What Home Buyers Should Know about Asbestos

Posted by on Jun 13, 2012 in Maintenance Tips | 3 comments

Home buyers are not usually concerned about whether asbestos is present in the home they’re thinking about buying.

Their top concerns typically focus around other things: how nice/big the kitchen is; how many bedrooms and bathrooms there are; and if they can see themselves living there.

This is why home inspections are so important. While future homeowners don’t worry about asbestos, inspectors are trained to find asbestos if it is visible and then to raise the issue. This is important because asbestos is so often forgotten about.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was incorporated into more than 3,000 construction products. If a home was built before 1980, there is a good chance it was constructed with asbestos-containing materials.

If asbestos-containing material is suspected in the home, research by the Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com shows the importance of not disturbing it and hiring a professional to check it out. Even the slightest bit of disturbance can cause asbestos fibers to become airborne where they can be inhaled. This is something nobody wants to have happen.

Exposure to asbestos can result in a number of serious health conditions, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Illnesses like asbestos related cancers usually don’t present symptoms until at least 10 years have passed since the exposure occurred so someone could easily be exposed to asbestos and not know it.

Common Asbestos-Containing Materials

Determining if materials contain asbestos is no easy task and this job should be left to a professional. Sometimes sample testing is required to confirm the presence of asbestos. While this may seem like a lot of work, home inspectors generally know how to spot suspicious material.

Some of the most common locations for asbestos include old flooring, ceilings and the heating and air conditioning system. Before regulations were placed on the use of asbestos, vinyl and linoleum floors came with a backing that contained asbestos and helped with moisture absorption. The installation or removal of such flooring could present an asbestos hazard.

Popcorn ceilings have been noted as a source for asbestos exposure because asbestos was used in ceilings to act as insulation and to add texture. This type of ceiling was popular from the 1950s and into the 1980s, but the 1977 ban of asbestos in ceiling products made popcorn ceilings much less desirable.

Asbestos was primarily utilized for insulating and fireproofing purposes. Common locations around the home where asbestos was used for insulation included:


  • Attics
  • Walls
  • Roofs
  • Basements
  • Piping
  • Siding


Manufacturers of asbestos products were spread across the United States. Some companies actually mined asbestos and shipped it to manufacturing plants for processing. The most recognized company to do this was W.R. Grace & Company. W.R. Grace operated an asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana and shipped asbestos to nearby states in the Pacific Northwest as well as other states throughout the country.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 30 million homes have asbestos-contaminating vermiculite insulation stemming from the operations of W.R. Grace.

What’s the Solution?

If you’re getting ready to purchase a home, make sure to hire a professional inspector to check for any visible signs of asbestos.  If asbestos is found, it is best to have it safely removed by a licensed abatement company.  There are strict regulations that have to be followed and not doing so could actually raise the levels of asbestos in the home. This can sometimes be an expensive process.  Home buyers may consider using the cost of asbestos abatement as leverage to lower the asking price of the home.

Bio: Jensen Whitmer has been writing for the Mesothelioma Center for more than three years and he has an interest in spreading awareness about the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure. For more information see:



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