October 23, 2011

Contractors: Don’t start your demo until you read this!

For many contractors in Truckee, it was a surprise when you went to pull your remodel permit on a pre-1980 home and were told that you needed an Asbestos Assessment. This becomes a real dilemma if you already did your demo before pulling your permit. Whoops!

It isn’t the end of the world. There are trained professionals that can clean up your mess. Although it is always best not to create the mess in the first place. That is why you should read the following to get better acquainted with one of the best building materials created, as long as you don’t inhale it.

So what is asbestos?

The name “asbestos” originated with the Ancient Greeks, it means “Inextinguishable.” The Ancient Greeks found asbestos to be useful even though they knew that it caused illness. Thousands of years later it is still being used, even though it causes major health problems and even death.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines asbestos as, “The name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and resistance to heat and most chemicals.”

In the home asbestos can be found in floor tiles, insulation, spray coatings for ceilings and walls, Gypsum board, texture coatings and lagging. Asbestos is useful in the home because it is fire resistant, it works well as an insulator, it can withstand tension without tearing apart and it doesn’t rot mold or corrode. It also can be found in the air surrounding these materials if they are disturbed.

Everyone is exposed to asbestos at some point in time as it can be in the air and the water, but having prolonged exposure with large amounts can cause major illness resulting in death. The National Cancer Institute says that over exposure to asbestos could result in nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders, lung cancer, mesothelioma and Asbestosis.

Asbestosis is a lung disease that is directly caused by breathing in asbestos particles. A person infected with Asbestosis will have difficulty breathing, experience chronic coughing and chest pain. This is due to the permanent damaged that is done to the lung tissue due to inhalation of asbestos.

It is a general rule that homes built before 1980-1982 may have a likelihood of containing asbestos building materials. Unlike Lead paint, asbestos was never quite made illegal (while at least to buy and sell). It has been found in drywall and joint compounds sold currently in some big box retailers; Many of these materials imported from China and Mexico.

The good thing about asbestos is that if left undisturbed it many times will not pose a threat. It becomes an issue when these materials are left to degrade and flake or construction results in their demolition. Non-friable asbestos does not pose a threat, while friable does.

Friability (or friable)
The ability of a solid substance to be reduced to smaller pieces with little effort. Often, substances designated as being hazardous, such as asbestos or crystalline silica are referred to as being friable if they are present in such a state that it is possible for small particles to easily become dislodged, thus enabling them to become respirable (able to enter human lungs), posing a health hazard.

So asbestos is all around us. It should never be demolished, removed, or transported unless you are a trained professional. A contractor’s license does not make you a trained professional! Look at helpful tips for local contractors that are licensed to do this work? Just call us at 530-583-6653 (MOLD).

Asbestos abatement roles

There are two separate roles with any asbestos abatement:

  • The Asbestos Assessor or IEP (Indoor Environmental Professional) — This person will take samples and determine whether the sampled materials are ACMs. (Asbestos Containing Materials) Then write an abatement protocol. (Procedure for how an abatement contractor is to do the work). At the end, they will do a final inspection to make sure the job was done right.
  • Asbestos Abatement Contractor — This guy receives the report from the Asbestos Assessor. Follows the protocol for asbestos removal, which should go like this:
    1. Set up engineering controls- They will contain the area using plastic and duct tape to create a barrier around the work. Then using an air scrubber which is a big fan with a filter, they push air through temporary duct work out of the work area. This creates negative pressure in the work area, so all airborne asbestos is sucked out the negative air machine, and not allowed to escape into adjacent parts of the structure that are outside the work area.
    2. Remove the asbestos containing materials. Sometimes treating them, or spraying them with a sticky substance to reduce dust prior to tearing them out in a manner as not to create much dust.
    3. Transport the material to a proper waste facility. This requires a hazardous materials transportation license.
    4. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air filter) Vacuum and damp wipe (wiping down all surfaces with a damp cloth) the work area.
    5. Pass IEP (Indoor Environmental Professional) inspection-the Assessor who first inspected the project will now re-inspect after the work to confirm the contractor has done his job.

When you find asbestos, you don’t need to remove it all. You only need to remove what needs to be disturbed to do the construction, or what poses a threat of becoming friable. Many homes have asbestos. It is a very common building material, and as we mentioned, new houses have it. So finding asbestos is not a catastrophe if it is dealt with in a professional, legal manner.

So before ripping out the drywall in that 1970s chalet, have it tested. This also goes for the drywall backer behind the paneling, and especially the popcorn ceiling. Removal of asbestos containing popcorn texture should only be done by a professional, this is an abatement project.

Tahoe Mold and Water offers free consultation to local contractors and their customers. Call Ned at 530-448-6494.

Tip of the month
If water damage occurs to a house, most insurance companies will pay for damaged asbestos materials to be removed from the home to restore it to its pre-loss condition.
If your client is dealing with home damage, give us a call. We can deal directly with all insurance companies for drying, mold, and abatement and warranty our work. We also give contractor discounts for mark up and will leave all the reconstruction to the contractor who refers us the work. As an added feature, we will help you with insurance negotiations and getting paid!
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