Asbestos in the home: What you need to know

Many older homes will have asbestos in some form, with past uses ranging from attic insulation to flooring

Adam Peron

Adam Peron

If you’re in the market for an older home in Oak Bay, chances are good the question of asbestos will arise.

Property sellers are required to mention known asbestos in their property disclosure statement. However, depending how long sellers have been in the home, and what renovations they’ve done, buyers often first become aware of the potential for the material during a home inspection.

The impact of that depends somewhat on where the asbestos may be and future plans for the home.

Other than during a home purchase, homeowners also often become aware of asbestos during a renovation project,  explains Adam Peron, development manager for Hazpro Environmental.

Asbestos, a blanket term for a group of six naturally occurring silicate minerals, is resistant to heat, chemicals and electricity, making it an excellent insulator. These properties made asbestos a popular material to use in homes for decades – typical areas include drywall mud, sheet flooring and vinyl floor tiles, plus vermiculite insulation, fiberboard and ceiling tiles. Around homes locally, it’s also often found in pipe lagging – white insulation around boiler pipes – duct tape, roofing, siding and plaster.

“What it does well, it does very well,” Peron says.

However, when asbestos is disturbed, tiny fibres can be inhaled, causing problems in the respiratory tract, including the lung disease asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure.

“Really, the risk comes down to when it’s time to remove it; there’s a lot of health hazards associated with that,” Peron says.

Any home prior to 1990 has the potential for asbestos. Asbestos came into homebuilding after the Second World War, ramping up in the 1950s and ‘60s. “By the late 1970s there was a lot more knowledge that this wasn’t good,” he says.

Even a pre-1940s home is at risk, however, due to renovations that may have occurred over its lifetime.

In many older homes, “you can see four or five different layers of flooring,” Peron notes.

While some asbestos can be readily identified, such as in vermiculite insulation, other uses can be more challenging to identify. The remediation process includes three areas: sample collection, sample analysis and remediation, Peron says.

Those about to embark on a renovation project can reduce the likelihood of unpleasant surprises with a hazmat  survey, which can let them identify issues and adjust plans, if necessary.

“It’s a good first step for anyone planning on remodelling,” Peron says.

With sheet vinyl flooring, for example, homeowners may choose to add new flooring over top, leaving the old flooring undisturbed, or they may choose to reconfigure plans – or the budget.

The remediation process begins with having a professional take an initial look.

“People will look at where (asbestos) is placed in the home and make decisions on that,” Peron says.

Remediation costs can vary significantly, from a few hundred dollars into the thousands, depending on where asbestos is found. The same is true for the length of time needed, which can vary from one day to several weeks. “Every situation is different and every home is different,” he says.

Where asbestos has been used extensively through the home, it can affect the value for prospective buyers. “It can take a big chunk out of the property value because at some point it has to be addressed,” Peron says.

Remediation can involve air monitoring, plastic tents and sometimes a portable shower, negative air pressure for the home and Tyvek suits and respiratory equipment for crew.

For homeowners wanting to learn more about asbestos, Peron suggests checking with Health Canada (healthycanadians.gc.ca) or WorkSafeBC (worksafebc.com); Hazpro also has a variety of information at hazpro.org.

Be sure to ask for – and check – references and ask lots of questions, Peron says.

When choosing a company to work with, look for AHERA (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act) certification, WorkSafeBC membership in good standing, and commercial liability insurance. The Victoria Residential Builders Association (vrba.ca) is another good resource.

“Get lots of details. The contractor should be able to describe the risk levels for the job types and walk you through the process.”

 

 

Just Posted

Saanich police took a suspect into custody after a store employee on Cedar Hill Cross Road was assaulted Wednesday afternoon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Employee assaulted at Saanich store after asking suspected shoplifters to leave

June 16 incident saw worker taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley MLA Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

BC Green Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

(Black Press Media file photo)
School parking problems plague Oak Bay residents

Need exceeds official requirements for parking at St. Michaels school

Residents encouraged to fill out online survey to provide feedback on regional needs. (Pixabay)
In January 2019, Grade 5 students from Glenlyon Norfolk School, accompanied by Grade 11 student Anastasia Castro, gave a presentation to Oak Bay council seeking a ban on plastic bags in the district. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay set to survey businesses on single-use plastic products

Survey gathers information ahead of expected legislation on provincial, federal level

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)
B.C. government to allow home cannabis delivery starting July 15

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read