Asbestos: What To Know Before Remodeling Your Home

by Pauline Boenisch

Regardless of the year of your home, it’s important to know the risks of asbestos and asbestos exposure when planning to remodel. In Colorado, unless the building was built after October 12, 1988, AND the architect signs documentation showing no asbestos-containing materials (ACM) were used during building construction – an initial asbestos inspection report signed by a Certified Asbestos Building Inspector (CABI) is required before removing or demoing “suspect” building materials.

In most cases, asbestos-containing building materials (ACBMs) in good condition are not hazardous to human health. Asbestos exposure is only dangerous when building materials become rendered “friable” (in other words, “easily crumble”) through disturbance, damage, or dilapidation. Friable asbestos is dangerous becauseasbestos exposure occurs through respiration. Just remember, when you start knocking into walls, removing old HVAC or plumbing systems, or replacing certain types of flooring – you may be disturbing asbestos fibers which can contaminate the air you breathe.

When planning your home remodel, get an asbestos inspection before you demo.

Asbestos can be found in many different building materials that can still be purchased in the United States (US). Most people are not aware, but Asbestos use is not banned in the US. Although asbestos is no longer mined and manufactured in the US, companies can still legally import, use and sell both raw asbestos and asbestos-containing materials.

In the State of Colorado, asbestos testing is required prior to the removal of certain building materials, regardless of the age of the property. Common “suspect” locations and materials that may contain asbestos include:

  • Vinyl and linoleum tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Adhesive or mastic glue
  • Textured ceilings (popcorn, etc.)
  • Textures for wall surfacing and mud joint compounds
  • Insulation around HVAC, pipes, and furnaces
  • Attic and wall insulation containing vermiculite
  • Window caulking and glazing
  • Flat roofing
  • Siding materials
  • Cementitious materials
  • Wallpaper

Whether you’re doing a small renovation or a full gut-to-stud remodel job in your home, see the below steps in order to ensure you are remodeling your home safely.

Step 1

Research State Laws. While the EPA and OSHA have asbestos-specific standards regarding asbestos, the federal government allows each State to craft its own asbestos regulations. Research your State’s laws before moving forward with Step 2. You should also look into the demolition permit requirements for your local city and county. If you live in the City and County of Denver, Colorado, you can learn more here about residential permitting requirements for remodeling projects.

If you have received a “work stop” notice in Colorado during your home remodeling project, then you know very well about the EPA’s State Health Department, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and how seriously they enforce asbestos testing and abatement practices on renovation and demolition projects. Projects without proper permitting requirements can be fined up to $25,000/day if found negligent. That is a hefty fine simply to learn that all you needed was an initial asbestos inspection performed by a certified professional before beginning the demolition phase of your project. Only an EPA trained and certified Asbestos Building Inspector can perform asbestos inspections and classify a “suspect” building material as NOT asbestos-containing.

“Assumed” asbestos-containing floor tiles. Only a State-certified Asbestos Building Inspector can classify a “suspect” material as NOT containing asbestos.

Step 2

Assume Your Home Contains Asbestos. Even if you believe your home does not contain any of the “suspect” asbestos containing materials listed above, it is best to contact a Colorado-certified Asbestos Building Inspector for a free phone consultation. Whether it is your family’s health or worker protection that concerns you, it is better to proceed with the assumption that asbestos may be present in materials you plan to remove. The only way to be absolutely certain a material you will be potentially demolishing does not contain asbestos is to hire a CABI to test the materials and write a formal report along with the lab results.

If some of the materials to be removed have already been damaged or have become dilapidated, remember to keep access and activities to a minimum in those areas, especially for young children who are more vulnerable to the health impacts of asbestos or lead-based paint exposure. On that note, if your home was built prior to 1978 you may also need to test for lead-based paint. If your home has tested positive for asbestos or lead-based paint, move on to Step 3.

Step 3

Hire A Certified General Abatement Contractor (CGAC). If the building materials sampled come back as asbestos-containing or as “trace” (meaning 1% or less asbestos content), hiring a certified asbestos abatement company is the only way to ensure the asbestos is removed according to State and Federal regulations. In order to perform the removal, transport, and disposal of ACMs, a Certified General Abatement Contractor has a special business license and all Supervisors and Workers undergo extensive EPA-approved training and physical assessments. CGACs also have the proper equipment for containment setup, such as high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters which help prevent cross-contamination during the asbestos abatement process.

Should you need to perform asbestos abatement as part of your home renovation project, it is recommended to get at least 2-3 bids from different asbestos abatement contractors, Make time to research contractors in your area or call BuildSafe’s Team of Environmental Consultants for a list of tried-and-true asbestos abatement professionals. Not all CGACs are the same!
After the work is complete, a third-party State-certified Air Monitoring Specialist (AMS) may perform a Final Air Clearance to ensure there are no existing asbestos fibers in the contained work area. A Final Air Clearance ensures that the abatement contractor successfully performed the asbestos removal and clean-up, prior to taking down the containment or contained work area.

While remodeling a home can be exciting, it’s important to keep your family and workers safe. Stay vigilant and be aware of your State’s asbestos regulations and be sure to get an asbestos inspection BEFORE you demo old building materials. For asbestos testing or final air clearance services in Denver, Colorado, contact BuildSafe Environmental for pricing or to get an asbestos inspection scheduled right away. To learn more about asbestos in Colorado, check out the FAQ section of our website.