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How Asbestos Impacts Your Home Renovation: Part 2

Posted January 20, 2020

What do you need to know about designated substances? In part 2 of his latest appearance on CTV News at Noon, Amsted’s Steve Barkhouse explains a homeowner’s responsibilities when it comes to asbestos and other designated substances.

No one wants to hear that their home might have asbestos, but here’s a small piece of good news: even if you have asbestos in your home, it isn’t necessarily dangerous. Asbestos only becomes an issue when it’s disturbed, or if it’s in bad condition. We partnered with our friends at CM3 to give you some valuable information on asbestos to help you get prepared for what you’ll need to do.

You may be wondering, “if asbestos is such a dangerous substance, why is it in so many homes?” Well, there was a time when it was actually the most frequently used building material on the market. Why? Simply put, it’s extremely useful!

Asbestos has impressive thermal resistance, incredible tensile strength, it’s anti-corrosive, and it doesn’t conduct electricity. All of this adds up to a powerful substance. But what the industry didn’t realize at the time is that breathing in asbestos particles has long-term carcinogenic effects.

That’s why we now have the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It outlines the 11 designated substances that homeowners are responsible for, including asbestos.

It means that should you need to hire someone to work in your home — such as a contractor, designer, or builder — you are responsible for making your home safe for them to work in. It’s up to you to provide an inventory of all dangerous substances before having work completed in your house.

If you want to find out more about the responsibilities of the homeowner, check out the Owner’s Duties guide created by the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association.

Asbestos is the designated substance we hear about the most because it is so prevalent and because of how dangerous it can be. It’s a highly friable substance, meaning it breaks apart extremely easily. It’s dangerous to remove and becomes a big process, which is why it can get expensive. But other substances such as lead, mercury, silica, arsenic and benzene all fall under the Health and Safety Act and may require testing.

Testing for Asbestos

Based on the age of your home, different parts of it will need to be checked. For example, asbestos became popular for residential use in the late 1930s and remained the standard until the 1970s. There was still a bit of asbestos use in the ’80s as well, but there’s a drastic reduction after 1990. The official ban on asbestos didn’t go into effect until 2010.

Samples will be taken from drywall, older vinyl tiles, plaster and insulation to test for asbestos. The total number taken depends on the square footage of your house.

Types of Asbestos Removal

When you receive the results of your test, you’ll learn whether or not you need to move forward with remediation (the process of safely removing the designated substance from the home). The amount and type of materials determines the classification a home will receive, either Type 1, 2, or 3.

 A Type 1 classification might require an optional respirator, while a Type 3 removal requires not only respirators, but HEPA air filters, clean room showers and extensive preventative measures to protect everyone from those inside the room to those involved in the transport and disposal of the product.

Because of the extra specifications for removal and transport, Type 3 remediation requires a specially licensed professional.

Some of the steps they will take to ensure your home is protected from any lingering asbestos include:

  • Double bagging all waste in approved bags
  • Wiping bags down in the clean room shower before leaving the premises
  • Each bag goes through the same cleaning steps as a worker does before they leave, as do their tools
  • The waste is transported on a predetermined route to a landfill that accepts asbestos, where it will be placed in a separate area and covered.

Where is Asbestos Found?

There are a few areas or substances where asbestos is typically located. The most common are:

  • Drywall and plaster: Plaster in particular is the most common test and also the biggest because if it’s discovered in one area of the home, it’s assumed that it is in every area, increasing a home’s classification level due to the amount of material involved.
  • Old vinyl tiles: Asbestos is found in the tiles themselves, as well as the adhesive used to secure them to the floor.
  • Vermiculite: Also known as loose fill ceiling insulation, vermiculite is typically used in the attics and walls of old homes.
  • Transite cement board: This is less common, but is found in siding, gutters, chimneys, shingles, furnace flues, HVAC systems and plumbing.

While dealing with designated substances sounds like a big and scary process, it’s a straightforward one — if you have the right team of people to help you through.

Don’t miss part 1 of our CTV appearance where we showed some completed projects that had to go through the remediation process. 

Plus, homeowner obligations regarding designated substances