Asbestos 

Asbestos Home Inspection Solid State



Author Update: In late 2016, Consumer Protection BC (the BC Government body overseeing home inspectors) added regulation that required inspectors clearly identify in their client contracts if they are inspecting for mold or asbestos. As standard contracts are provided or approved by home inspector insurance companies, the result has been that the standard client contract for professional home inspectors in BC now clearly state they DO NOT inspect for mold or asbestos. This was effectively the practice by most home inspectors but it is now much more clear for clients.


The single biggest emotional reaction clients ever give in a home inspection is if they hear the word ‘asbestos’. Like cigarettes and texting-while-driving, asbestos has been vilified by main stream media and government health warnings such that people, correctly, have a healthy fear of being exposed to it. Unfortunately, if you live in a home built even up to the 1980’s, asbestos is something you may already be living with.


What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural mineral fiber which has been mined in various rock formations around the world. Asbestos fibers are strong, lightweight, insulating, sound resistant, durable, and non-combustable which made them ideal for many construction applications. Asbestos was commonly used in many types of constriction and building materials from ancient times but more relevantly has been used in homes up to the 1980’s in North America.


Why is Asbestos so Bad?

Human lungs are very good at extracting most small airborne contaminants but the nature of asbestos fibers makes them very difficult for the lungs to process. The microscopic mineral fibers are very sharp and in the lungs they can become lodged and even the body’s natural efforts to remove them can do more damage. There is a long list of lung diseases associated with asbestos exposure including Asbestosis, cancers, and premature death.


Where can I Find Asbestos?

Depending on the age of your home, asbestos can be found in many different building products including (but not limited to): Siding, shingles, pipe insulation, cement, drywall, plaster, paints, ceiling tiles, vinyl floor tiles, wiring, ironing board pads, clay pottery, and vermiculite insulation. Asbestos unfortunately also comes in many variants with some more dangerous than others. Of particular concern is ‘friable’ asbestos which breaks up in the air rather than staying in clumps. Asbestos fibers when not disturbed into the air are not a risk to our lungs, but cutting, ripping, sanding, or disturbing asbestos can release the harmful fibers.


Will a Home Inspector Find Asbestos?

No, a home inspector cannot report on the presence (or lack of presence) of asbestos in a home. The presence and severity of asbestos must be determined by lab tests performed by environmental experts. Due to the number of possible substances that may can contain asbestos, the limitations of a visual home inspection, and limitations of insurance coverage, professional home inspectors do not report on asbestos in a home. 


What do I do if I think I have Asbestos?

First, don’t disturb the asbestos to keep the fibers from becoming airborne. If you live in a home at risk of being build with asbestos materials (anything up to the mid 80’s) and are planning on modifying the home, it is best to call in an environmental company to investigate for asbestos and if discovered, to recommend a removal strategy. The governments of Canada and the USA have also published many easy to find articles on asbestos materials and how to manage risks and deal with it safely with the assistance of professionals.


Final Thoughts

Asbestos is a building material that will be present in homes as long as many of them stand and millions of people live with asbestos in their homes today. Clients who cannot live with any potential risks of asbestos in their home need to either purchase homes built in the 90’s or newer, remove all asbestos and get a clean bill of health from an environmental agency, or find a home already cleared of asbestos by a previous occupant.


By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.