Asbestos tile, popcorn ceiling alarm homeowners
Q: Our home was built in 1971. After buying it, we hired a remodeling contractor to remove the popcorn ceilings. When he started the work, we asked if he was going to test for asbestos before starting the removal. He said this was not necessary because he would wear a mask while doing the work. Now that the job is done, we're worried about air contamination and possible health effects from asbestos. What is your take on this situation?
A: What your contractor did was totally illegal and could result in suspension of his license (assuming he has a license). If it turns out that there is asbestos contamination in your home, he could also face serious financial liability.
In most cases, acoustic ceiling texture dating from the 1970s, particularly the early '70s, contains some asbestos. Testing is always required prior to removing such material. When testing reveals asbestos content, more than a mere mask is needed to prevent air contamination and to comply with safety requirements. Removal and disposal of asbestos materials must be done in compliance with applicable requirements by people who are appropriately licensed.
To determine whether the contractor's haphazard removal of the ceiling texture released asbestos fibers into your home, an air test should be performed by a certified asbestos inspector. Hopefully, no contamination will be found. If contamination is found, a contractor who is licensed for removal of hazardous materials should be consulted.
Q: We have cement tile siding and have been told that it contains asbestos. Some tiles have fallen off or are loose and need to be replaced or reattached. We are reluctant to do anything about this because we are concerned about asbestos health hazards. What are your thoughts on this issue? Can we do the work ourselves, or do we need to hire specialists? If specialists are needed, what qualifications are required?
A: The tile siding on your home is probably made of transite, which is a composite of cement and asbestos fibers. Fortunately, the asbestos fibers in transite are not readily released into the air, because they are encapsulated in a solid medium. Therefore, transite is not regarded as a significant health hazard if left alone. Abrasive procedures, such as sawing, drilling, grinding, scraping or sanding are the only likely ways of producing dust that would be unsafe to breathe.
If the tiles can be reattached without being damaged, you can probably perform the repairs without adverse consequences. However, if the job might involve breakage of some tiles, it would be best to hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. If you choose to do the work yourself, consult an asbestos abatement contractor for an evaluation of the situation and for advice regarding appropriate safety procedures.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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