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  • Writer's pictureKevin Peterson

Should I Buy a House With Asbestos?

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Asbestos was once commonly used in building construction materials due to its strength and heat-resistance. However, it is now well known that asbestos exposure can cause various types of cancer and respiratory problems. If you are considering buying an older home, particularly one built before the 1980s, you may be wondering whether it contains asbestos and whether it is safe to live in.

There are some pros to buying a house with asbestos. For instance, you may be able to negotiate a lower price for the property, and if the asbestos-containing materials are in good condition and remain undisturbed, the risk of exposure is extremely low or even non-existent. However, before making a decision, it is essential to be fully informed about the potential risks and costs involved.

1. Inspect:

The first step in assessing whether a house contains asbestos is to inspect the property carefully and lookout for the telltale signs of asbestos-containing materials. You should also ask your real estate agent about the presence of asbestos in the home you are considering buying. Unless the real estate agent unequivocally states that the property is asbestos-free, it is worthwhile to get professional asbestos testing before making a purchase.

Although construction materials nowadays contain only up to 1% asbestos, you must make sure that the asbestos-containing materials are undisturbed and correctly installed before buying or renovating a home.

Asbestos can be found throughout the home, in old floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roof shingles, joint compounds, hot water and steam pipes, and many other building construction materials. The biggest risk posed by asbestos in buildings is during a renovation when the asbestos-containing materials get damaged, and the fibers that are too small to be seen release into the air and inhaled.

2. Minimize Risk

To minimize the risk of living with asbestos, you have three options.

  • Leave asbestos alone - You can leave the asbestos alone if it is in good condition, which may be perfectly safe as long as it remains undisturbed.

  • Encapsulation - Is a process of making existing sources of asbestos safer by treating them with a sealant that forms a protective layer between the material and indoor environment.

  • Removal - Finally, if your home has damaged building materials, such as crumbling drywall and insulation that is falling apart, the only way to remediate the risk may be complete asbestos removal.

3. Exposed?

If you're concerned about asbestos exposure, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Asbestos-containing materials on the outside of the house, such as siding and roofing, do not present a significant health hazard. However, if the material is friable, containing asbestos, it should be considered a health hazard. Asbestos-containing material that is in good condition should be of minimal concern, but if remodeling plans may disturb asbestos-containing materials, the situation should be evaluated.

4. Ask me for a Booklet

Real estate agents are required to provide the California Residential Environmental Hazards Booklet, which contains information on asbestos hazards, to every home seller in California. This booklet can be a valuable resource for homeowners and potential buyers looking to understand the risks associated with asbestos-containing materials.

In conclusion, buying a house with asbestos is not necessarily a bad idea as long as you fully understand the risks and potential costs involved. It is important to assess the level of asbestos in the home carefully, understand the California laws regarding asbestos management, and consider the three options for minimizing the risk of exposure. By being well-informed, you can make the right decision for you and your family's health and safety.

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