Asbestos abatement
May 17, 2016 11:19 PM   Subscribe

We're considering buying an old house with asbestos and having a hard time figuring out who to trust and what is reasonable.

When we first viewed the house, the selling agent disclosed that the hot-water pipe insulation in the basement was asbestos. He said there was no other asbestos. The insulation is crumbling/broken in certain places, and we'd like to use the basement for laundry, so it definitely needs to be addressed. (Also, it is a two-family building, and we'll be renting out the second unit, so I feel like we cannot take as many risks as we might if it were only ourselves.)

We talked to other people who'd dealt with asbestos pipe insulation and it didn't sound like a huge deal, at least in the context of old-house problems. (This house was built in 1900.) From those discussions I was thinking removal would end up being a few thousand dollars.

During the inspection we had a relative-of-the-realtor asbestos abatement contractor come in and take a look. She said: (a) it would be $8,500 to remove the pipe insulation, (b) sections of the ceiling in the basement might also contain asbestos, and (c) if they did, that would be another $5,000, for a total of $14,5001. I asked about encapsulation, and she said it would not be meaningfully cheaper, since only the sections of insulation that were not deteriorated could be encapsulated, and the damaged sections would still have to be removed.

It's true that this is a not-insignificant amount of asbestos—there is probably around 75-100 feet (ballpark) of pipe (I'm not sure of the ceiling area potentially affected). I probably will not be able to get permission to have another contractor inspect the house before we decide whether we will or won't go under contract. The seller has received multiple offers and is not willing to come down in price or kick in any money for the abatement. Does $15K seem like a reasonable amount to pay for this (assuming the asbestos is also present in the ceiling)? We are in New York State.

1. I realize the math doesn't add up but I guess if you are in the asbestos business you are so awash in vast seas of money that a thousand bucks one way or the other is chump change.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Nope. I would want to know my true liability and exposure before putting in a bid.

Once you start with asbestos, and mold, you're at the mercy of your contractor. Often a small project turns big and you don't know until the wall is open.

This is not the only house, and a bidding war is the WORST excuse for going in uninformed.

$15k seems like a LOT for this and it also sounds like it could double if someone looked too hard at the ceiling tiles and the linoleum.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:34 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I work in construction and we have dealt with asbestos abatement contractors many times. Without knowing the square footage of the house and seeing it in person, it's impossible to tell if someone is giving you a fair price. One thing I do know. It's expensive. Along with the abatement comes the air quality testing and that's not cheap either. And the certifications required by a certified abatement contractor add a lot to their overhead. The folks we use are fully certified and their labour costs alone run into the hundreds of dollars per hour.

I'd advise you to get a second opinion, but since that's likely not an option, I'd walk from this one. RB is right on the money as usual. Why head into the unknown here? That $14,500 could grow substantially. You won't really know until they get in there and begin the work.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:41 AM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Walk. In my experience, abatement for hazards like asbestos and lead paint can get insanely expensive very quickly. Unless the rest of the house is perfect and you have extra tens of thousands of dollars to throw at this problem, it doesn't seem worth the trouble.
posted by gnutron at 5:49 AM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Asbestos abatement is surprisingly expensive... and it's a massive pain in the ass to live through. My parent's just did this in their house and it was a multi week process. During the active work they could not be in the house... they had to do pipe insulation, floors and of all things, the insulation behind the radiators in every room of the house... it probably cost them about the same as your quote for a moderate sized house in Westchester which may have higher costs than your location.

If you are set on this house, do any of the removal before you move in. and expect to find more surprises once they start doing the abatement. (often they are genuine surprises! old houses are fun like that!)
posted by larthegreat at 5:51 AM on May 18, 2016

you fail to mention if the quote includes re-insulating the pipes. we had asbestos removed from our basement for $3000 about four years ago. i "handled" reinsulating the pipes myself and probably should have paid them to do it. it was like $600 in insulation alone and that didn't include stuff to handle the multitude of joints.

they did it all in one day (before we moved in) but they did not remove it from under non-accessible areas. specifically under the back porch which is at ground level on one side and two feet high at the other. no one really can get under there so i wasn't particularly worried about any asbestos.

they did remove it from the accessible crawl space in the basement.
posted by noloveforned at 5:56 AM on May 18, 2016

What kind of insulation does the home have? If it's vermiculite, you'll also want that tested for asbestos.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:57 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I paid about $3000 to a licensed asbestos contractor to have about 100' of pipe insulation removed from my basement about 5 years ago. He was licensed & provided a compliance certificate. This was in the Boston metro area. $8000 sounds high.
posted by mr vino at 7:30 AM on May 18, 2016

That price seems high. We had 110 linear feet of heating pipe cleaned of asbestos for $2200 a couple of year ago.
posted by octothorpe at 8:21 AM on May 18, 2016

I have gotten samples and sent them to labs for analysis without saying where they were from several times. You could send off some pieces of ceiling and know for sure in a couple or three days of the lab getting the sample.
One thing I have come across with abatement contractors (I work in an architectural firm, I do field work) is that once they get all the barriers set up and no one who is not certified and wearing a bunny suit can go in, they always manage to find more than they saw at first, and ask for a change order for more money. There is no way to dispute it, since I cannot go in there and see or take a sample.
posted by rudd135 at 5:22 PM on May 18, 2016

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