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Thu, Nov. 21

ASK THE CONTRACTOR: Plan on remodeling? Check for asbestos first

We just inherited a home from my parents that was built prior to 1970. We want to do some extensive remodeling and our contractor is telling us we should perform asbestos testing. What are your thoughts as representing the construction industry? -- Peg and Lou, Verde Valley.

Asbestos was added to many building products to make them perform better and its use was primarily between the 1940s through the 1970s. Common building materials that contain asbestos include but are not limited to: insulation, 9-inch by 9-inch floor tiles, acoustic ceiling tiles, insulation on boiler pipes and boilers, old asbestos cement siding, popcorn ceiling texture, glues used under flooring and other products.

Asbestos contaminated insulation, mixed with the mineral vermiculite was used primarily between 1955 and 1990. While manufacturing of these items was discontinued in the late 1984, materials still remained on the market. If you have a home built or insulted during this time, chances are good that it contains asbestos and for that matter a professional qualified testing laboratory should be hired to:

(1) Test for asbestos and

(2) Remove it therefore providing the most accurate, legally defensible environmental analyses to you. Not following steps 1 and 2 can result in potential environmental liability expense to you and your family.

Asbestos is a massive and colossal topic and I will attempt to cover some the important items in our column. The name has its origin in the Greek word for inextinguishable. A highly-effective and inexpensive fire-retardant material and thermal and acoustic insulator, asbestos was used extensively in home construction and even commercial buildings. When disturbed, tiny abrasive asbestos fibers are easily inhaled, which damages lung tissue and can cause cancer.

The mere presence of asbestos in your home is not hazardous. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers and disturbing it may create a health hazard where none existed before. The best thing to do with asbestos material in good condition is leave it alone. The danger comes from asbestos material that has been damaged over time. Asbestos that crumbles easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder is likely to release asbestos fibers and create a health hazard. If you suspect a part of your home may contain asbestos and you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, professional repair or removal is a MUST.

The biggest risk posed by asbestos in buildings is during a remodel or renovation to an old house. This is when the asbestos-containing materials get damaged and aerosolized and people working or living in the house are at risk of exposure.

Asbestos remediation MUST be done by a licensed abatement contractor. The Asbestos NESHAP requires specific work practices to control the release of asbestos fibers. To help ensure that the work practice standards of the Asbestos NESHAP are followed during a demolition or renovation operation, the asbestos NESHAP requires at least one onsite representative trained in the regulatory provisions and the means of compliance. This trained individual needs to receive refresher training every two years, including: applicability of the rule; notifications; material identification; control procedures for removal; adequate wetting; local exhaust ventilation; negative pressure enclosures; glove-bag procedures; High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters; waste disposal work practices; reporting and recordkeeping; and, asbestos hazards and worker protection.

The rule generally requires that asbestos-containing waste material be sealed in a leak-tight container while wet, labeled, and disposed of properly in a landfill qualified to receive asbestos waste. Landfills have special requirements for handling and securing the asbestos containing waste to prevent releases of asbestos into the air. Transportation vehicles that move the waste from the point of generation to the asbestos landfill have special labeling requirements and waste shipment recordkeeping requirements.

Along the same dangerous lines as asbestos, EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and preschools built before 1978 have their firm certified by EPA (or an EPA authorized state), use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices.

In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-containing paint, but some states banned it even earlier. Lead from paint, including lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.

Common renovation, repair, and painting activities that disturb lead-based paint (like sanding, cutting, replacing windows, and more) can create hazardous lead dust and chips which can be harmful to adults and children. Home repairs that create even a small amount of lead dust are enough to poison your child and put your family at risk.

Lead paint is still present in millions of homes, sometimes under layers of newer paint. If the paint is in good shape, the lead paint is usually not a problem. Deteriorating lead-based paint (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp) is a hazard and needs immediate attention.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s “Hammer Time” every Saturday or Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM, 99.9 FM, 95.5 FM or on the web at Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry meet your local community partners and so much more. You will be entertained.

Sandy Griffis is executive director of the Yavapai County Contractors Association. Email your questions to her at or call 928-778-0040.

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