Always leave asbestos inspections to the professionals. Here’s how to figure out if it’s time to call the pros for an inspection.
The short answer is, you don’t. Asbestos is impossible to detect with 100 percent certainty without testing samples in a lab. To get these samples, you must have a certified technician visit your home, inspect the possible asbestos-containing materials, and remove a small portion of the material using specific safety precautions. It is actually illegal for anyone other than a certified individual to perform asbestos sampling in the state of California.
However, there are a few steps you can take on your own to determine if calling the inspector is really necessary.
Consider the Age of Your Home
Asbestos-containing materials were extremely popular right up until the late 1970s, when people finally started realizing that the health risks posed by asbestos far outweighed its benefits as a fire-resistant, insulating material. If your home was built during America’s love affair with asbestos, it is highly likely that some asbestos-containing materials are lurking in your home. If, however, your home was built in the 1990s or later, it is unlikely that any building materials contain dangerous quantities of asbestos.
Identify Suspicious Materials
If you have an older home, you should familiarize yourself with some of the most common types of asbestos-containing materials. For example, asbestos floor tiles, ceiling tiles, insulation, roofing material, and paint are all quite common. If you are lucky, you might be able to figure out the brand name of these materials, which you can then use to figure out whether or not they contain asbestos.
Evaluate the Condition of Suspicious Materials
Asbestos-containing materials are only dangerous when they are damaged, because damage is what allows harmful asbestos fibers to escape from the material and find their way into your lungs. Inspect any materials you believe might contain asbestos for damage. For example, if the insulation is hanging down off your pipes or the floor tiles in your basement are cracked or crumbling, this situation could be dangerous. You would definitely want to call an asbestos inspector to determine whether or not these materials are hazardous.
Consider Your Future Plans
If the suspicious materials are not damaged, you should probably just leave them alone. The EPA does not recommend removing undamaged asbestos-containing materials. The only exception is if you plan to do a renovation or other construction project that might disturb or damage the materials. In this case, you should get the materials inspected for asbestos. If asbestos is found, you should have the materials removed by a professional before you begin work on your project.