An overview of the dangers and solutions in the real estate transaction
The first thing to understand is that asbestos is in fact, a danger. If you watch TV at all, you have undoubtedly seen the legal ads for individuals with Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer. So the dangers are real. Unfortunately, asbestos materials were used in this country for decades. It was not until the 1970's that our country began to change it's laws in order to protect its people from the dangers of asbestos. Asbestos materials were used in almost every industry and materials for home construction included flooring, siding, roofing, and the often seen heating and plumbing pipe wrap.
Unless a home inspector actually carries a separate asbestos certification, we often simply say that a product "looks like or appears to be asbestos". Let's get real though; most of us know what it looks like and what it is. I often tell my customers that in order to definitively call a suspected material asbestos, it should be lab analyzed. But it is what it is. The more important question is, "What should be done about it?"
When it comes specifically to the often seen pipe wrapping, the first determination should be to determine its condition. Significantly worn and damaged asbestos wrapping is best removed. Proper removal is best left to professional abatement companies. You can find individuals in your local area, on line or in the yellow pages. They should be properly certified and insured. The cost for professional abatement can be quite costly. You are probably looking at a starting cost of $2000. Large homes with a significant amount of wrapping can be much more.
The other option to deal with asbestos is "encapsulation" This is in fact a viable option IF the existing asbestos wrapping is considered to be in good condition. While you can certainly have a professional company come into the home and performs the encapsulation process, sometimes individuals in order to save money opt to perform this task themselves. The eHow website has a very nice step-by-step guide on encapsulating asbestos pipe wrap. The key points to encapsulation are: Always wear a protective respirator / ventilator and use a proper encapsulation product for the job. This can be from encapsulating paint called a bridging encapsulant, to foil pipe wrap. The encapsulating paints are more time consuming to use, but are more effective since they actually penetrate into the asbestos and bond with the asbestos fibers thus preventing them from flaking and ultimately becoming air-born.
Lastly, we often get asked about homes with asbestos siding. There are many homes in Central PA that still have cement asbestos siding. Keep in mind the dangers of asbestos material is the fibers and tiny particles becoming air-born and then being inhaled. Generally speaking siding does not pose a major health risk unless it is being drilled, cut, sanded or sawn. Most experts agree; if it is in good condition, simply leave it alone.