Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once used in building construction because of its fire-retardant qualities. However, the material has been found to be a health hazard and has rarely been used since the 1970s. If your home was built prior to 1980, there could be asbestos present that should be removed to preserve your health. The process requires professional help and, unfortunately, the cost is rarely covered by homeowners insurance.
Does home insurance cover asbestos removal?
Asbestos can pose a major health risk to both adults and children. Exposure could potentially lead to the development of lung cancer, mesothelioma or a separate lung disease called asbestosis. These issues can be caused by breathing in asbestos particles that have been disrupted.
You may opt to have asbestos professionally removed on its own, or in the natural course of repairs, such as if you’re already remodeling the area of your home where it is present. Check your state and local guidelines to find a properly certified asbestos contractor so you can be confident the removal is done correctly — and safely.
You will likely not be able to make a reimbursement claim through your homeowners insurance for this service. Instead, you typically have to pay the full amount out of pocket. Most homeowners insurance companies have a pollution exclusion, meaning mitigating a pollutant (including asbestos) is not covered. The exception is if a covered peril reveals or disturbs the existing asbestos. For instance, if a storm damages your home and displaces any existing asbestos, you may be covered. You’ll need to check your policy language or speak with a licensed agent to know for sure.
Is asbestos dangerous?
Asbestos is dangerous when it is damaged or disturbed, which allows particles to get in the air and inhaled. If asbestos is in good condition and doesn’t get chipped or exposed in any way, then it is less likely to cause damage to your health. When you see a part of your home that is covered in asbestos, you may want to check for cracks, chips or other signs of damage that could indicate fibers are being released into the air.
Where will I find asbestos?
Older homes may have asbestos present in several different places. Here are some common places to check for asbestos:
- Boiler, steam pipe, or furnace: asbestos blanket or tape
- Floor tiles: backing or adhesive
- Door gaskets on stoves
- Wall and ceiling decorative sprays, including textured paints
- Insulation in homes built between 1930 and 1950
How do I check for asbestos?
It’s not always easy to discover asbestos in your home. It may be easier to hire a professional to take samples if you suspect you have asbestos in your home. This is especially important if your home was built before 1980 and you’re about to take on a home renovation project. Since demolition can cause asbestos fibers to be released into the air, it’s best to mitigate the risk before it occurs.
A professional asbestos contractor can take samples to check. In the event asbestos is confirmed to be present, you usually have two options. The first is to simply contain the asbestos, particularly if you don’t plan to disrupt the area where it’s found. The second option is to hire a trained asbestos professional to remove it altogether.
How do I get rid of asbestos?
It is not generally recommended to spearhead your own asbestos-removal project. The EPA warns against even touching, dusting or sweeping up anything you suspect to be asbestos. An asbestos professional can repair the area by either sealing the material to prevent it from releasing into the environment, or by enclosing it to achieve the same goal.
Removing it can inadvertently release more asbestos into the air, which involves sealing off the area from the rest of the house and meticulously treating the area as a hazard zone. The asbestos contractor should continually spray the asbestos to keep it wet and avoid dry fibers from releasing. He or she will then seal up the removed asbestos and safely remove it from your home.
Frequently asked questions
What’s the difference between an asbestos inspector and an asbestos contractor?
An inspector does not remedy a problematic asbestos situation, but instead helps you confirm whether or not asbestos is present in the home and to what extent. In addition to a visual examination, the inspector can also safely take samples and provide you with a lab analysis. They will let you know how extensive the asbestos is and typically recommend the safest way to handle the situation.
An asbestos contractor, on the other hand, actually performs the work. Every state has its own regulations regarding how asbestos should be treated and disposed of. It’s important to make sure your contractor has a good reputation and meets any local certification requirements.
How much does asbestos removal cost?
It’s important to know the cost of asbestos removal since most homeowners insurance policies won’t cover it, except in rare circumstances. Some reports put the average cost in the U.S. for asbestos removal at $1,994, with the majority of that number going towards the labor and materials involved with sealing the contaminated area.
Of course, the cost varies greatly based on the size of the area and how much needs to be removed versus encapsulated. Your total cost for asbestos removal also depends on your state’s specific fees for disposal permits. In Virginia, for example, the permit fee can range from $50 to $470 depending on the size of the area. In Oregon, fees start at $100 and can go up to $3,500 for large scale projects.
Is asbestos illegal to use today?
The EPA banned use of asbestos in 1989, but that law was overturned in 1991. That means asbestos is still legally allowed in most materials in the U.S. However, it is banned in the following materials:
- Corrugated paper
- Commercial paper
- Specialty paper
- Flooring felt
However, even though asbestos is technically allowed, it is rarely used and production has been on a significant decline in recent decades.