I’m sure you’ve heard people talking about Asbestos, but haven’t necessarily known the details. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of long, thin, silky strands of fibrous material that are strong and durable. Given it’s unique characteristics that make it non combustible, insulating and strong, it was often used in construction (everything from insulation, siding, ceilings, etc). Asbestos was used from the 1800’s up until about the 1980’s, so many East Van homes and condos will have asbestos.
If you’re looking to renovate an older East Van house or condo, you need to know about Asbestos. Thankfully, it’s a known product, and can be easily dealt with, but you would need to hire professionals. Read on below for more information.
Why is Asbestos bad?
Asbestos had been used in constructions for centuries, though only recently has it been linked to respiratory issues and cancer. It is no longer used in construction, though older homes (prior to the 1980’s) may still have asbestos in the building materials.
If your walls, ceilings, insulation, etc contain asbestos, and you start disturbing it (by ripping down the walls, cutting holes, etc) then the asbestos fibres will be in the air, which is where we have a problem. Heavy, prolonged exposure to asbestos leads to inhalation of the asbestos fibres, which can remain in your lungs for years, which is a health hazard.
If asbestos is tightly bound, it does not pose any risk to health. For example, drywall and ceiling material would not normally release asbestos fibres. It is only when these products break down through aging or when they are disturbed through renovations that you have to be careful.
Where is Asbestos Found?
Asbestos is added to many products to enhance strength, and most asbestos in homes is found in asbestos-containing building materials (ACM). There are three main categories are surfacing (acoustical, decorative or fireproofing purposes like latex paints, wallboard, plaster, etc), thermal insulation (like furnace duct tape), and other items like carpet underlays, exterior materials, ceiling tiles, etc.
Unfortunately, you can’t detect asbestos by looking at it.. it needs to be tested.
What to do about Asbestos?
If you own a home or condo built before the 1990’s and want to do some renovations (or have left the home decrepit for years) you’ll have to have the home tested for asbestos. Vancouver has a number of qualified Asbestos companies that can come into your home and take samples (from the areas that need renovations) in order to determine if the home has asbestos. Many Strata’s will ask owners who are renovating their condo to perform the asbestos test as part of the renovation approval. If you’re curious as to whether or not the condo may have asbestos, you can ask the Strata if other units have tested positive for asbestos as an indication that you may be dealing with the same issue.
If the tests come back positive, the asbestos company will have to remove the asbestos containing material and properly dispose of them. It’s a common task done by professionals, but the cost will start at a few thousand dollars and increases depending on the scope of the project, and it can take a few days (or more) to be removed. Unfortunately, it’s not a step you can or should short cut – testing and removal needs to be done by a qualified company.
If the tests come back negative, go on with your renovations!
Contact a qualified asbestos testing and removal company for more information.