Dealing with asbestos in old condo buildings?
November 23, 2021 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Hello! I am looking to buy a condo in Toronto, first time home buyer here. Unfortunately, the only thing in my budget are older buildings. There is a building that I like that has some cons such as lack of air conditioning or en-suite laundry, which are not particularly deal breakers for me. However, I am concerned about the asbestos that is likely to be there in the building. Any asbestos professionals here (or just home or condo owners who have dealt with such a thing)? Can asbestos abatelement be carried out in a condo and how much is a professional likely to charge? Any other cons of an older building that I am not thinking about? Thank you!
posted by synapse2512 to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
I'm in a 40-yr old building in Vancouver, and I am the council president for our strata. In our building, it's only in the ceiling and potentially the outer wall (stucco). Asbestos abatement is only undertaken if there are any repairs or work that will physically disturb those panels. For example, our building did a re-pipe, and for the units that had to have access through the ceiling, the asbestos crew had to come in.

Otherwise, for day-to-day living, it is not a concern for anyone, since we're not scratching at the ceiling or the outside wall stucco. So you don't really need to factor in that cost when you buy, unless you intend to do a gut job before moving in. Also you can get your own test done (several hundred dollars, depends on number of samples) so you know if it's in all the things, or just in a few places. Like I said, for us, since it's in the ceiling only it really is no big deal. I might feel a bit differently if it's in all the walls, too?

Cons of an older building:
Capital projects is obviously a big one. In our building, in the past 10 yrs, we have done the following: new roof, new elevator, new boiler and full re-pipe, new fence. We're planning for potential rainscreen project and that is a biiiiig one!

If you're interested in an electric vehicle, they may not have a charging station yet.

Insulation/soundproofing (single pane windows, floors that were meant to have carpet to deaden sound) is another big one.

Pros of an older bldg:
I just find it is much roomier, you get more bang for your square footage. New bldgs tend to have a funny shape and a layout with lots of corridors. Our unit is basically two big rectangle shapes: the bedroom, and everything else. It's great, easy to place furniture and art, compared to the more "creative" floor plans of new bldgs.

Even though I only listed one pro to several cons, I still like our building very much, especially since we have a diverse group of residents here including some senior folks who have been in the building for aaaaages, and bought when the prices were still very low! So I'm very much pro-old-building :)
posted by tinydancer at 7:27 PM on November 23 [4 favorites]

Old floor tiles, pipe and duct insulation, old boilers and "popcorn" ceilings are the most likely places you'll encounter asbestos. Have you seen any sort of inspection report indicating the actual presence of asbestos in the condo yet, or is this just a generic concern that an old building will likely have (or had) asbestos in it? It all depends on where it is, how much of it is present and what kind of condition it's in. Asbestos in stable condition is considered safe- damaged asbestos items (cracked floor tiles which are coming apart, frayed pipe insulation, etc) is more of a risk.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:58 AM on November 24


We have old floor tiles, and a popcorn ceiling. We covered the tiles with plastic wrap, then cork underlayment, then actual cork tiles. Didn't do anything yet with the popcorn. Probably should before we try to sell...
posted by Windopaene at 1:29 PM on November 24

Asbestos is safe as long as it's intact and undisturbed. How much of a problem it actually is for you depends in large part on whether you are likely to want to disturb it (eg during renovations). A standard pre-purchase building inspection should identify the likelihood of asbestos being present, but don't rely on that completely, as there are lots of products that may contain asbestos. The only way to be sure is specialised testing.

Whatever organisation manages the common property may have investigated and have a report that identifies any asbestos in those areas.

Pretty much anything built in the 1990s or earlier may have asbestos somewhere and the older it is, the higher the likelihood. If you're not planning on doing more than throwing some fresh paint around, you don't need to be super concerned about it.
posted by dg at 2:17 PM on November 24 [1 favorite]

Higher maintenance fees, but that often goes with more square footage which you definitely won’t get with new builds, and sometimes includes heating costs. Personally I’d take undisturbed asbestos over crappy glass (it’s happened that glass panels in new builds has fallen; glass has a crap insulation value; most condo boards don’t plan for the replacement that should happen at the 15-20 year mark when the gas between the panes evaporates and there is practically no insulation). Wherever you look, find out as much as you can about how effective the condo board and property management are. That’s what makes the difference between a building that’s fit to live in and one that’s not. Oh also odds of Air BnB happening in an older building are smaller. More owners vs investors, as well - which means they care more about maintenance vs passing the buck down the line when they eventually sell.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:43 AM on November 25

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