A thrilling question about furnace and ductwork replacement
March 31, 2010 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Getting a new furnace with a side order of asbestos abatement funtimes! Do we need new ductwork too?

We're about to have our broken 1940s-era gravity furnace replaced with a forced-air furnace. Hooray. We're getting a bunch of estimates and have heard a couple of different things so far about what we need done with the ductwork.

The existing ducts have asbestos wrapping. One contractor says that the tape is something like 7% asbestos and does not need to be messed with, but pointed out a panel somewhere in the ductwork that he says is 92% asbestos and needs to go. Another one doesn't mention percentages, but says the tape is friable and all the ducts have to be replaced. Their estimates differ accordingly. Yet another contractor says we can keep the half of the ducts that aren't wrapped. It sounds like we're going to need the asbestos abatement no matter what, but who's right about the ducts?

Extra credit: It's true, the tape on the ducts is sort of crappy and torn-looking. Google results suggest it's ok to encapsulate fraying asbestos tape with duct tape or possibly spray paint. Is this true or bullshit? Is the asbestos percentage a factor here?
posted by clavicle to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
If you are going to have to deal with the asbestos and it's extra costs and hassles, I'd get rid of all of it so you don't have to mess with it again down the road.,
posted by BoscosMom at 4:16 PM on March 31, 2010

Current thinking is that, whenever reasonable, asbestos should remain in place and be encapsulated. There is no general rule. It should be taken on a case-by-case basis. The thinking is that, if it can be left undisturbed or encapsulated, there is less chance of asbestos being spilled or blown around the site and left loose for you to breath later. Any competent asbestos removal specialist will do everything in its power to reduce the spillage, but spillage will occur and the thinking is that this is more harmful than leaving it in place and properly treating it. If your heating contractors are suggesting "just ripping it out" this is not abatement as the method of removal or encapsulation is much more important than just abolishing the material.
posted by Old Geezer at 4:48 PM on March 31, 2010

Coming back to note that we did get new ducts. A second opinion (not a contractor we were looking at) told us the old ones were the wrong size for a forced-air system anyway. Whee! Also we chucked the couple of estimates we got that didn't include abatement work.
posted by clavicle at 10:44 AM on April 18, 2010

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