Updated: Jan 31, 2020
There are more than 3,000 different materials produced prior to 1985 that contained asbestos. I'd like to focus on four of the main asbestos materials in Calgary homes. Asbestos fibres, that are friable, can cause lung cancer when inhaled by occupants of the home. Asbestos must be breathed in to be harmful, so if the material is undisturbed the risk is typically not a consideration. But at some point those materials will need to be removed, either by the owner, or the next.
Identifying Potential Asbestos Floor and Ceiling Tiles:
1) The age of the tiles.
Based on wear, pattern, colour, and style one can easily identify older floor tiles from more modern finishes. If the tiles look old there is a chance they contain asbestos fibres. For ceiling tiles the same rule applies.
2) The size of the tiles.
Measure the tiles, if the tiles are 12" x 12" there is a reduced risk of asbestos although laboratory testing to confirm is still recommended before removing the materials. The size that should raise alarms is 9" x 9". This size of tile is far more likely to contain asbestos and the presence of old 9" x 9" tiles should be a serious consideration when purchasing your Calgary home.
9" x 9" Basement Floor Tiles Uncovered at a Calgary Home Inspection
9" x 9" Ceiling Tiles Discovered at a Calgary Home Inspection
Identifying Asbestos Insulation:
Vermiculite is the type to be diligent with. Fibreglass, cellulose, mineral wool, wood shavings, leather, and all the other variations on insulation materials are not exactly people friendly materials but they do not contain asbestos.
Vermiculite insulation in Calgary and area is a small granule like substance that has the appearance of cat litter. This is a rock material that came from many different mines, including Quebec, Millbury Massachussets, Libby Montana (85% of the supply of world supply of asbestos vermiculite branded Zonolite), and others. This material also requires laboratory testing to confirm the presence of asbestos but there is a high likelihood of asbestos contamination. Remediation/removal requires vacuuming out the vermiculite from the attic and walls and is therefore a high level remediation that can be very costly. This makes it a critical find during your Calgary Home Inspection.
Vermiculite Uncovered in a Calgary Attic
Drywall Compound Asbestos:
This will require destructive sampling of the drywall compound along with laboratory testing to confirm asbestos. As with other materials we are looking at the age of the home to hypothesize at the presence of asbestos containing wall materials. Keep in mind, it is the mud compound at the drywall joints and not the drywall itself that can contain asbestos. This means popcorn textured ceilings and moulded ceilings should also be tested for the deadly asbestos particles.
Asbestos Textured Ceiling
Tape or Insulation On Ductwork or Pipes:
This material is typically a wide tape with a prominent texture. It was commonly used on ductwork and as insulation on pipes in residential homes into the 1970's. As you can see from the photos this material is readily friable and breathable so it is imperative to have it tested and removed if asbestos is present. This is not the type of asbestos you an cover up or live with.
60% Asbestos Confirmed in Calgary Home - Readily Friable!
Confirmed Asbestos Tape on Ductwork Distributing Air Through This Calgary Home
You may commonly find traditional narrow masking tape used on ductwork joints but this material typically does not contain asbestos.