How to Get Rid of Asbestos
The term asbestos refers to a group of fibrous materials that naturally occurs in some types of rocks and soil. Asbestos has long been used in building and construction materials, primarily because of its strength and heat resistance.
Prior to 1980, asbestos was commonly found in building products such as insulation, vinyl floor tiles, roofing shingles and certain paints. It was used to insulate hot water and steam pipes, as well as oil furnaces, among other uses. Asbestos is far less common today, but despite what many people think, it is still legal and in use.
Asbestos is not dangerous unless the building materials in your home are damaged or disturbed (those that are in tact should be left alone). However, asbestos does become dangerous when it becomes airborne, which can be caused by deterioration over time, renovation or demolition. This includes any time when asbestos is cut, scraped, torn, repaired or improperly removed.
Long-term exposure to asbestos can lead to serious – even deadly – lung problems. Health risks include lung cancer, mesothelioma (a rare cancer in the lining of the lung, chest, heart and abdomen) and asbestosis, a non-cancer lung disease. The more exposure a person has had to asbestos, the greater the risk of health problems.
When to Hire a Professional
It’s nearly impossible to tell by looking at a product whether it contains asbestos. If you have any doubts, leave the material alone.
Call in a professional asbestos inspector if:
- You are planning to remodel your home
- Building materials in your home have been damaged or disturbed
An asbestos inspector will take samples to test for asbestos (something you should never do on your own with a DIY test kit – it’s dangerous). If asbestos is present, you’ll have to call in an asbestos contractor to safely remove or repair it. Sometimes inspectors also do contracting work and vice versa.
Repair means that the asbestos is contained, rather than removed from the home. It involves one of two things: sealing the asbestos with some sort of binding agent so the fibers won’t go airborne or covering/encapsulating the asbestos with some sort of wrap. When repair is not possible, either because the asbestos is too damaged or you’re about to tackle a remodeling project, removal is the solution.
Cost of Asbestos Removal
A complete home inspection with sampling usually costs anywhere from $250 to $1,500, depending on how much asbestos is in the home and how many samples need to be taken. If you want immediate results, plan on paying significantly more per sample than if you had elected to wait a week for lab results.
The cost of asbestos removal (abatement) is very difficult to estimate because it depends on so many factors, including the amount of asbestos, the size of the home and your geographic location, but here are some basic guidelines:
- Most companies have a minimum charge of at least $1,500.
- Budget about $2,000 to $5,000 for removal from just a few specific areas, such as steam pipes, the boiler and vinyl tiles.
- Full removal from an attic might cost around $15,000.
- Complete removal from a home, including floors, ceilings, roofs and pipes, might cost $20,000 to $30,000 (or more).
- For commercial buildings, the expenses are much greater. Budget about $5,000 to $7,000 for a complete inspection of a school or large office building. The abatement itself could cost hundreds of thousands.
Choosing a Contractor
- Never hire your inspector to do the abatement work. Use separate companies. The inspector has an incentive to find more asbestos if he or she is going to be paid to remove it. Most companies are honest, but don’t chance it.
- Do some background research into any company you’re considering. Check references, read online reviews and check the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau. Make sure the company has a website and a mailing address, not just a PO Box – the vast majority of legitimate companies do.
- Federal law does not require asbestos inspectors and contractors to be trained or certified, but some states and municipalities do. Check with local officials on the requirements in your area. If asbestos professionals are required to be licensed or certified, make sure that yours is.
- Before any work begins, get a written contract outlining the scope of work, project timeline and costs.