to also act as a sound barrier in rooms. Old ceiling tiles often contain asbestos to limit the potential spread of fire in the event of an electrical fire.
- Insulation — Old insulation was often composed partly of asbestos because it was resistant to fire. Any insulation containing vermiculite likely contains asbestos.
- Roofing and siding — Asbestos was used frequently in cement products such as shingles and siding because of its fire-resistant properties.
- Textured paint and patching compounds — Paints that were textured often had asbestos.
- Floor tiles and flooring adhesives — Floor tiles made of vinyl, asphalt and rubber often contained asbestos or were attached to the floor using asbestos laden adhesives.
If you suspect that your home contains asbestos, you should not attempt to remove it yourself. Even sanding adhesive containing asbestos could release particles of asbestos fibers into the air putting you at risk for developing mesothelioma in the future. Locate a professional asbestos removal company to safely remove the asbestos from your house.
If you develop mesothelioma or an asbestos-related lung cancer, you should talk to an asbestos injury attorney right away about your options.