Roofing and Siding
Asbestos is extremely resistant to heat, fire, and electrical conductivity, which made it a common (and often required) component in many types of siding and roofing shingles. If your roof is old enough to contain asbestos, it’s past due for replacement. Beware, however, that removal of asbestos-containing roof shingles or siding should be handled only by a trained and accredited asbestos professional.
Related: 7 Signs You Need a New Roof
Another common source of asbestos in the home is flooring, especially vinyl floor tiles, the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, and flooring adhesives. According to the EPA, if your floor tiles were installed prior to 1981, there’s a good chance they contain some asbestos. If an asbestos-containing floor has been damaged—if, for instance, it has been scraped or gouged—dusting, sweeping, or vacuuming it could release dangerous asbestos fibers. Even if a floor containing asbestos is in good shape, you may want to consider sealing or encapsulating it. If you choose instead to remove and replace it, have the work done by a qualified professional.
Related: The 7 Best Low-Cost Alternatives to Hardwood Flooring
Because asbestos is heat resistant, it was typically used to insulate hot water pipes as well as steam pipes in heating systems. In some cases, the pipes were coated directly with asbestos material, and in other instances, the pipes were covered with an asbestos blanket or tape. As with other types of asbestos, leave the covering alone if it’s in good shape, or have it encapsulated. If it’s ripped or torn, have it professionally removed and replaced.
Related: 10 Ways You're Accidentally Poisoning Your Home
Wallboard and Joint Compound
Many types of wallboard and joint compound—such as those around wood-burning stoves and fireplaces—incorporated asbestos fibers for strength and flame resistance. Even something as simple as patching a hole or sanding a rough patch in a wall could release asbestos fibers and dust into the air. If you’re pondering a remodeling or home improvement project and you live in a home with interior walls that were finished before the mid-1980s, it’s smart to call in an asbestos inspector before beginning.
Related: 8 Dangerous Secrets Your Home May Be Hiding
Whether you love them because they're "retro kitsch" or hate them because they're outdated and ugly, popcorn ceilings are extremely common in homes built from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. But this decorative texture has a darker side: The coating was typically made from sprayed-on asbestos fibers or textured paint infused with asbestos. If you have a popcorn ceiling, consider sealing it. If you're determined to remove it, have a professional test it first, and if asbestos is found, hire a qualified professional for removal.
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flickr.com via Roskvape
Wallpaper and wallpaper adhesives manufactured prior to 1980 may contain asbestos, especially if the wallpaper has a vinyl finish. Intact wallpaper is best simply left alone or painted over. If the wallpaper is torn, cracked, or curling, however, you may want to have it professionally tested and replaced with a more up-to-date wall covering.
Related: 12 Photos That Prove Wallpaper Still Wows
Wall and Ceiling Insulation
Asbestos lurks in the wall and ceiling insulation of many homes built from the 1930s through the 1950s. If there’s no damage to the walls or ceilings and the insulation isn’t loose or visible, it’s better left untouched. Call an inspector if you plan on remodeling or if you notice any cracks or other damage on the walls or ceilings.
Related: The Pros and Cons of Today's Most Popular Insulation
Furnaces and Boilers
Because asbestos resists fire and heat, it was commonly used in the gaskets, insulation, and surrounds for furnaces, boilers, stoves, and fireplaces. If you’re in the market for a new furnace or other appliance, you may want to check with an asbestos professional before disturbing your old one.
Related: 11 Common Problems Home Sellers Try to Hide
Curtains and Fabrics
Believe it or not, people once paid top dollar for curtains and draperies that incorporated asbestos. The heat-resistant, flame-retardant fabrics were marketed as the best way to protect families from house fires—and they dampened outside noise to boot. Many consumers also purchased asbestos pads or blankets to cover the heating elements on the stovetop. Needless to say, if you encounter any of these products in your home, they should be removed, properly disposed of, and replaced with modern, non-asbestos-containing alternatives.
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