Contrary to popular belief, asbestos abatement is different from asbestos removal. The former refers to reducing and controlling the hazard in a building, whereas the latter entails the complete disposal of asbestos products from a structure, which will subsequently be discarded in accordance with law. Asbestos abatement is also known as asbestos remediation. While abatement implies a considerably lower risk of exposure and is generally preferred over removal, since the problematic materials will not be disturbed to a great extent, it is unfortunately not feasible in all cases. Although the majority of asbestos products can be successfully dealt with using abatement, those which are in very poor condition require thorough removal, as the chances of inhabitants breathing in toxic fibers are great.
However, it is important to note that, if you have asbestos-containing materials in your home, neither abatement, nor removal might be necessary, as undisturbed and undamaged products are usually safe for the inhabitants. In such circumstances, to further ensure the good condition of the materials in question, it is highly recommended to avoid disturbing them by:
- using power tools
- walking on corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets
- using abrasive cutting or sanding discs
- leaving asbestos products in places where they might be crushed or broken
- using high-pressure hoses
- limiting the time you spend in the contaminated area
- using compressed air
- cleaning the area exclusively with wet cloths
- discouraging children and pets from entering the area
- performing any remodeling or renovation procedure involving the area with asbestos products
Being aware of the location where asbestos materials might lurk in your house is crucial, as this will help you avoid the places in question. In general, houses built before the mid-1980s are very likely to contain the carcinogenic mineral in at least one of their products, such as insulation or floor tiles. You can find a complete list of household asbestos materials and their exact location on our home page. Whether your home needs asbestos abatement depends on several factors, primarily on the degree to which the hazardous material is damaged. Since asbestos products in good condition do not release a large number of toxic fibers in the air, protective measures are only required when the menace of exposure is suspected.
To find out for sure if you need asbestos abatement, you first have to hire a licensed inspector who will come to your house to evaluate the problematic materials. They will be able to tell you whether you should have a cause for concern with regard to asbestos exposure. Alternatively, you can send in a sample of the product to a certified laboratory, which will conduct a thorough analysis to let you know how much asbestos it contains. A list of asbestos testing companies can be found here. Depending on the results, you may decide to proceed with asbestos abatement, which must also be performed by a professional company to avoid serious domestic exposure and environmental contamination.
In addition to how worn out the product is, the risk of exposure also depends on factors such as:
- the way the product was priorly handled
- how tightly asbestos fibers are bound in the matrix of the material
- the percentage of asbestos in the product
What Asbestos Abatement Method Is the Best to Ensure the Safety of My Home?
There are multiple asbestos abatement methods, as you will read below. Only a careful inspection can determine which one is the most suitable for your problem. We strongly advise you to contact a specialized company before deciding on a control method, as the outcome may be disappointing and ineffective if you choose to perform asbestos abatement by yourself. Even worse, you may end up worsening the extent of contamination. The good news is that, unlike asbestos removal, abatement is significantly cheaper, as it requires less effort, time, and protective equipment to carry out. In the following, we will discuss the asbestos abatement methods provided by licensed companies at the moment.
This abatement method consists in applying encapsulant material (also known as a sealer), usually in the form of a thick spray containing approximately 50% water, directly over the surface of the product. A low-pressure sprayer is generally used to apply the product over the asbestos material. The encapsulant eventually hardens and prevents asbestos fibers from coming off the material. Only asbestos products which have not yet begun to deteriorate are good candidates for encapsulation. The possibility of water penetrating the material from underneath also disqualifies a product from undergoing this abatement method. Some of the most commonly encapsulated asbestos materials are:
- piping insulation
- seam tape on ductwork
- cement wall cladding
- insulation on ductwork
- cement roof sheet
- fitting insulation on pipe fittings
- insulation on ductwork boots
It is important to highlight that asbestos encapsulation is not the equivalent of simply painting over the hazardous material, as regular paint cannot prevent it from crumbling and becoming a health threat. Moreover, the paint may loosen asbestos fibers over time. The purpose of treating asbestos products with sealants is to maintain the properties of the original material while keeping it in a safe condition. Encapsulation should also ensure that the quality of the attributes of the product in question, such as thermal insulation and fire resistance, remains the same. Accordingly, when a fire-resistant asbestos product is to be encapsulated, the procedure must be carried out by using a fire-resistant sealant.
The advantages of asbestos encapsulation include:
- low cost
- short completion time
- minimal risk of releasing asbestos fibers into the air
- increases the lifespan of the material
- reduces the release of carcinogenic fibers in the air
- enhances the appearance of the product
- protects the materials against knocks, cracking, breaking, flaking, and scrapes
- eliminates the need to remove the material, which is a high-risk procedure even for professionals
- certain sealants guarantee a lifespan of the material, they are applied over for up to 25 years
There are currently four types of encapsulation methods asbestos abatement companies use, as follows:
- mechanical encapsulation, which makes use of board or sheet materials, over which regular paint is subsequently applied
- high build elastomeric coating – this method entails a liquid encapsulant being applied over the product in question in multiple layers, providing elasticity and impact resistance and being ideal for asbestos insulation, boards, sprayed coatings, as well as other fibrous materials
- penetrating encapsulants, which are also very suitable for abating the previously mentioned asbestos materials, consisting in applying a spray over the product, which penetrates it, since the product is fibrous
- water-based epoxy resins – they are available with glass fibre, ensuring high impact resistance and a surface which is easy to clean
Asbestos encasement implies covering the hazardous material with a hard setting sealing material and is another effective control method when it comes to potentially dangerous household products. By far the most widely used encasement method is a green coating covering, which minimizes asbestos exposure to a great extent and prolongs the lifespan of the asbestos material. It is also a cost-effective solution which may result in savings of 25% to 75% in comparison with asbestos removal. Other benefits of asbestos encasement include:
- short completion time
- no harmful effect on the environment
- rarely requires the relocation of inhabitants
- has no impact on the fireproof rating of the house
- makes use of non-toxic, water-based products
- protects the surface from wear and tear
- can be custom tinted
This method is available for a wide range of asbestos products, from plaster and block insulation to paint.
Referring to surrounding asbestos products with air-tight barriers which can be made of metal, wood, or sheetrock, enclosure is not the perfect management solution, as it only prevents direct exposure to toxic fibers. A certain amount of asbestos fibers may still escape, putting the health of inhabitants in danger. Thus, enclosure is a temporary solution and it is not cost-effective, since it requires keeping a close eye on the area in question. Additionally, if the enclosure is somehow damaged or opened for maintenance, the asbestos fibers which had been accumulating on the interior walls of the barrier will inevitably be released in the air, resulting in exposure.
What Factors Should I Take Into Consideration Before Deciding to Have Asbestos Abatement Work Performed on My House?
Only a professional will be able to tell you whether your home needs asbestos abatement, depending on the numerous factors which they assess during the inspection. That being said, if you know asbestos is present in the building you inhabit and intend to take precautions, we advise you to consider the following factors:
- location of the hazardous material – if the asbestos product you worry about is not situated in a room you pass through or spend time in on a regular basis and is in relatively good condition, you should probably leave it alone
- remodeling or renovation – if you plan to remodel or conduct a renovation project in the area which contains asbestos, it is crucial to have the dangerous materials abated or removed beforehand to avoid exposure
- selling your home – having the problematic asbestos materials properly taken care of before selling your house will attract more prospective buyers, since you will be required to disclose the presence of the mineral within the property nonetheless
- type of material – friable asbestos products such as popcorn ceiling entail the highest risk of exposure, as they can easily release fibers in the environment, so it is highly recommended to have a licensed team of asbestos abatement workers attend to such materials as soon as possible if they are present in your house
If you need assistance with any issue concerning household asbestos exposure, please contact us at 760.208.4196 or by filling out the form on our contact page. We will do our best to answer any questions you may have and guide you towards the most suitable resources.