What DIY Homeowners Need to Know About Asbestos Removal

What DIY Homeowners Need to Know About Asbestos Removal

We get lots of people contacting us wanting to know how to properly remove asbestos from their homes. The questions, and our answers, generally center around removal of asbestos from four main areas: furnace ducting, floor tiles, exterior siding, and the old popcorn ceiling. They are not all the same, and there are varying levels of success for the DIY homeowners.

Almost everyone knows they are digging into a dangerous mess when they start any project dealing with asbestos. Professional services however, are often prohibitively expensive. But while they may be expensive, they are also highly regulated and it's extremely rare for a DIYer to be able to effectively eliminate asbestos up to their standards.

This is especially true when dealing with old heating systems (this also goes for boilers and their insulation). The ducting is often covered with a crumbling coating called friable asbestos. The particles from this can be quite small, and if they make it to your lungs, can cause mesothelioma.

While the price for professional removal is high, so are the prices of legal disputes that arise later down the road when testing reveals inadequate mitigation of the asbestos particles.

Homeowners taking on the pre-1972 popcorn ceilings on the other hand, can often have a fairly high degree of success. Now, the same hazards apply, but properly maintained, these projects can be cleaned up fairly quickly.

We recommend heavy plastic polyethylene sheeting (known as visqueen or poly/visqueen) from 6 to 10 mm thickness be used on the floor and reaching up the side of the wall about two feet, where it is then taped off. Lighter weight plastic sheeting can be used on the walls to completely enclose the area.

Once the area is taped and sealed off, a pump-style water sprayer can wet the ceiling and keep dust to a minimum. An assistant who keeps spraying as pieces fall is helpful, and will continue to work to keep the particulate matter clumped together. A

Once the material is all scraped off, bag everything, then bag the polyethylene sheeting. Finally, bag and properly dispose of your protective clothing. Even the gloves, goggles, and filters should be disposed of. The kits are fairly inexpensive, and the suits and other protective clothing will keep the residual particles on them. Get rid of it all.

Old asbestos tile floors and the black mastic adhesive, like the heater ducting, are difficult and create persistent problems. If at all possible, let sleeping dogs lie, and put new flooring over the top.

Finally the exterior asbestos siding. There are plenty of houses around that still have these siding shingles. They are quite durable, and only become a problem when they are cracked or broken, or when plumbing or other tasks make working with them necessary.

Clean-up of these siding shingles is done regularly, and careful removal with the proper protective gear and disposal isn't terribly difficult. However, if you live in a town like ours, every neighbor on the block will call the City to check and see if you have a permit. If you don't, the professional asbestos removal companies tend to be fairly expensive.

The need to wear the right protective gear while working with this dangerous material cannot be overstated. If you have more questions about what products to use, please call us or contact us online at

Thanks for reading.

Jul 11th 2012 Justin McCarter

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