Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that are composed of thin needle like fibers. Asbestos materials were common in home building prior to 1977. Building materials manufacturers during the 1950's and 1960's promoted the use of asbestos as an excellent fire retarding material and insulating material. Many homes used asbestos materials as they were widely used and promoted as an excellent building material.
Asbestos is an excellent building material except for one big problem. The asbestos fibers can cause lung problems including mesothelioma when breathed in. When the fibers are breathed in over long periods of time they can cause significant lung problems. If not for that problem it would still probably be widely used today in homes.
During a home inspection asbestos building materials are often found in older homes. Common materials in homes that can contain asbestos are flue pipe insulating materials, tile flooring, vermiculite attic insulation, ceiling tiles, asbestos roofing shingles, and asbestos exterior siding to name a few. Most asbestos roofing shingles have since been replaced but they are occasionally found. Exterior siding, tile flooring, ceiling tiles, vermiculite insulation, and flue pipe insulating materials are commonly found in homes.
Asbestos isn't dangerous unless it is disturbed and the fibers become friable. That means the fibers can become airborne and breathed in. When materials are suspected to contain asbestos the only sure way to know they contain asbestos is to have them properly tested. Testing needs to be done by a qualified laboratory that conducts asbestos testing. Removal or remediation of asbestos can be costly and a good deal of the expense is the disposal cost. Asbestos remediation needs to be performed by licensed and qualified contractors to ensure that the asbestos material are completely and safely removed. To prevent possible future health hazard and an expensive remediation costs it is critical to identify possible asbestos materials and have them tested when purchasing a home.
At Dairyland Home Inspection we perform home inspections in Racine, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Waukesha, and Walworth Counties.
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Bob Carter is a home inspector in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. He is the owner of Dairyland Home Inspection.