Asbestos questions: renovating 1972 home
January 17, 2012 5:56 PM   Subscribe

Some questions about asbestos: We are buying a home outside of Birmingham, AL that was built in 1972. It appears that it hasn't been renovated inside since it was built, and we are planning on ripping up carpet, retiling the kitchen, removing wallpaper, and painting.

I have read that asbestos (both white and possibly blue, the worst kind) was used in carpet backing, linoleum and tile, and certain types of wall boards possibly through and after 1972.

The basement also has a popcorn ceiling that has had water damage repaired - how can we know if asbestos dust that may have been kicked up during this ceiling repair has since been removed?

Here are some photos of the house:

Does anyone recognize any of the finishes used and if they may contain asbestos? How much abatement are we in for if we disturb the floors and walls?
posted by mondotwistedmojo to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
I'm a civil engineer, but not YOUR civil engineer, etc.

You should hire someone to test for asbestos. It is possible that there is NO asbestos in your home. The company you hire should NOT offer abatement services (every time we hired a test company that also did abatement, they found something LIFE THREATENING and DIRE that needed abatement RIGHT AWAY. Even if we knew that whatever they reported had never been used in the building.)

Asbestos is commonly handled through two methods - removal, and encapsulation. Removal is by far the more costly of the two. Encapsulation (the covering over or enclosure) of asbestos-containing material is a perfectly safe method of preventing asbestos exposure.

Asbestos only really becomes harmful if cut, torn, ground, or otherwise made airborne. 'Friable' asbestos is the really nasty stuff, and was generally used as insulation.

The removal of asbestos cannot be done as a home project.

My recommendation is: hire an environmental testing company - it will cost money, but you will have a) an answer b) a point of reference for abatement methods and recommendations c) peace of mind.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:35 PM on January 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

Exactly, exactly what the man of twists and turns said.
posted by Specklet at 7:12 PM on January 17, 2012

Also, it looks like a nice house - but it is basically impossible to draw any sort of inspection-type conclusion from those photos. Because they are photos intended to sell the house, and not ferret out any flaws.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:56 PM on January 17, 2012

I am in Birmingham, AL, and can give you the contact info for the guy who literally wrote the new exam for state certification of home inspectors. He'd be able to spot this, or at the very least tell you who could. MeMail me for details.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:15 PM on January 17, 2012

Looked on a map and your new house is about 7 miles from me.

Howdy neighbor! :)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:18 PM on January 17, 2012

I'm in the environmental industry. Nobody reputable should be giving you a yes/no opinion on asbestos content based on photographs; the most they should say without actually, physically, sampling the material is that it looks likely or unlikely to be asbestos.

Which is to say: Get the materials sampled. Starting with the damaged popcorn ceiling material. Wood, stone, metal, and glass don't generally contain asbestos; anything else is suspect, including mastics (glues) on the backs of those weird plastic cove base moldings, wallboard/joint compound, popcorn ceiling texture, insulation, fireproofing, or vinyl sheet or tile flooring and the associated mastics. Some of those are more or less likely to contain asbestos and a qualified inspector will know.
posted by pie ninja at 4:19 AM on January 18, 2012

I cannot possibly add to MOTAT's advice, but it does look like we've found our spot for an Alabama MeFi meetup! :-)
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:44 AM on January 18, 2012

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