You just bought your dream home: plenty of space, a kitchen island, a convenient layout, and enough bathrooms for everyone. However, if it’s an older home it may be in need of a few repairs or a boost on the curb appeal. Maybe you love the house you have lived in for the last 15+ years and are finally ready to do some renovations like ripping up that old shag carpet, repairing rotting roof shingles, and saying goodbye to that vintage wallpaper. Either way, if you’re attempting your own demolition or hiring a contractor, the renovation process is well worth the time and effort. In any scenario, one hazard you’ll have to watch out for in older homes is asbestos.
First, what is asbestos? Asbestos is made up of six naturally occurring silicate minerals that generate microscopic fibers. Adding asbestos to materials improved the chemical, heat, and fire resistance, as well as made products stronger, more durable, and flexible. This was desired for decades and asbestos was mined in order to be used in building materials and products. However, over a period of time, numerous illnesses began to rise all pointing back to the use of materials containing asbestos. With the increasing amount of cases, it became exceedingly irrefutable that building materials containing these particles can be toxic. Any level of asbestos exposure could lead to related diseases. Mesothelioma is single-handedly caused by asbestos fibers latching onto the heart, stomach, or lungs, where tumors can grow as a result of the fibers. This is not a toxin you want in your home. The health effects are too severe to leave up to chance.
Asbestos laws and regulations emerged after the growing concern for mesothelioma and other related illnesses. These appeared in the 1970s and drastically changed the production of asbestos-containing materials, otherwise known as ACMs. The age of your home could indicate more asbestos than a newer building. Current federal standards drastically limit the use of asbestos in materials. Most prominently, homes constructed before the 1980s are likely to contain higher amounts of asbestos. Now, just because you may have purchased a vintage home doesn’t mean that you will automatically be exposed to asbestos. Below we have listed home building materials that may contain concentrated amounts of asbestos so that you can take precautions or avoid those elements.
Even though roofs are on the exterior of your home, rebuilding any part of damaged roofing on an aged house could expose you. The layers and materials that makeup roofing have been known to be manufactured with asbestos including:
- Asbestos Cement: Also referred to as transite, this type of cement includes asbestos fibers to produce various ACMs. One of these is roofing sheets. Asbestos cement had the ability to withstand corrosion over long periods of time.
- Asbestos Felt: For construction purposes, asbestos felt formed a protective layer under roofing. These underlayments can still be found in older homes and buildings today.
- Asbestos Sheets: Sheets were more popular than asbestos cement because they were easier to handle. They were also different from other types of sheets for being more temperature resistant and durable.
Ceilings and flooring
Tiles were an essential ACM. From the 1920s to the 1970s, companies employed asbestos floor tiles, and from the 1950s to the 1980s, ceiling tiles incorporated asbestos. Popcorn ceilings are among the most common examples of asbestos ceilings. Manufacturers were able to boost the durability and heat resistance of vinyl flooring with asbestos. Older homes usually present a greater risk of containing these features.
Another place where asbestos was widely used is insulation. Higher amounts of asbestos are often found in homes, schools, and similar buildings that are likely to contain older asbestos insulation. Three types of insulation were manufactured with this mineral: loose-fill insulation in walls, block insulation, and spray-on insulation. Some insulation today can still be made with up to 1% of asbestos according to federal regulations.
Throughout home renovations, homeowners could potentially expose themselves to air polluted with asbestos fibers. Before tackling a project, consider the age of your home and what building materials are involved in the project. Now that you are aware of the potential danger that can come from asbestos you can limit your exposure.