What Asbestos Abatement Method Is the Best to Ensure the Safety of My Home?
Many houses built before the 1980s still contain asbestos, the miracle mineral used in manufacturing an extensive array of construction products. Some older homes may have flooring, ceiling tiles, insulation, or other asbestos-containing items. It puts residents at risk of inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers and developing asbestos-related diseases many years later. But homeowners can take measures to prevent exposure and safely handle asbestos in their homes. One of them is asbestos abatement; it means removing or mitigating the effects caused by this dangerous mineral.
Although general belief considers otherwise, asbestos abatement is different from asbestos removal. Abatement refers to reducing and controlling the hazard, while removal is the complete disposal of asbestos products from a building and discarding it in conformity with the law.
Asbestos abatement is also known as asbestos remediation and represents a lower risk of exposure. Since it doesn't disturb the asbestos-containing materials as much as removal, it is the generally preferred method of handling asbestos. However, not deranging hazardous products is only sometimes achievable. Although abatement successfully deals with the majority of asbestos materials, if they are in a run-down condition, removal will be the best solution. Over time wear and tear of asbestos-containing materials is likely to occur, and removing them altogether reduces the chances of families breathing in the toxic fibers. 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
There are multiple asbestos abatement methods, as you will read below. Only a careful inspection can determine 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 abatement is significantly cheaper, requiring less effort, time, and protective equipment, unlike asbestos removal. In the following, we will discuss the asbestos abatement methods provided by licensed companies.
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 yet to begin 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 essential 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 encapsulated, the procedure must be carried out 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 - it 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 - 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 fiber, ensuring high impact resistance and a surface that is easy to clean
Asbestos encasement implies covering the hazardous material with a hard setting sealing material and is another effective control method for 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 that may result in 25% to 75% savings compared to 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.
Regarding surrounding asbestos products with air-tight barriers made of metal, wood, or sheetrock, the enclosure is not the perfect management solution, as it only prevents a direct exposure to toxic fibers. A certain amount of asbestos fibers may still escape, putting the health of inhabitants in danger. Thus, an enclosure is a temporary solution and is not cost-effective since it requires a close eye on the area in question. Additionally, if the enclosure is somehow damaged or opened for maintenance, the asbestos fibers accumulating on the barrier's interior walls will inevitably be released into the air, resulting in exposure.
Factors to Consider Before Deciding to Have Asbestos Abatement Work Performed
Only a qualified person can tell you whether your home needs asbestos abatement, depending on the numerous factors 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 regularly 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 an area that 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 ceilings 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 attends to such materials as soon as possible if they are present in your house