How to Identify Asbestos in Your Home

Moshe Amos

Asbestos is a mineral found naturally in certain types of rock worldwide. From the beginning of the 1940s to the 1970s, asbestos was widely used in manufacturing products, particularly building materials. This was because of its;

  • Fire resistance
  • Durability
  • Reasonably low price

Sadly, it was later discovered that exposure to asbestos fibers presents severe risks to respiratory health. Exposure to asbestos fibers can also lead to other health complications;

  • asbestos
  • Lung cancer
  • Non-cancerous lung disease

There is no cure for these illnesses, which all result in death.

Places You Can Find Asbestos in Your Home?

The United States outlawed spray-on asbestos and several other uses in the late 1970s, which significantly reduced the use of asbestos. However, asbestos is still present in some older houses. In such homes, asbestos may be present in various construction materials like paint, floor tiles, and insulation.
Furthermore, before the 1980s, many American homes and public buildings, including schools and government housing, contained asbestos in the following materials:

  • Some vinyl floor tiles
  • Asbestos insulation around steam lines
  • Cement asbestos board siding/under sheeting
  • Asbestos roofing felt for shingles
  • textured paintestos-containing vermiculite insulation
  • Vinyl floor tiles

Although many residential applications for asbestos are no longer allowed, it is still permitted in the US for over a handful of other applications.

Signs Your Home Might Have Asbestos

It is difficult to detect asbestos, which can often hide in plain view inside your house. Asbestos can appear as green, brown, or blue fluffy fibers. However, tiny fragments can also be present in materials such as cement or plastic, making them difficult to identify by yourself.
Asbestos is hazardous when disturbed, so you should never dig around to look for it. While you can gather samples for testing, it is much better if an asbestos expert handles the task.
Here are a few signs your house might contain asbestos:

  • It has been around since the early 1980s
  • Has corrugated roofing
  • It has an older cement water tank
  • It contains vinyl flooring or millboard included between 1952 and 1982
  • Has vermiculite insulation
  • Have walls or other interior surfaces made of cement sheets

Everyday Asbestos Exposure at Home

The following are some of the common ways Asbestos exposure can occur at home ways:

  • DIY home improvements, such as attic remodeling
  • Replacing a worn-out pipeline.
  • Drilling holes through drywall
  • Vinyl floor tile removal
  • Cutting Insulation on Pipes
  • Removal of popcorn ceiling

When to Carry Out Asbestos Testing for Your Home

In the 20th century, constructors mainly used asbestos in building materials and home insulation, and it’s easy to see why. Asbestos is durable and can resist heat, corrosion, and electricity.
However, over the years, studies have found asbestos to be highly toxic, which has led to its ban. Statistics show that asbestos-related diseases causes 255,000 deaths annually. These illnesses include:

  • Stomach tumors
  • Asbestosis
  • Stroke
  • Pleural plaques

Most homeowners might never need to have their houses tested for asbestos. Simply having asbestos in your house is not dangerous, as asbestos fibers are only a health hazard when inhaled. However, you should hire an expert to conduct an asbestos test if you;

  • Intend to do construction work
  • Observe damage to some of the drywall, siding, or piping
  • Plan to remodel
  • Have other concerns.

How Asbestos Testing Works

The length of the inspection procedure will depend on how big your house is. It may take hours or some days. The asbestos expert will do the following while inspecting your home;

  1. Turn off the heating and cooling systems to avoid the dispersal of any particles.
  2. Cover the surface beneath the test area with a solution of water and soap to minimize the discharge of fibers.
  3. Take tiny bits of potentially hazardous material. The aim is to disturb it as least as possible.
  4. Place the contaminated material into a secured container for shipping
  5. Clean the inspection area and throw away any remaining materials
  6. Gather any loose materials or fibers, not in the covered area with a wet cloth
  7. Submit the sample material to an accredited laboratory for testing.

What to Do If Your Home Has Asbestos

Following the discovery of asbestos in your home, your next course of action will depend on the following;

  • The type of asbestos
  • Its location
  • Whether friable or not

Friable asbestos could readily disintegrate, releasing hazardous airborne particles. However, some materials containing asbestos are non-friable and are still secure if they’re in excellent shape.
Your contracted asbestos expert may then decide to remove the asbestos or repair the affected areas with an encapsulant or covering, depending on the state of the asbestos. You will need to leave the house until an air test shows clear of all residue should the expert find it necessary to remove the asbestos.
Asbestos removal is typically more expensive than a repair, but if you first repair, asbestos removal may be more challenging and costly in the future.

1.      Enscapulation (sealing)

Encapsulation is the application of a sealant to the material, which either coats the asbestos material or bonds the asbestos fibers to prevent fiber release. This method is efficient for furnace, pipe, and boiler insulation.

2.      Covering(enclosure)

Covering entails wrapping a jacket or protective wrap around the asbestos-containing substance to prevent fiber release.
Never try to remove asbestos yourself from your house, as improper asbestos handling may create additional problems. You should always engage a specialist. Asbestos removal may seem expensive, but it is worth it. The average cost of asbestos removal ranges from $1,100 to $2,800.

Guidelines for A Safe Asbestos Removal

  • Obtain written confirmation from the contractor that they complied with all applicable asbestos removal and disposal laws
  • Ensure to engage only contractors granted state authorization to do asbestos abatement work. Request references and recently completed comparable projects.
  • Request a disposal manifest before settling the final invoice to confirm that the contractor will dispose of the material in a landfill authorized to accept asbestos.
  • Find out if the company has ever had safety violations. Contact the local air pollution control board, the organization in charge of worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Confirm the contractor has workman’s compensation and general liability insurance covering such activities. The law in most states requires that contractors inform state, federal, and local agencies when they are about to conduct abatement operations.
  • Demand the right tools for the task and that workers don respirators, gloves, and other approved protective gear.
  • The industrial hygiene expert who assessed your home should return to the work site before the contractor removes the containment system. The expert should take air samples to ensure no asbestos fibers unintentionally escape.

Screening for Potential Asbestos Exposure

Consult your healthcare professional if you have concerns about asbestos exposure. There are tests to identify diseases linked to asbestos exposure. However, there are no available tests to establish exposure.
Your doctor may also request imaging scans to identify symptoms of an asbestos-related illness.
Often, the diagnosis for asbestos-related diseases happen about 15 years after contact.
The ability to identify conditions linked to asbestos is not universal among primary care physicians due to their difficulty in detection. If you are sure of asbestos exposure, you can visit a qualified lung expert, such as an occupational pulmonologist, for annual screenings.


Asbestos is a dangerous material. Therefore, never attempt to remove asbestos on your own by vacuuming up pieces of it or sweeping it up. Asbestos fibers will discharge into the air immediately if you upset any materials, endangering your family’s health. Always exercise caution and contact the experts to conduct safety asbestos inspections and remediation.
Furthermore, any asbestos-related action must adhere to US Environmental Protection Agency regulations and any applicable state asbestos laws.
Asbestos violations sometimes result in written cautions. Based on the gravity of the breach, others may result in criminal charges, jail time, or everyday civil fines of up to $25,000 for every violation.


Moshe Amos

Moshe has more over 15 years as a licensed contractor in the New York City area. 

As a New York State-licensed Mold Assessor, he is especially knowledgeable about mold assessment and remediation.


Fire & Water Damage ‧ Mold Remediation ‧ Asbestos & Lead ‧ All Abatement ‧ Total Renovation