Straw bale gardening is an old idea that, over the last several years, has witnessed a great deal of renewed attention. The Aztecs, ancient Egyptians, and American pioneers all did it, and today, many are revisiting the technique, because it’s so affordable and easy.
Introduce yourself to the method with flowers or herbs, and if you really enjoy it, move on to experimenting with a full-on vegetable garden. To begin, you only need some free time and a few inexpensive materials that are readily accessible at home improvement centers and garden supply stores.
- Straw bale (Use wheat or oat straw. Hay will sprout too many seeds, and pine needles don’t break down fast enough.)
- Potting mix or compost
- Plants or seeds
- Fertilizer (Use blood meal, fish emulsion, compost tea or another organic fertilizer high in nitrogen.)
1. Set and soak the bale
Choose a location for your straw bale. Your garden, driveway, or patio are all equally suitable—really, a straw bale planter can go almost anywhere. Once watered and planted, it will be heavy to lift and move, so take care in deciding on its placement.
The strings should be on the outside of the bale, and the rough ends of the straw should be on the top and bottom. Water the bale thoroughly and keep it wet for a period of about three days. Soon, the bale will begin to compost on the inside, heating up as a result.
2. Condition the bale
Sprinkle a high-nitrogen fertilizer over the bale, watering thoroughly to disperse the fertilizer grains. Continue adding fertilizer periodically, keeping the bale moist until it starts to cool (this takes anywhere from ten days to three weeks). Alternatively, let your bale overwinter for three to five months, and it will be ready to plant without this conditioning.
3. Top with soil or compost
Add a two- or three-inch layer of soil or compost to the top of the bale. Doing so helps to fill in gaps. Additionally, soil works to keep plants or seeds moist until they get established.
4. Add your transplant or plant seeds
Use a trowel to dig out a hole big enough to accommodate your transplant, then infill with topsoil or compost. Planting seeds? Following directions on their package, set the seeds directly into the soil you’ve added to the top of bale. Whether transplanting or starting from seed, you must continue to water and fertilize throughout the season, being sure to never let your plantings dry out completely.
There are many advantages to straw bale gardening. It’s a great method for those who have poor soil, and for anyone whose physical limitations make it difficult or impossible to bend down. Another advantage is that so little space is required, you can even do a straw bale planter on a city balcony.
It’s low cost and low maintenance—there’s very little weeding involved!—and the straw eventually breaks down to enrich the ground beneath. At that point, you can throw on another bale and start the process all over again. Now that’s sustainable gardening, for sure!
In June, we officially welcome summer. In keeping with the season, this month’s must-do projects include lawn care, do-it-yourself backyard improvements, and fun, kid-friendly ideas for painting.
1. MAINTAIN YOUR LAWN
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing homeowners this time of year is keeping the lawn healthy and green. One critically important aspect of growing grass is watering. Though it seems so simple, doing it right often eludes people. Conditions vary, but the following general guidelines should serve you well:
Water Enough. Most lawns require about one inch of water per week. How do you know if you’re watering enough? Simply set out a small container, turn on the sprinklers, and track how long it takes for the container to fill with one inch. If it takes 60 minutes, that’s how long you need to water your lawn each week.
Water Early. Water your lawn during the early morning hours, around 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. At that point in the day, the air is cooler and the winds are calmer, so evaporation is less likely to occur, and your grass will also have a chance to dry out before the sun really starts beating down.
Water Evenly. Make sure that your sprinklers are reaching every part of your lawn. Test your system by dispersing several small containers around your property. After a session of watering, compare levels in the containers, making any necessary adjustments to the positioning of your sprinklers.
Water Slowly. Only water as much as your lawn can absorb. If you water too much too quickly, excess water will run off your lawn—a waste of water and money. One strategy is to run your sprinklers for half the usual time, allowing the initial watering to absorb before you give the grass another drink.
Water Infrequently. Instead of watering a little bit every day, give your lawn a good soak every three days or so. Watering less frequently encourages roots to grow directly downward in search of water, making your lawn more stable overall.
If you know the signs, your lawn will tell you when it needs watering. As you walk over the grass, your footsteps should readily disappear; if they don’t, you need to water. A bluish-green color is another indicator of dehydration. So are curling glass blades. You might also try the screwdriver test: Pushing a screwdriver into the ground is difficult when the soil is very dry. Remember, the goal is to keep your lawn happy but not to become its slave!
2. PAINT IT UP
A coat of paint can work wonders on surfaces of all kinds. Before you commit to eggshell or high gloss, however, consider what chalkboard paint has to offer. Whereas it was once available only in black, today’s chalkboard paint comes in a range of colors. It can be applied easily with a brush, roller, or spray can, and you can use it almost anywhere, for countless purposes—personalizing mugs, labeling drawers, decorating stair risers, you name it.
3. CONTROL THE PESTS
If summer pests have begun to plague your house, many non-chemical treatment options are at your disposal. To deter flies, for instance, you can place potted basil plants on the kitchen counter and around doorways and windowsills. Problem with spiders? A mixture of water and unsweetened lemon or lime juice should do the trick. These and other natural pest control hints will help you maintain a critter-free home.
4. STRIKE A NEW PATH
Few elements define your landscape as effectively as a walkway or garden path. This summer, consider adding one to the yard using pavers or stones from your local home improvement center. Choose whatever material best suits your needs and DIY skill set, but one easy, beautiful approach is to lay a stone path. For a different look that is more challenging to achieve, think about patterning brick or artfully arranging flagstone.
5. SHOWER OUTDOORS
A favorite summertime luxury is the outdoor shower. Of course, a basic installation involves a garden hose, shower head, and tree branch, but you can make your own free-standing unit without much trouble, and without spending a fortune. If using wood, guard against rot by employing cedar, redwood, or pressure-treated lumber. For convenience, locate your shower is near an outdoor spigot; that way, you’re spared having to tap into the household plumbing or run extended hoses. Don’t miss these amazing outdoor shower designs for inspiration!
Sometimes you’ve got to hand it to prehistoric man. Not because he discovered fire, and not because he invented the wheel. But rather because, so early in history, he struck upon one important key to enjoying this life: the low-maintenance home exterior.
Caves, after all, require neither painting nor patching nor power-washing… and they weather beautifully. It was thousands of years later, in the 1960s, when modern man finally developed vinyl siding, a material whose modest upkeep finally rivals that of cave dwelling.
Vinyl siding should actually be called PVC siding, if you want to be a stickler, since PVC is largely what comprises this building product, so popular from Fargo to Fort Lauderdale. Yup, PVC. The same stuff that moves water through your home’s interior also repels water on its exterior.
At first, vinyl siding was prone to cracking and warping, but advances in the 1970s reengineered the product to make it much as it is today—weatherproof, insect-proof, fade-resistant and under normal conditions, virtually indestructible. Some manufacturers, such as Mastic, offer vinyl siding that can resist wind speeds up 240 miles per hour.
Of all types of home siding, vinyl has the cheapest installed cost, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). In fact, its durability and low price point have helped make vinyl siding the most popular exterior cladding choice in America.
New offerings in size and texture have further boosted its popularity. Today, vinyl siding comes in a range of colors and designs, some of which closely resemble wood grain. These are suitable not only for new construction, but also for replicating the look of vintage siding in renovations of older homes.
So long as it’s straight and watertight, vinyl siding can be installed over nearly any surface, even brick or stucco.
The product is not so much attached as it is hung. Rails are nailed into the house, but they’re done so in a “loose” fashion. That is, the nails are left just a hair proud, so the rails can slide back and forth on the wide-slotted nail holes. The vinyl siding panels are hung from these rails, free to expand and contract over the course of the year with temperature fluctuations.
Because of its loose installation and relatively thin composition, vinyl siding can sometimes look and feel flimsy. And it’s been to known to buckle in very hot temperatures. For these reasons, manufacturers have pursued alternate means of fabrication, in some cases opting instead to use polypropylene, which is thicker and hardier than regular vinyl siding.
Another recent development is cellular PVC siding, available from companies like NuCedar Mills and Royal Building Products. Here, a PVC mixture is turned into a foam, then forced through a mold that gives the cladding a shape and strength similar to wood. A vinyl product nonetheless, it won’t rot and will rarely, if ever, need to be painted. So if you want the architectural feel of wood with the durability of vinyl, this is an interesting choice of siding.
Still other vinyl siding options (namely, CedarBoards from CertainTeed or Prodigy from Alside) feature insulating qualities that are attractive to homeowners in pursuit of maximum energy efficiency.
Although it’s often touted as maintenance-free, vinyl siding does require some occasional work. Depending on how your house is situated, mold or grime might accumulate. For cleaning, VSI recommends using a solution of 30 percent vinegar and 70 percent water.
Alternatively, use the following mixture: 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent; 2/3 cup powdered household cleaner (such as Spic and Span, Soilax, or equivalent); 1 quart liquid laundry bleach; and 1 gallon of water. Apply with a long-handled scrub brush.
You can also use a power washer, but be careful not to shoot upwards behind the panels. Though vinyl siding has drain holes for water and allows air to circulate behind it, it’s never a good idea to get the wood of your home’s exterior wet.
Vinyl siding will eventually fade, but usually only slightly. If you’re not happy with the less-than-vibrant color, consider adding a coat of a latex exterior paint, which flexes in keeping with the expansion and contraction of the siding.
Over 300 colors have been certified by the Vinyl Siding Institute for colorfastness. You can see the full list, as well as a database of approved products and vendors, right here.
Interior designer Patricia Brown has counseled hundreds of clients through renovation projects large and small. She even offers an online workshop that helps homeowners sidestep the biggest pitfalls in renovation. Here are Brown’s tips for avoiding three common budget busters.
Budget Buster 1: Contracting for a design-build package
Some contractors regularly work with a specific designer, wile others keep one or more designers on staff. But Brown says it’s best to hire these parties separately. She recommends shelling out $2,000 to $5,000 for a full-fledged design plan, one that you can shop around to several competing contractors.
The design plan should be detailed and comprehensive. ”If you hand [contractors] a plan with all the specifications—from the quality of cabinetry to lighting—when you get back qualified bids, you’ll see where there’s a difference for the same work,” says Brown. “If it’s over budget, you can see where you can save on materials. Either way, you are setting the parameters and choosing. Without that design first, you are vulnerable to the unexpected.”
Budget Buster 2: Choosing overrich materials
The next time you walk into your kitchen, what does your eye gravitate toward: the countertops or the backsplash? Brown would bet on the latter, since vertical surfaces tend to dominate the look of a room. She counsels clients to decide on the backsplash first, before choosing a counter material that is complementary.
High-impact, moderate-cost backsplashes include:
White subway tile punctuated with the occasional colored art tile
Glass tile for a modern look with low maintenance requirements
Wood or bamboo; either can be finished so as to ensure easy care
Budget Buster 3: Procrastinating your way into expensive change orders
For incidental costs and overruns, wise remodelers pad their project budgets with an extra ten percent of the total amount allotted. Don’t waste that cricital cushion on change orders!
Brown attests that last-minute changes are the enemy of clients’ purse strings. Even a seemingly simple swap (e.g., substituting a different light fixture) can touch off a cascade of delays and adjustments.
Another downside of change orders, Brown cautions, is that they pave the way for contractors to use “equivalent materials.” If you allow a contractor that wiggle room, you will have to perform on-the-spot quality checks. After choosing materials with a designer’s aid, it is of course preferable to stick with the original plan.
Contrary to popular belief, redwood can be a very environmentally-friendly building material especially when compared to many types of composite decking. The key to maintaining a “green” pedigree on your redwood deck is using redwood harvested from “new growth” trees—those which are 30 to 50 years old from forests that are sustainably maintained and replanted.
According to the California Redwood Association (CRA), redwood is grown and harvested in accordance with the highest environmental standards in the world, tapping the sun for energy and soaking in California’s famed North Coast fog. Roughly 90 percent of all product-producing redwood forests are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forestry Initiative as sources of environmentally-sound building materials. In addition, redwood uses 97% less energy to produce than plastic.
But that’s not all — redwoods also excel at reducing carbon emissions. As they grow, the trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing it in the wood and releasing oxygen into the air. When the trees are harvested, the carbon they had captured remains stored: an average redwood deck carries 500 pounds of carbon. Choosing redwood as a building material can actually reduce a homeowner’s carbon footprint. In addition, when lumber is milled into decking and other products, the bark, sawdust and scraps are collected and used to produce biomass energy. In terms of sustainability, you can’t go wrong!
A Life Cycle Assessment from the trade organization Rooted In Truth compared redwood to plastic PVC decking and wood/plastic composite decking and found that redwood is one of the most environmentally-sound decking materials. Man-made materials such as plastics and wood/plastic composites require significant amounts of petroleum and chemicals to manufacture and these substances all contribute to global warming. Also, many of these composite materials are not recycled, and wind up clogging landfills for decades.
Another common misperception about redwood is that it is expensive. According to CostHelper.com premium woods like redwood and red cedar cost $18 to $22 per square foot. That’s not bad when you consider that plastic/wood composites average about $20 per square foot. Less expensive options include pressure-treated southern yellow pine, which costs $10 to $16 per square foot or vinyl decking, which costs $13 to $22 per square foot. The most expensive decking materials are teak-like tropical hardwoods, averaging $22 to $24 or more per foot.
Premium woods like red cedar and redwood offer comparable levels of durability and longevity, lasting an average of 20 years. Both woods are naturally resistant to shrinking and warping, to boot. The primary difference between the two woods is color: redwoods range from light to dark red, while cedar hues run from light brown to salmon pink.
The main reason that builders and homeowners are returning to redwood, however, is aesthetics; redwood possesses a rich character and natural beauty that enhances the exterior of any home. It creates an aura of warmth and luxury, adding value while at the same time, providing an ecologically sound alternative for the environmentally conscious consumer.
No grill? No problem! With the temperatures rising and grilling season in full swing, we thought this was the perfect month for Bob Vila’s $6K Outdoor Kitchen Give-Away with hayneedle.com—and the chance to make your grilling dreams a reality this summer.
Starting today and every day in June (until 11:59 a.m. EST, Monday July 1st. See Official Rules below), you can enter to win the Bull Jr. Octi-Q Grill Island worth $6,000!
This unique grill island is designed for maximum entertaining in a minimum amount of space. Featuring a wraparound counter that can accommodate seating for eight, the grill island includes a 4 + 1-burner Bull Angus grill, a door/double drawer storage combo, top-mounted chopping block and built-in refrigerator. It even has an electrical outlet in the base, so you can plug in more appliances and peripherals (did someone say iPod docking station?) with ease.
Bull Jr. Octi-Q Grill Island from hayneedle.com
Made with a galvanized steel frame and boasting an outdoor-rated, non-flammable, mold-resistant cement board base, the Bull Jr Octi-Q Grill Island is covered with sturdy, decorative stucco for an elegant look. Galvanized tracking and galvanized steel sheet metal on the interior base prevents rust and keeps the unit looking like new, season after season.
The Bull Angus Drop-in Grill offers a generous cooking surface with 75,000 total BTU output and a total of 810 square inches (600 square-inch cooking area, 210 square-inch warming rack). It comes complete with a stainless steel full-size drip tray, chrome-plated spit and rod for spit-style and rotisserie cooking, Flavor Bar, Smoker Box, and stainless steel rotisserie motor. The 4.5-cubic-foot stainless steel refrigerator comes complete with three racks, a vegetable/fruit drawer, and an in-door beverage dispenser. Add some storage drawers and cabinets and there’s little need to go back indoors to cook until winter.
Enter TODAY and every day in June to increase your chances of winning Bob Vila’s $6K Outdoor Kitchen Give-Away!
For more information and products, head over to hayneedle.com where you can find everything home.
The “Bob Vila’s 6K Outdoor Kitchen Give-Away” sweepstakes is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Friday, May 31st, 2013 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Monday, July 1, 2013. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.
A simple prop holds the closet rod level under the heaviest of loads. Photo: JProvey
My wife and I recently reorganized our bedroom closet and added several new accessories, including a double rod hanger, canvas shoe cubbies, and a column of hanging shelves. We were really happy with the results, but our closet rod wasn’t. It sagged, and then sagged some more with every item we hung on it.
Fortunately, I had some wooden closet pole left over from another project and used it to build a prop. While I was at it, I added some dowels for my wife to hang her belts and handbags. Now we’re all happy—no more sag and another place to hang stuff. The total cost was under $10.
Skill level: About as easy as it gets, but you need to be comfortable with an electric drill.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Handsaw and miter box
- 1” diameter spade bit
- ¼” diameter twist drill
- 1-3/8″ wood closet pole
- ¼” dowel
- Paint and small brush (optional)
- Beads to cap ends of dowels
1. Carefully measure the height of your closet rod. Be sure to measure the height it’s supposed to be, not the height with the rod deflection. Mark this height on the wood closet pole, then bore a hole in the pole so that the bottom of the hole is at the marked height.
2. Saw through the hole to create a notch on which the closet rod can rest.
3. Bore ¼” diameter holes near the top of the pole and insert ¼” dowels.
4. Bore 1/4″ holes in plastic, wood, or clay beads. For safe drilling, first secure the beads in a clamp or vise with padded jaws. Then place the beads on the ends of the dowels.
THE SAME GOES FOR SAGGING SHELVES
Now that your tools are out, take the opportunity to check your bookcases and cabinets for sagging shelves. Much of today’s storage furniture comes with 5/8″- or ¾”-thick melamine-laminated particleboard shelves. They hold up fine if the spans are two feet or less and if the load limits are not exceeded. For wider cabinets, however, sagging shelves are a common problem.
Measure the distance between the cabinet bottom and the underside of the sagging shelf. Measure where the shelf meets the side of the cabinet so you get the correct height for the shelf, not the height where the shelf has sagged. Then cut two strips of 1⁄4″ x 1″ wood to that length. Attach one to the cabinet back and the other behind the center stile. Together, they will prevent the shelf from sagging. Use double-sided tape to attach the wood strips so they can be removed if you decide to change the shelf height in the future.
Wide shelves made of particleboard are likely to deflect under heavy loads. Make these simple shelf supports to solve the problem. Photo: JProvey
To add support to multiple shelves, place additional wood strips under the next highest shelf in the manner described above. Don’t skip a shelf, however. The load must be carried to the cabinet bottom.
Recognize these? Old kitchen cabinet doors are arranged to form a large screen. Photo: Flickr / hake
Home renovation is big business. And if you think renovation generates a ton of construction work, just think of the construction waste. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences’ Whole Building Design Guide, Americans throw out millions of tons of building-related waste each year. Instead of adding to your neighborhood landfill, consider reusing, repurposing, donating, or selling your renovation waste to help make a difference.
1. REPURPOSE (in unexpected and unusual ways)
Did your recent home renovation result in some leftover scrap metal or a few broken tools? Before you toss them in the trash, think about repurposing your old materials into something completely different. A welding torch, some spray paint, and a good dose of creativity can generate a unique garden ornament or dramatic piece of art and save a trip to the dump.
The Rebuilding Center in Portland, Oregon, repurposed shovels, spades, auger drill bits, and other scrap metal to make this distinctive fence. Photo: Flickr/ wanderingone
2. REUSE (in other rooms or locations)
Renovation sometimes requires removing dated yet still functional pieces like kitchen cabinets, countertops, sinks, and flooring. If a piece is in good shape, consider reusing it as-is elsewhere in your home.
Photo: Flickr / xboxmx
For example, once they’ve been cleaned and painted, some or all of your old kitchen cabinets can add storage and help organize the following areas of your home or property:
Removed vinyl flooring may also merit a second life. If you can live with the pattern and the flooring’s still in good shape, cut it down to use in a small space, such as a powder room, mudroom, or workshop.
Tip: If you’re planning on pulling up the vinyl flooring in your kitchen, take a good look at it first. Examine places that receive little foot traffic, such as under the fridge, stove, or kitchen table. Chances are that the flooring in these areas is the least worn, and suitable to reuse elsewhere in your home.
3. DONATE (to worthwhile causes and organizations)
Secondhand, gently used, and leftover construction and renovation material may be donated to drop-off centers in most major cities and towns across the country.
Volunteers at Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Burlington County, New Jersey. Flickr / amandamarie
One of the most well-known places to donate—and purchase—building supplies is at your local ReStore. Run by the nonprofit group Habitat for Humanity, ReStore is a great way to divert your reno waste from the landfill and support homebuilding in your local area. There are currently 825 Habitat for Humanity ReStores across Canada and the United States, and many of them offer a free pickup option for homeowners and contractors with large items to donate.
4. SELL (through print classifieds or online)
Looking to offset the cost of your remodel or renovation? Earn some cash while reducing your construction waste by selling your leftover or used building materials in your local newspaper classifieds or through an online classifieds site.
Items that typically sell quickly include architecturally unusual or vintage items, windows, sinks, kitchen cabinets with or without countertops, and bathroom vanities. Do a quick Internet search of your location and “free online classifieds” to find a suitable site. Remember, your remodeling trash could be just the thing another renovator is searching for!
If you’re looking for more on waste removal, consider:
VTech's IS7121 Two Handset Answering System with Audio/Video Doorbell.
Maintaining your home used to require close attention and diligent care. Thanks to a bevy of home automation products, however, life is now so much different—and easier—for the homeowner, so long as he or she has opted to install the right time and labor-saving equipment.
It’s amazing what these gadgets and gizmos are capable of. You can get a thermostat that adjusts itself automatically, according to your family’s daily routine. Or your oven can perfectly cook your roast beef for you, based on weight and what time you want to eat.
In other words, we are living in the future. And if you needed further proof, here it is: The new VTech IS7100 series cordless phone and video doorbell allows you to see who is at the door without having to stop what you were already doing.
The first device of its kind, the VTech IS7100 series combines all the features of a cordless home phone with that of a digital video camera doorbell, so even if you are lounging comfortably on the living room sofa, you can still identify and communicate with your visitors.
If that level of convenience isn’t enough for you, consider these additional reasons to bring the technology of a video doorbell into your home:
1. Complete Control. When the doorbell rings, a digital picture is sent to the handset. Activate streaming video to see more of your visitor, enable live audio, or do both in order to have a whole conversation without ever needing to unlock the door.
2. Visitor Log. Curious whether anyone came a-knocking while you were away? Whether you were absent for an hour or several days, VTech’s built-in visitor photo log lets you scroll through photos of all who have graced your entryway. Think of this feature as a caller ID log for your front door.
3. Color LCD Screen. A 1.8-inch, full-color LCD screen appears on the face of each portable handset. So that means no matter where you are in the house, you can see who is at the door. No more missed deliveries, and you can save time by screening visitors remotely.
4. Night Vision. V-Tech’s video intercom helps homeowners feel safe and secure. Discreetly monitor entrances throughout the day and “after hours,” too. Automatic night vision makes it possible for you to see who’s at the door, even when it’s too dark to learn much by looking out the window.
5. Do-It-Yourself Installation. For the DIY weekend warrior, installation is a breeze. The doorbell can be mounted either to the door frame or the door panel, replacing the existing doorbell. While the battery-operated model is wireless, the AC version calls for some basic hardwiring that even a novice could handle.
Although the most exciting aspect of the VTech IS7100 series is its video doorbell technology, don’t forget that it’s also a phone, offering a range of features that includes voice-announce caller ID, a digital answering system, and push-to-talk communication between household handsets (think walkie-talkies). With the product’s HD-quality sound, you’ll always get the message loud and clear.
Many older houses incorporate construction materials that contain asbestos. Usually its presence is uncovered during closing, when the house undergoes numerous inspections. Asbestos removal then becomes part of purchase negotiations. For home buyers who skip inspection to keep upfront costs low, asbestos discovery can be quite scary. After all, they’ve just learned that their beautiful slice of American history is contaminated.
Asbestos, which occurs naturally, is a silicate-based mineral that has fire-resistant properties; there are six different types of asbestos. Until the 1970s, asbestos fibers were woven into or used in the manufacture of floor tiles, fire-retardant clothing, fire blankets, roof shingles, pipe insulation, and many car parts, just to name a few items. Federal regulation sharply curtailed domestic use of asbestos after it was designated a carcinogen. The material’s microscopic fibers enter the body through inhalation and cause the deadly disease mesothelioma.
Asbestos is typically uncovered in the basements and attics of older homes. You would probably not recognize it, however, by visual inspection alone. But if your house was built before the 1970s, the chances are likely that the vintage floor tile you want to replace or that weird-looking pink insulation around your furnace contains asbestos.
Just because you have asbestos in your home doesn’t mean you are being exposed to it. If the asbestos-containing material is intact, untouched, and unreachable, it is unlikely to cause harm to you or your family. Leave it alone and it will leave you alone. If the material is cracked or crumbling, but still untouched and unreachable, it can be sealed off—encapsulated—and left alone. If, however, you discover asbestos during renovation, it’s time to stop work and immediately seek professional help.
When you uncover asbestos that you can’t avoid or encapsulate—perhaps it’s in a wall you want to knock through or in those tiles you’d like to pull up—find a certified asbestos consultant in your area and request a home evaluation. The cost of removal, which is in the thousands, is determined by the amount of asbestos that has to be removed. Asbestos abatement is not cheap and may alter your renovation plans. Homeowner’s insurance policies typically do not cover removal. Always check with your state agencies to see if they provide any sort of funding—grants or loans—to assist with asbestos removal.
Professional asbestos removal involves sealing off the affected area, encapsulating the asbestos-contaminated material, and then safely removing it from the site. To ensure that there is no conflict of interest, be sure to use one asbestos professional to evaluate your home and a different asbestos abatement firm to do the actual work. Always ask for proof of certification and get copies of all the paperwork that documents that your asbestos was removed in accordance with state and federal procedures. Photos of how materials were handled and removed should also be included in documentation.
Many people are convinced they can remove asbestos from their home safely without calling in the experts. This is not recommended and could endanger your health and your life. There’s more to removal than spray bottles and dust masks. If you want to become certified in asbestos removal, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a list of approved state contacts to get you started. Asbestos education is the best way for DIY fans to keep their renovation projects safe and their homes healthy.