DIY Asbestos Removal
Entailing the complete disposal of hazardous materials from a building, asbestos removal has become a service provided by numerous companies in the U.S. within the past three decades. Since 1971, when EPA finally recognized asbestos as a known human carcinogen, more and more people have begun showing concern regarding the safety of their homes, as the vast majority of houses, as well as public and industrial structures, had been built with products which contained this harmful mineral. Therefore, asbestos removal has become a very common procedure in the country. It is estimated that asbestos still lurks in 33 million of U.S. buildings at the moment.
However, removing asbestos materials from your house is not always necessary, as they might not pose a threat to your health. Because asbestos is dangerous only when airborne, disposing of products which do not release toxic fibers in the air is not imperative. In other words, as long as the asbestos materials in your house are in good condition and you avoid disturbing them by performing remodeling or renovation projects, you can rest assured your home is a safe environment for you and your family. You should also avoid moving such products at any cost, particularly friable materials such as vermiculite attic insulation, which is notorious for containing a high concentration of asbestos.
How Do I Know If I Need Asbestos Removal?
If you live in a house which was built before 1980, there are over 90% chances that it has asbestos somewhere. You can find the most common household products which are likely to contain asbestos on our Home Asbestos Exposure page.
The most suitable person to ask whether the asbestos materials in your home need to be removed is a licensed asbestos contractor, who can come to your house and conduct a careful and thorough inspection. Subsequently, they will be able to tell you if the products in question pose a health risk and thereby require removal or if another asbestos control method is appropriate for your situation, such as encapsulation or encasement. In case you are not sure whether asbestos is present in your home, we advise you to contact a professional asbestos testing company or to send in a sample of the suspect material/s to a certified laboratory for analysis. We have compiled a list of the best asbestos testing companies for each U.S. state from which you can choose.
Nevertheless, when it comes to small areas of the house, you can successfully perform asbestos removal by yourself as long as you take serious precautions. Therefore, you can discard of products such as pipe insulation, vinyl floor tiles, and corrugated roofing sheets by yourself in a relatively safe way. We have provided a short guide for DIY asbestos removal in the section down below, which we highly encourage you to comply with if you opt for disposing of hazardous materials on your own. For work covering large spaces, as well as for asbestos removal required before major remodeling or renovation projects, we strongly recommend you to hire a team of licensed professionals.
While asbestos removal is rarely necessary since most products are in good condition, it is better to have the following materials disposed of by a professional company, especially if they are very old, since they are friable and imply a high risk of exposure:
- pipe lagging
- boiler insulation
- fire retardant material on steelwork
- insulation on electrical wires
- sprayed insulation (such as the ceiling treatment popularly known as popcorn ceiling)
- the lining of stoves, heaters, and hot water systems
- vermiculite attic insulation
- insulation board on walls
- roofing felt
- doors and gaskets on furnaces and wood stoves
- plumbing putty
- fuse-box lining
- acoustical and decorative plaster
- mastic adhesives
- spackle or patching compound
- block insulation
- millboard or rollboard
- artificial ashes and embers
When non-friable asbestos materials such as asphalt roofing shingles and cement siding are severely damaged, either by human action or weathering, they also become a source of exposure, which means removal might be necessary. Similarly, only a certified asbestos inspector can let you know for sure whether these products require removal or another control method. Nevertheless, most non-friable asbestos materials can be successfully managed by using abatement methods which prevent harmful fibers from escaping the matrix of the product.
Can I Remove Asbestos Products from My Home By Myself?
Asbestos is a highly carcinogenic agent which can cause a wide range of health problems, from asbestosis and COPD to lung cancer and mesothelioma. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, as all national and worldwide health agencies agree. Thus, we cannot stress enough the importance of hiring a team of professionals to properly attend to the hazardous materials in your home, as they underwent adequate training in this respect and have the required experience to deal with such a challenging and dangerous job.
While the cost of asbestos removal services may be quite high, varying between $1,500 and $30,000, depending on the extent of the project, since it requires utmost attention, plenty of time, as well as expensive protective equipment, we believe it is worth to hire a licensed company instead of attempting to remove asbestos yourself for the sake of your and your family’s health. Additionally, a poorly carried out asbestos removal job can easily lead to environmental contamination, as fibers are microscopic and spread around very fast.
Nonetheless, removing asbestos by yourself from your own house is not illegal in the U.S. Accordingly, homeowners are legally allowed to perform asbestos removal as long as they comply with the following requirements:
- The property which is to undergo asbestos removal is residential. It is illegal to perform DIY asbestos removal on properties which are not residential, such as commercial or industrial facilities, which fall under the area of expertise of professionals.
- Only a single family must inhabit the residence in which the asbestos removal will take place. As a precaution taken to avoid contamination, the law permits DIY asbestos removal only in single-family homes, such as houses, detached garages, mobile homes, or houseboats. Consequently, individuals without a license cannot perform asbestos removal in the following types of homes: apartment, duplex, condominium.
- You have to obtain a permit. In the majority of U.S. states, a person who intends to perform DIY asbestos removal first has to contact their permitting or local building department so as to receive formal approval for the work they are about to carry out.
- Asbestos waste must be discarded in authorized places only. Following the completion of the asbestos removal, the waste must be properly disposed of in specially designated areas. Even materials containing as little as 1% asbestos fall under this rule.
Although we do not condone DIY asbestos removal, the job can be carried out by unauthorized individuals under relatively safe conditions only if the problematic area is not very large and if adequate precautions are taken. Naturally, the exact process of removing asbestos from your home depends primarily on the material which needs to be disposed of. If you plan to perform asbestos removal in your home, it is crucial to follow the steps below to avoid endangering the health of the people around you.
Preparing the Area
Firstly, you have to let your family and neighbors know about the asbestos removal so that they will know to stay away from the house until the job is completed and the area in question is entirely cleaned up. There should be no one around during the procedure, including pets, as they can also be affected by asbestos exposure.
If you are going to remove asbestos materials from the outside of the building, please do the following beforehand:
- spread plastic sheeting on the ground
- move objects such as children's toys and decorative items away from the work area
- close windows and doors, as well as seal vents, to prevent toxic dust from infiltrating your house and ask your neighbors to do the same
- similarly, seal off other places where asbestos dust might enter, such as under doors
For inside DIY asbestos removal, the precautions below should be taken:
- close the doors and seal the work area off from other rooms by using plastic sheets
- lay plastic sheets on the floor to make cleaning up easier and to avoid contamination
- also seal off air conditioning, vents, and central heating ducts
- place furniture covered with fabric, such as couches and armchairs, in other rooms or, if this is not feasible, lay plastic sheets over them as well
- remove any other objects from the room in which you will perform the asbestos removal
- seal off places like under doors to avoid harmful dust from infiltrating other areas of the house
Performing the Removal
Once the work area has been properly set up, you may begin removing the problematic asbestos materials. However, you should priorly protect yourself by wearing appropriate equipment. It is recommended to wear a respirator or at least a dust mask with two straps during the removal, as well as disposable coveralls with a hood, gloves, and safety glasses. While how you remove the asbestos product in question will depend on what it is, please bear in mind the following, regardless of what material you are going to get rid of:
- do not employ power tools – instead, use hand tools
- do not waterblast or scrub the material
- do not drill or cut into the product
- do not eat, drink, or smoke in the work area, as the risk of inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers is very high
- wet down the material with a mix of water and detergent before removing it to prevent the release of toxic fibers in the air
Cleaning Up the Area
After you removed the asbestos material, you should wet down the waste and double wrap it in plastic sheets (200 um thick), securing the package with tape. The asbestos waste must be legally disposed of in a specially designated place. To find out where you can get rid of asbestos waste in your area, you should check with your city council before proceeding with the removal. As for cleaning up the room in question, we advise you to:
- dampen the dust on the ground before removing it with a HEPA vacuum cleaner, which can get rid of over 99% of asbestos particles (do not use a household vacuum cleaner, as they are ineffective when it comes to cleaning up asbestos)
- dispose of your protective equipment in a bag, seal it, and discard it along with the asbestos waste
- be careful not to skid the plastic sheets over one another when removing them, as this may lead to asbestos contamination
Removing asbestos on your own is a very difficult job which is likely to result in significant contamination, hence the high cost of professional services. We strongly encourage you to contact a licensed asbestos removal company if it turns out hazardous materials are present in your house. You can find a list of certified asbestos removal companies for each U.S. state at the end of our free, downloadable guide, which also provides additional information concerning asbestos testing and removal. If you have any questions with regard to household asbestos exposure, please feel free to give us a call at 760.208.4196 or contact us by filling out the form on this page.