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What Does Asbestos Insulation Look Like in Attics?

Lead. Radon. Asbestos. These words scare any homeowner since they indicate serious issues that could lead to expensive home renovation costs.

Toxic asbestos is particularly common in homes built before 1980. Because this mineral is soft, heat-resistant, and relatively inexpensive, it was once a popular material for insulation—particularly in attics. Unfortunately, inhaled asbestos can lead to various long-term health problems including cancer.

So, is asbestos in attics dangerous for your family? What does asbestos insulation look like in attics?

While it may seem like a burden, the asbestos removal costs far outweigh risking your health. In this short guide, we’ll explain how to identify asbestos insulation in attic spaces and the steps you can take to safely remove this unwanted material from your home.

Identifying Asbestos

First things first: take a look at your attic insulation.

  • If you have batt or foam board insulation, you’re probably in the clear. Batt insulation comes in a famous fuzzy pink (and in other colors), while foam board insulation is just what it sounds like—boards of foam. In fact, any insulation that comes in uniform sizes that are cut to fill your homes’ unique contours is unlikely to contain asbestos material.
  • If you have blown-in or loose-fill insulation, asbestos fibres may be an issue. If your attic looks more like a white or gray construction site than a blanket-swaddled chamber, do a little more observation to uncover the likelihood of asbestos.

If you’ve identified blown-in or loose-fill insulation, the next step is to discern whether the fill substance is vermiculite, which commonly contains asbestos exposure.

The giveaway sign of vermiculite insulation is that your attic looks like a gravel path, filled in with a substance with the following characteristics:1

  • Particles with a pebble-like shape and appearance
  • Grey-brown or silvery-gold color, shiny as opposed to other types of blown-in insulation 
  • A lack of paper or another backing to provide it with a uniform structure

Age Matters

Was your home built before the year 2000? Don’t panic!

Since the 1990’s, asbestos insulation has been phased out of use. Research suggests that homes built before the new Millenium are significantly more likely to have asbestos insulation than homes built after.2

This risk becomes larger and larger the further back one goes. For example, a home built in the 1990s is much less likely to contain asbestos material than one built in 1960.

What To Do If You Suspect Asbestos

So you think you might have asbestos?

While you probably want to take action right away, the last thing you should do is try to remove or replace the insulation material yourself.

Why? Asbestos has been linked to lung diseases including cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.2 And you’re most likely to inhale the fine, toxic particles after disturbing the asbestos, which distributes its dust into the air.

To safely handle asbestos dust, you’ll need proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect you from inhaling asbestos-containing fibers. And don’t assume your N95 mask is adequate—if you get particles on your clothes, you could easily transport them throughout your home.

Instead of trying a DIY solution, take the following steps.

Step 1: Leave the Area and Limit Your Exposure

Don’t stand there in your attic Googling pictures of vermiculite.

Immediately remove yourself from the area that you suspect might have asbestos insulation material.

Repeated and prolonged exposure exacerbates the effects of asbestos dust. Therefore:

  • Refrain from removing or relocating items that are stored in the attic. 
  • Let all household members know about the potential danger.
  • Keep the door or attic entrance shut until you’ve had a professional assessment.

Step 2: Call a Professional

If you think you might have asbestos, the first thing you need is a professional opinion. It’s still possible that your attic is insulated with another material—and the sooner you know, the sooner you’ll have peace of mind.

If you do need your asbestos insulation in your attic removed and replaced, leave it in the hands of professionals who can safely remove the material while recommending the correct modern material for your home and climate.

Attic Insulation to the Rescue with Attic Construction

It’s scary to know that your home might contain a dangerous substance. At Attic Construction, we understand your concern, and we’re here to help you get rid of any asbestos containing insulation in your home.

Be it suspected asbestos, rodent infestation, or any other attic issue, we’re the one-stop shop for all your attic insulation removal needs. Get in touch today to learn more about our solutions for asbestos and the best ways to maintain health and safety in your attic space.

Sources:

  1. The Spruce. What Does Asbestos Insulation Look Like? https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-identify-dangerous-asbestos-insulation-4119906
  2. The Environmental Protection Agency. Learn About Asbestos. https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos

 

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