Buyers concerned about asbestos siding

Posted7/3/2022 6:00 AM

Q: We are buying an old house, and our home inspector says the exterior tile siding may contain asbestos. The property is being sold "as-is," and neither the sellers nor their agent disclosed anything about asbestos. What kind of liability will we have if we decide to resell the house in the future? Could we simply disclose the presence of asbestos, or would we have to replace the siding?

A: The old tile siding may consist of a material known as "transite," which was commonly used on buildings during the 1940s and '50s. Transite is a cement product that is reinforced with asbestos fibers. Because the asbestos fibers are embedded in a solid medium, they are not readily released into the air. Therefore, transite is not regarded as a significant health hazard.


The only way to release asbestos fibers from transite siding is to pulverize the material, as would occur if the material were to be cut with a power saw or abraded with a sander.

The only current requirement for sellers with asbestos siding is to disclose the presence of the material. There is no legal mandate for removal or any other type of remediation at this time. However, if the exterior of the building is remodeled or renovated, removal of the material might then be required, and this would require the services of a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. Such services, by the way, can be very expensive.

Another consideration is future marketability of the property. When you eventually resell the home, some buyers may be unwilling to purchase a building with asbestos siding or may expect a price reduction reflecting the cost of eventual asbestos removal.

Q: Our home was built in the early 1970s, and many of the aluminum wire connections have become loose. An article I read warned about fire hazards with aluminum wiring and mentioned a way of upgrading the connections with copper ends. I'm pretty handy and would like to make these repairs myself, but I need some direction. Can you please advise me on the proper procedures for making aluminum wires safer?

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A: What you read about the hazards of aluminum wiring is correct. Aluminum wire connections tend to become loose over time, and loose fittings can cause arcing and overheating, resulting in fires within the walls. Fortunately, there is a way to retrofit the wire ends for improved fire safety.

However, my primary advice regarding such upgrades is to delegate the repairs to a licensed electrician, rather than attempting do-it-yourself improvements. An electrician's knowledge and experience are essential to ensure the work is done properly and safely.

The repair method in question involves the installation of copper ends, commonly known as "pigtails," at outlets, lights, switches and circuit breakers. However, it is essential that the attachments to the aluminum wires be done with hardware specifically rated for connecting copper to aluminum. Consult a few local electricians to find someone who is familiar with this retrofit process.

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