What You Need to Know About Do-It-Yourself Asbestos Removal

Because we’re a fire restoration company, we often get people who call us while they're restoring or renovating their homes and ask if they can do their own asbestos abatement or removal. 

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is yes, but it’s not a good idea and you might end up paying more by doing it yourself.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a silicate material that’s woven into fabrics. It was also sprayed onto walls and ceilings, put into tiles, and put onto roofs. It’s very heat-resistant and fire-resistant. For decades, it was put into commercial buildings and even some homes to make them safe from fire. 

The problem with asbestos is the crystals of the silicate are so small, they get caught in the lungs and can cause lung cancer. That’s why it’s rarely in use and has been removed from millions of buildings.

Is Asbestos Legal in the US?

Contrary to popular belief, asbestos has never been illegal in the US. Over 60 countries around the world have banned all use of asbestos, but the US is not one of them. 

While it was not banned in all uses, such as car brakes, it was prevented from being used in insulation and roofing paper, for example. 

The last American asbestos company closed in 2002, but asbestos is still mined in other parts of the world, like China and Russia.

The Trump administration opened the door for more asbestos use by allowing the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to consider applications of the mineral again in places it has not been explicitly outlawed. The new rule has been interpreted by some to mean that unless a product falls under the 15 categories described in the rule, a company can use asbestos without a review. It’s unclear how the rule is being applied or if any companies have chosen to request a needed waiver.

Can I Remove Asbestos Myself?

In some cases, it can be done fairly easily, but in many other cases, you’ll want professional assistance, such as the assistance that Fire & Hail Restoration specializes in. Removing asbestos is highly regulated. If you’re going to disturb asbestos in a building you need to make sure that you do it correctly. 

Asbestos on ductwork, heaters, boilers, and other old HVAC systems can have what’s called “friable asbestos.” This is flaky crumbling asbestos that’s very hard to clean up. If you inhale it, it can cause mesothelioma. This is a job for professionals.

Prior to 1972, some ‘popcorn’ ceilings were made by spraying asbestos on the ceiling and then painting over it. This can often be removed successfully by a homeowner since you’re working on a flat, contained surface.

How to Remove Asbestos from Popcorn Ceiling

  1. Start by contacting your local authorities to find out where you can dispose of asbestos. There will be an area in a landfill where the asbestos can be dumped safely. 
  2. Get a lot of protective gear. You’ll need ventilator masks, eye protection, head and hair covering, disposable Tyvek suits, gloves, and disposable shoe coverings. One simple rule must be followed: Everything that touches asbestos must be thrown out. Don’t expect to keep any tools, garbage cans, or anything else. It all goes to the dump with the last load.  Look to purchase complete lead/asbestos removal kits that have everything you need in them. You can find them in hardware stores and on online.
  3. The floor must be covered with 6 to 10 mm thick plastic going up the walls two feet. The rest of the walls can be covered with thinner plastics. Every part of the room should be covered. Anything that can be removed from the room should be gone before you start.
  4. Using a pump-style water sprayer, spray the ceiling until the asbestos is wet enough to keep all dust down. This will keep the tiny particles from going airborne where they can be a hazard. 
  5. Once the ceiling is completely soaked, you can scrape the asbestos and paint off. Generally, it will come off easily. Having someone there to spray the material as it falls will help too.
  6. Once the ceiling has been all scraped, you’ll want to wipe it down thoroughly. You’re looking to get all of the remaining particles off of the ceiling. Be sure to keep the asbestos on the floor moist so that there’s no dust.
  7. Roll up the plastic with the asbestos in it and bag it up. Remove the plastic from the walls as well. Everything goes into bags. 
  8. Finally, your suits, respirators, and tools all go into bags. 
  9. Take everything to the appropriate dumping site making sure that the site staff is aware that you’re discarding asbestos.

Sometimes, you’ll find that homes have asbestos shingle on the outside. This stopped in the 1970s, but some homes and buildings still have them. They aren’t a problem unless they are cracked or flaking. 

Removing Asbestos in a Commercial Building

As tempting as it might be to remove asbestos in your commercial building, don’t. You won’t save enough to make the hassle and potential liability worth it. 

Commercial building owners are responsible for everyone that enters their building. This means that if someone gets ill, the owners might find themselves being held liable. A lawsuit for mesothelioma, even if it’s unfounded and frivolous, can be expensive

Have professionals remove the asbestos so that you’re able to guarantee that it was done perfectly.

Asbestos Removal in Denver

Denver, like the rest of the country, has many buildings that still have asbestos in them. Most haven’t been touched because the asbestos has stayed in place and isn’t harming anyone. 

Since it has now been at least 50 years since asbestos was used, much of it is brittle and flaking, making it an extreme hazard. 

If you’re in the Denver area, please contact Fire & Hail Restoration to conduct your asbestos abatement. Even for a homeowner, it’s safer to have a professional team do it. While the instructions above are okay for one application, if your home has popcorn ceilings, it probably has asbestos in other places that will need to  be handled. 

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