Asbestos consists of highly durable and heat-resistant fibers. Asbestos is often safe until disturbed, where prolonged exposure can trigger severe diseases, such as asbestosis or lung scarring, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.
Due to its high fire resistance and lightweight nature, asbestos was popular in construction materials until the mid-1980s. Therefore, most older NYC buildings have asbestos in floor tiles, roofs, and insulation systems. You can also find it in exterior windowsills, caulking, and sometimes the plaster.
If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your home, however small, read on to learn more about asbestos testing and what the test involves as we discuss what to do if you find it in your apartment.
Requirements of NYC for Asbestos Testing
In New York City, you’ll need asbestos testing before performing construction works such as tearing down a wall, and here’s why. Asbestos materials can be non-friable or friable.
Friable asbestos, such as insulation, can easily crumble due to its brittle nature. Such materials readily release tiny asbestos particles in the air when crushed. Non-friable asbestos materials are tougher and thicker, so the asbestos rarely becomes airborne.
Whichever the case, demolition works like removing ceilings, walls, or floors, removing roofing membranes, drilling, and cutting often release much dust, increasing the risk of asbestos inhalation.
Based on the NYC Buildings Bulletin 2009-031, the only buildings not requiring asbestos tests are those constructed after 1st April 1987. If built before this date, an asbestos survey is necessary, even for minor renovations, remodeling, and repairs.
An asbestos inspection or survey helps to determine the condition, friability, quantity, and location of all types of asbestos materials.
An accredited and certified asbestos inspector licensed by the state and NYC will collect samples of the materials you intend to disturb during the demolition, remodeling, or renovation project.
When Do You Need an Asbestos Test or Survey?
Suppose you live in an older home or building where you suspect asbestos in some areas. In that case, we advise you to schedule an asbestos test or inspection, especially if the loose material disintegrates when touched.
For instance, some homes have old insulation in the attic that looks like the pipes have a cloth wrapping.
You should also perform a survey if:
- You plan to remodel or demolish part of your home
- You or your loved ones can easily find or come into contact with disintegrating or old insulation
- You suspect and would like to confirm whether your home has asbestos
According to the New York City Local Law 76/85, a survey is mandatory before construction work, even if the property owner told you there’s no asbestos. Before starting any renovation, maintenance, or repair project, contact your local NYC building department to determine the necessary steps.
Each jurisdiction has different procedures, and you’ll require a work permit from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB). A certified Asbestos Investigator will handle the entire process, from inspection to sample collection.
The guidelines outlined by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act and the Environmental Protection Agency require the investigator to collect at least one sample for every miscellaneous material such as:
- Siding and roofing materials
- Vapor barriers
- Transite or cementitious board
- Insulation boards
- Non-wood or non-metallic roof decking
The surveyor will also collect samples from:
- Ceiling tiles
- Cove base
- Vermiculite insulation
- Debris and dust
- Floor leveler compound
- Floor tile
- Vibration isolators
- Sealants, seals, and gaskets, including condensate control
- Transite or cementitious pipe or boards
- Electrical wire insulation
- Linoleum or sheet flooring
- Textured paint
- Joint compound
- Finish plasters
- Thermal system insulation
- Fitting and piping insulations
- Acoustical plaster
- Mortar or cement used for boilers
They should also collect three or more samples for materials like spray-on fireproofing.
The number of samples depends on the surface area you intend to disturb and the materials used. The samples will go to a certified lab for thorough analysis, and the experts will receive the findings after completion.
The investigator will fill out and sign an Asbestos Control Program (ACP-5) form if tests find no friable asbestos-containing materials. This form explains the absence of friable and non-friable asbestos or whether the friable asbestos is below 25 linear feet or 10 square feet.
The investigator will then file the ACP5 form electronically with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and DOB for you to get a permit for the demolition or remodeling.
Steps to Take if You Find Asbestos in Your Apartment
Although asbestos is toxic or harmful, you don’t have to panic if the tests show its presence in your home. If you live in a rented apartment, your property manager or landlord will inform you of any asbestos found in the samples.
If asbestos removal or abatement of the disturbed or damaged materials is necessary, the property manager will coordinate with you to schedule an appropriate date.
For minor abatements, typically less than 25 linear feet or 10 square feet, you can remain in your apartment but ensure you keep away from the work area. You’ll have to temporarily vacate for larger areas exceeding 25 linear feet or 10 square feet until the work completes.
You can liaise with your property manager and New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) relocation staff to find temporary accommodations and cover the extra costs like moving and packing services.
What to Do as An NYC Homeowner
If the samples from your home have friable asbestos, you must file an ACP-7 form with the NYC DEP to declare you have a friable asbestos project. Anyone can submit this form, not just the surveyor, and you don’t have to file it with the DOB once you submit it to the DEP, unlike the ACP-5.
After filing, you can begin an asbestos abatement project to eliminate affected materials before the planned renovation or construction works.
Only a licensed contractor should remove and dispose of the asbestos since they have the appropriate tools, such as an asbestos air monitor. This device ensures the asbestos fibers in the air remain below the permitted limit.
Once the licensed contractor removes asbestos-containing materials, the surveyor will revisit your home to confirm the asbestos removal and submit the ACP-5. You can then apply for a permit with the Department of Buildings (DOB).
Is Asbestos Abatement Mandatory for Any Asbestos Problem?
If the asbestos-containing material has minor damages, certified asbestos professionals can remove or repair it. Repairs leave the material in place and can involve covering or sealing.
The experts place a protective jacket or wrap over the asbestos for enclosure or covering to curb fiber release.
Encapsulation or sealing involves using sealants to coat the material or bind the fibers to prevent release. This procedure is common in boiler, furnace, and pipe insulation repairs.
Asbestos removal is a complex procedure but necessary if the material has extensive damages that are challenging to repair or if your project involves remodeling or major changes.
Suspecting Asbestos? NYDTR Can Help
Prolonged exposure to asbestos poses significant health risks for you and your loved ones. If you suspect contamination, the most crucial thing is to leave the material undisturbed if it’s in good condition and contact experienced and licensed asbestos experts.
Attempting to remove or disturbing asbestos-containing materials can trigger a health hazard that wasn’t there before.
NYTDR experts have extensive experience, training, certification, and tools to handle asbestos repair and removal. We are familiar with NYC laws and building regulations, so you can rest assured that your project will be above board. Schedule an inspection today to avoid taking chances on your loved ones’ health.