Identifying Asbestos Plaster

By Stan G. in Construction

Asbestos plaster has been used on a large scale in the construction industry. By adding asbestos to regular plaster, materials with impressive fire and heat resistance were obtained. These products have been one of the people's top choices for building the walls and ceilings of houses, as well as public buildings, during the last century. Therefore, despite the health problems asbestos may cause and the EPA regulations concerning it, the mineral is still present in millions of homes built before the 1980s.

The main problem with asbestos plaster, besides the hazardous effects it can have on our health, is that it cannot be recognized just by visually inspecting the material in your house. In order to help you discover whether your home was built using asbestos plaster, we have prepared a short list of important aspects to pay attention to.

Date of Construction

The date of your home's construction is very important when trying to find out if it contains asbestos. Houses built between 1940 and 1980 are most likely to contain asbestos plaster. This kind of information is usually given when buying the property. If you are a tenant, you can ask your landlord about this.

Brand of Asbestos-containing Plaster

Although there is no official list of the companies which produced asbestos plaster, knowing the brand of the plaster used in your house might prove to be useful. Some of the most common asbestos plaster producers were National Gypsum, Synkoloid, W. R. Grace, and Keene.

Texture of the Plaster

The texture of the material suspected to contain asbestos is also important. Most of the asbestos-containing plaster has a 'popcorn' texture. The style of the building can also be a good indicator, since art deco houses are more likely to contain asbestos than those with other architectural styles.

Asbestos Testing

Ultimately, the only way to know for sure if there are dangerous asbestos-containing materials in your home is to have it inspected by professionals. They know how to recognize troublesome products and how to safely take a sample of the material to subsequently have it tested by a certified laboratory.

However, if you want to save some money, you can skip the inspection part and directly send in a sample for testing on your own. In order to do so, you must comply with the following rules:

  • Wear protective equipment and seal off the area where you are going to work to avoid contaminating the whole house;
  • Wet down the surface of the material you are going to take a sample from to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne;
  • Take a small (approximately 1 inch) square-shaped sample of the plaster and place it in a resistant plastic bag, then seal it off very tightly;
  • Label the sample with the necessary information (date, house address, the name of the product etc.);
  • Send in the sample to a certified laboratory to have it tested.

Each state has its own rules and regulations regarding asbestos testing and removal, so make sure you follow them when sending your sample to the lab. The cost of asbestos testing varies from $20/sample to $50/sample and the results are usually received within two weeks or less.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.