You probably don’t think about asbestos exposure very often. The EPA banned its use in 1989, and after all the news articles about how asbestos causes cancer and mesothelioma, who would want to use it at all?
But the ban was removed a few years later, and while contractors virtually never use asbestos in residential applications anymore, it remains in millions of homes, especially those built before the 1970s.
Although asbestos in the home usually doesn’t pose a day-to-day danger, homeowners need to know the risks involved in disturbing it, the consequences of asbestos exposure and the proper asbestos removal methods.
Due to its heat resistance and strength, asbestos was used for a wide variety of construction purposes such as flooring, drywall and insulation. Basement pipe insulation and tape on old duct work are among the most common places you’ll find dangerous asbestos, because it breaks up over time and all of it is several decades old.
You can’t see or smell asbestos fibers. The only way to be sure is to hire an environmental consulting firm or asbestos building inspector for asbestos testing. They’ll take fingernail-sized samples and test them in a laboratory. This work will cost between $100 and $700, depending on how extensive the testing is.
Some asbestos materials, such as flooring, are best left undisturbed. If you plan on doing work that involves breaking up, removing or drilling through those materials, though, call an asbestos professional. Asbestos removal is not federally regulated, but most states require licensing.
Deteriorating materials such as tape and pipe insulation should be replaced. A qualified professional will use specialized techniques to seal off the area and prevent any amount of asbestos from escaping. A typical project takes two people eight hours to complete.
Popcorn ceiling installed prior to 1990 is likely to have asbestos in it. Asbestos popcorn ceiling removal costs between $3 and $10 per square foot — two to three times as much as standard popcorn ceiling removal.
Most asbestos removal jobs will cost between $1,000 and $3,000. More extensive jobs, such as a whole-house remediation, will be much more expensive, averaging between $15,000 and $30,000. Preparing the area and sealing it off from the outside makes up two-thirds of asbestos abatement cost.
Hiring asbestos removal contractors should be done carefully. Asbestos licensing and training regulations vary by state and locality.
Learn your local laws and verify that they have the appropriate licenses and, if necessary, the permits required for the job.
Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.