Here at Branch Environmental your health, safety, and well-being are our top priorities. We are experts in environmental safety and air quality, and we treat your home or business like our own. We want to reassure you that you and your family are safe when we come to inspect or to work on site. For this post, we will talk about the details of our inspection process and how we do the work we do.
What is Asbestos? Why is it dangerous? When and Where could I be exposed? What happens if I find asbestos? We answer all your questions!
Asbestos is a tricky subject that is often misunderstood. But what is asbestos anyway? And why should you be concerned with it?
The simple fact is that asbestos is a very common component of many building materials from vinyl flooring to wallboard to roofing tar. When you embark on a project that will disturb these materials, extra care must be taken to prevent exposure to asbestos fibers.
Asbestos removal is probably not something you were hoping to deal with in your renovation project, but with a little education and planning, and the right contractor to assist, it is something that can be safely delt with.
A Brief History
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It has a few properties that make it a very good ingredient for many building materials. Most notably, it is very strong and very heat resistant.
For these reasons, it has been used as a binder in many products such as joint compound, vinyl flooring, cement siding, roofing tars, caulks, etc. It is also commonly found in thermal insulation.
Asbestos was often referred to as the miracle mineral in the early 1900s. It was found in many products manufactured through the 1970s, and even into the ’80s and later.
As we became more aware of the health hazards associated with asbestos, it has significantly reduced in usage. Contrary to what many people believe, however, there is no blanket ban on asbestos and it can still be used in the manufacture of certain products today.
The Health Risk
I’m sure you have seen the Meselthelioma commercials. This is the most known disease associated with asbestos.
I’ll give a shot at greatly oversimplifying a complicates subject.
Asbestos is a mineral. It is tiny. It’s also long and skinny, kind of like a torpedo.
When you inhale asbestos fibers, they are drawn into your lungs but they are not able to escape. This leaves the tiny torpedo fibers in your lungs to bounce around. Since they cannot escape, they keep bouncing every time you breathe. Each time they hit your lung, they make a little bit of scar tissue.
Years and years of this action build up more and more scar tissue. This leads to lung disease called Asbestosis.
Mesothelioma is a similar cancerous disease caused by exposure to asbestos.
The Asbestos Exposure Risk
As we already discussed, asbestos is a very common component of building materials. You have most certainly come in contact with asbestos material many times throughout your life.
The buildings you live, work, and play in have asbestos in the floors, walls, and ceilings.
But… exposure is not that simple.
As you walk across a vinyl floor that contains asbestos, those fibers remain securely locked in the material. Remember that their strength is one of the attractive qualities of the mineral.
You can safely live in a home that has asbestos-containing joint compound for many years. The fact that asbestos fibers are present does not mean that you are being exposed.
The exposure risk comes when those materials degrade or are disturbed, causing fiber release.
How To Identify Asbestos
The only way to identify asbestos-containing materials is to take a sample and look at it under a microscope.
A professional asbestos inspector is trained to identify materials that are suspected to contain asbestos and collect the appropriate samples.
The best rule to follow is that all materials should be assumed to contain asbestos unless laboratory testing has shown they do not contain asbestos, or a professional inspector has determined that the material is not suspected to contain asbestos.
When To Remove Asbestos Containing Materials
In general, asbestos removal is not necessary just because a material is identified.
Rather, materials should be considered for asbestos removal if they meet the following criteria:
- They are degraded, crumbling, or otherwise in a condition that could release fibers
- They are scheduled for renovation or demolition
- You have other specific concerns about the presence of asbestos-containing materials
How Asbestos Removal Works
In the state of Georgia, anyone removing asbestos must be licensed by the state. So, your first step is to contact an asbestos removal company.
From there, they will look at your specific case and develop an appropriate protocol for removing the asbestos.
While each scenario is different, they will all share some commonalities.
- All work will be conducted by properly trained and certified workers
- All work will be overseen by a properly trained and certified supervisor
- Work will be conducted under proper containment and negative air pressure (excluding certain circumstances)
- Workers will wear proper personal protective equipment
- Workers will wear respiratory protection appropriate for the class of asbestos removal
- Wet methods will be used to remove asbestos containing materials
- Asbestos containing materials will be bagged and cleaned prior to being removed from the containment area
- The work area will be cleaned and HEPA vacuumed prior to removing containment
- Asbestos containing waste will be properly disposed of
Who To Call
When you are dealing with asbestos removal, it is important to choose a contractor that is a good fit. There are alot of people out there that will remove asbestos for your project. Some will do it well, some will do it cheaply, and some will be the perfect balance for what you need.
At Branch Environmental we believe that you should be an educated customer. We will take the time to break down your situation and lay out your options. When it comes to abatements, we take the trust you put into us seriously.
Our goal is to get the asbestos out so you can get on with your project. All the while, we take the utmost care to eliminate any health risk to future occupants or workers on the project.
Before starting a demolition or renovation project, there is a good chance you need to get an asbestos inspection. It’s an often overlooked step that is necessary to keep you both safe and in compliance.
In this article, we are going to break down exactly when you need an asbestos inspection in the state of Georgia.
The Short Answer
Cutting to the chase, you need an asbestos inspection before you begin any demolition or renovation project. There. That was easy.
Seriously though, the State of Georgia and in some cases the US EPA require that any structure be inspected for asbestos prior to activities that may potentially disturb asbestos.
Renovation & demolition projects fall into the category of activities that would disturb asbestos containing material, so an inspection must be completed prior to starting.
This rule is enforced on the local level, with municipalities requiring the asbestos inspection prior to issuing a demolition or renovation permit.
Are New Properties Excluded?
No. Contrary to popular belief, it is still legal to manufacture and import goods that contain asbestos. While specific items are regulated, there is no blanket ban on asbestos in manufacturing. Georgia enforces asbestos regulations on properties of any age.
Are There Any Other Exclusions?
First, Georgia provides an exclusion when less than 10sf of material is being disturbed. This stipulation is provided to prevent an undue burden from being placed on workers completing routine maintenance activities such as patching drywall.
Next, an asbestos inspection is not required for renovation IF you presume all disturbed material does contain asbestos and treat it as such. This means that you don’t have to inspect 9×9 vinyl floor tiles or transite siding if you are going to go ahead and perform an abatement as if they are positive.
Who Can Perform The Asbestos Inspection?
The inspection must be performed by an accredited inspector and include a report that identifies all asbestos containing materials in the facility that might be disturbed by the demolition or renovation.
You can find accredited asbestos inspectors by searching online or, since we are already talking about it, you could just give us a call.
What Will The Inspector Check For?
Your asbestos inspector will start by discussing the project with you and determining the extent of demolition or renovation. From that conversation, they will identify any material that may be disturbed during the renovation that is suspect to contain asbestos.
Suspect materials include things like joint compound, plaster, ceiling texture, vinyl flooring, window glaze, cement siding, pipe insulation, felt duct tape and more.
Basically, if it is not wood, glass, metal, or ceramic we have to presume it contains asbestos until a negative test shows otherwise.
After identifying all the suspect materials, your inspector will collect samples to be analyzed by the laboratory.
It is important to know that asbestos sampling is invasive and requires cutting chunks of material from the building. It also requires exposing wall cavities and lifting finish flooring to find materials that may be hidden. Demolition inspections will require penetrating the roof so provision will need to be made for temporary patching.
While our inspectors are pretty good at keeping sampling locations discreet, if they can’t have full access for invasive sampling they may be limited in the completeness of survey they can perform.
How Long Will It Take To Get Results?
After collecting samples, they will be sent to an accredited laboratory for analysis. These laboratory results are interpreted by the inspector and a report is prepared that tells you what materials do or do not contain asbestos.
This process generally takes about a week. Results can be expedited as necessary.
What Will My Inspection Report Tell Me?
Your asbestos inspection report will show you all the areas of material that were found to contain asbestos.
Any material that contains more than 1% asbestos fibers is then considered a Regulated Asbestos Containing Material.
It is important to note that the samples collected are only representative of the larger area. For example, your inspector may have collected joint compound samples from the living room & kitchen but not the dining room. That does not mean that the dining room is negative. It just means that the inspector used samples from other areas to represent the larger space.
WHY Should I Get An Asbestos Inspection?
That’s a great question.
First, it’s required by law.
Second, it’s just a smart thing to do.
Asbestos is a serious threat to our health. It’s truly not just a bunch of hype and regulation. Around 15,000 deaths each year are attributed to asbestos related diseases.
Asbestos fibers pose a threat when they are inhaled. To be inhaled, the material must be pulverized and turn to dust.
That’s exactly what happens during demolition and renovation when you take a sledgehammer and crowbar to building materials.
Properly handling asbestos is essential to keeping both the workforce and building occupants safe.
What Happens If Asbestos Is Found?
Finding asbestos in your project is an entirely manageable situation. Buildings that contain asbestos are safely renovated every day. It just takes a little more time and a little more money.
If you have found asbestos in your project, start by calling a licensed asbestos contractor to discuss your next steps.
You may think your popcorn ceiling is a bit dated… or you may think it’s downright ugly. Scraping popcorn ceilings is a common DIY project. I urge you to step back a minute and gather some information before you take this project on in your home.
While you may be inspired by that latest home improvement episode, or Pinterest has gotten the better of you… popcorn ceilings can contain hidden dangers that you do not want to expose your home and your family to.
Asbestos is a very common component of acoustic ceiling texture, more commonly known as popcorn ceilings. Simply DIY projects, or even contractor led renovations, can release asbestos fibers into your home if not handled properly.
So What is My Risk of Exposure?
As with most asbestos containing building materials, as long as it is in good shape you really don’t have a lot to worry about. You can safely live in a home with popcorn ceilings and face very little risk of asbestos exposure.
Your risk of exposure increases dramatically if the building material crumbles or becomes deteriorated. Unfortunately, popcorn ceilings are not the most durable and are prone to flaking and falling.
If you have a popcorn ceiling that is showing signs of deterioration, it’s a good idea to figure out if you are dealing with asbestos.
How do I Know if my Popcorn Ceiling Has Asbestos?
As with any other asbestos containing material, it must be analyzed in a laboratory.
You can either collect a sample yourself and drop it off at an environmental firm, or have a licensed asbestos inspector come to your home and collect the sample.
How Likely is it That My Popcorn Ceiling Has Asbestos?
As mentioned before, the only way to know for sure is to sample the material. Popcorn texture is a material that is suspect, and it commonly returns with positive results.
While older homes are more likely to have asbestos, it should be understood that even modern building materials may contain asbestos as well. There is no comprehensive ban on the use of asbestos in manufacturing, and the import of foreign materials is unmonitored.
All popcorn ceilings should be treated as potential asbestos containing material unless proven otherwise.
When Do I Need to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling?
There are two circumstances when an asbestos abatement makes sense:
- When you are about to conduct a renovation that will impact the asbestos containing popcorn ceiling in any way.
- When the material is deteriorating or damaged, potentially releasing fibers into the air.
How Do You Remove Asbestos Popcorn Ceilings?
Often the best solution is to remove the entire ceiling. This will take care of any and all texture, plus the joint compound that may be positive as well. As far as the abatement is concerned, the cost of removing the ceiling will be only marginally more expensive, though you will have to plan to put the ceiling back as well.
If you do not want to, or do not need to remove the entire ceiling, the asbestos abatement will consist of scraping the texture off. The impacted area will be set up as a containment zone, and all wall and floors will be lined with poly sheeting. The popcorn texture will then be wetted and scraped off.
Because popcorn texture can be difficult to match, it is advisable to go ahead and scrape the entire contiguous ceiling area even if the renovation will only impact a portion.
So What is my Next Step?
Your first step is to determine exactly what you are dealing with. Conducting an Asbestos Inspection will help you know with confidence if you do or do not have asbestos.
If you find that you do have asbestos, you will need a plan to either remove it, or manage it in place.
Managing it in place would mean adjusting your renovation plans to not disturb the material. Left untouched, a popcorn ceiling that contains asbestos will not pose a hazard to the occupants of the home.
If managing in place is not an option, work with an asbestos contractor to plan what type of abatement best meets your needs.
You are about to make one of the biggest investments of your life. Between appraisals, surveys, & inspections… you are shelling out cash in all directions. Then you started thinking about asbestos…
In most real estate transactions, there is no requirement to get an asbestos inspection. But should you anyway?
Let’s dig a little deeper and answer that question.
What Are The Chances The Home Has Asbestos?
Honestly, there is a pretty good chance asbestos is contained somewhere in the home you are about to purchase. Asbestos was an extremely common component of many building materials through the last century. Even though it is less likely, modern materials may still contain asbestos fibers as well.
It is not a long shot to think that asbestos will be present in the home you are about to purchase.
Whoah… Should I Be Scared?
There is no reason to panic. Throughout your life you have been living, working, and playing in buildings that have asbestos materials. For the most part, the asbestos fibers have been safely locked into the components they are a part of. For example, vinyl floor tiles often contain asbestos. You have probably walked across these floors on more than one occasion. The asbestos fibers, however, stay firmly encased in the tiles and present no hazard to you.
Then What Is The Big Deal?
Asbestos presents a very real health hazard when the fibers are released into the air and breathed. In your lungs, asbestos leads to often fatal diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.
So the big deal is when building materials that contain asbestos are disturbed, they release the fibers into the air.
An extreme example of this was the collapse of the World Trade Center. Asbestos materials were pulverized and sent as a cloud over thousands of people. First responders and recovery workers were exposed to these fibers over the months that followed and many are now suffering the health effects.
An example that is more relevant to your question, though, is the removal of an interior wall. You are going to open that living room up just a tad so you take a hammer and crowbar to the wall not realizing that asbestos is present in the joint compound. The drywall demo produces asbestos containing dust that contaminates the room and is sucked into the air conditioner… I think you see where we are going here.
So What Should I Do?
This really comes down to a personal decision. If you are purchasing a home with plans to renovate or improve it, knowing if you have asbestos will help you make a better decision. You can account for the cost of an asbestos abatement in your budget and use the information as you are negotiating the purchase price of the home.
If your renovation will require a permit, you will need an asbestos survey anyway, so you may as well go ahead get it out of the way.
On the other hand, if you do not plan on any renovations or improvements, you can probably move forward without worrying about asbestos.
Reasons You Should Consider An Asbestos Inspection:
- You are planning to renovate the home.
- You notice materials that are already deteriorated and/or crumbling.
- You will be more at peace knowing if asbestos is present or not.
- You would like to know if there is asbestos so you can properly manage it in place.
Reasons You May Not Need To Worry About An Asbestos Inspection:
- The home is move-in ready and no renovations are planned.
- The home was built in the last 10 years.
Armed with this information, you can make the best decision for your circumstance. If you decide that you do not need an asbestos inspection before you buy, move forward with confidence and don’t spend extra time worrying.
If you are still asking the question at this point, an asbestos inspection is a small price to pay for a definitive answer. It will give you more information you can use to make an informed purchasing decision.
An asbestos inspection is a simple step that could save you big time headaches and money down the road. Our inspection teams are committed to not only conducting a professional assessment of your home, but also spending time answering your questions and educating you on how to deal with any asbestos that is discovered.
Time for new floors! What is this? Vinyl floor tiles that contain asbestos! Do I have to remove the tiles, or can I put the new floor on top of them?
This article is intended to address the most common asbestos questions concerning laws and regulations for contractors working in Georgia.
You have probably seen the class-action commercials on TV, but how much do you really know about asbestos? Your great-granddad may have been exposed to it on a Navy ship in World War II, or maybe you know someone suffering the effects of exposure after the World Trade Center collapsed. Chances are, you don’t stop to think about asbestos in your everyday life.
As a contractor, it is smart to educate yourself about the health risks of asbestos and the potential fines for improperly disturbing it. Asbestos is a fiber that is found in many common building materials and leads to lung diseases such as Mesothelioma. As these building materials are disturbed during renovation, workers and building occupants can be exposed to asbestos.
Here are five fast-facts every contractor should know about absestos.
1: Asbestos is regulated and enforced by the Georgia DNR Environmental Protection Division
Even if your local building department does not ask for your proof of compliance with asbestos rules, as a contractor in Georgia you are still subject to state regulations and enforcement. It is wise to know what you are dealing with so you are ready if a state inspector stops by your job site.
2: All demolition and certain renovation projects are required to comply with asbestos notification requirements
If you are conducting a demolition or renovation activity you must:
- Obtain a site survey for asbestos from an accredited inspector.
- Submit a written notice of your intent to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division on this form. The notice must be submitted for all projects, even if asbestos was not discovered.
These requirements must be followed by any contractor doing any renovation or demolition work. Unlike lead laws, there is no age limit to houses that must be surveyed for asbestos.
3: If asbestos is discovered, a mandatory 10-day waiting period is enforced before demolition can begin
If your site survey reveals regulated asbestos material that will be disturbed during your renovation, you are required to conduct an asbestos abatement prior to beginning the project. In this case, a licensed abatement contractor will submit the notification to the state. A waiting period of 10 business days must pass between the notification and abatement.
If your site survey did not reveal asbestos, you must still submit notification to the GAEPD, but you are not subject to the 10 day waiting period or any fees.
4: Asbestos fibers are found in many common building materials
As a renovation contractor, you routinely disturb materials that may release asbestos fibers into the air. While older homes have a higher likelihood of containing asbestos, there is no cut-off year. There are no regulations that completely prohibit the use of asbestos in manufacturing so any home can potentially contain asbestos fibers.
Some of the most common building materials that contain asbestos are:
- Drywall and Joint Compound
- Wall and Ceiling Texture
- Floor Tiles and Vinyl Floor Coverings
- Mastics and Adhesives
- Pipe Insulation
- Roofing Tar
- Transite Siding
- Window Caulk and Glazing
5: Asbestos presents a true risk to you as a contractor, and occupants of the home you are working in
Regulations can often feel burdensome and frivolous. The truth is asbestos fibers produce a very real health hazard when they are released into the air and breathed. Asbestos is the sole cause of Mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the lungs. It also is the source of Asbestosis, a chronic lung disease. According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety: “all levels of asbestos exposure studied to date have demonstrated asbestos-related disease”
During the course of a home renovation, tasks such and tearing out drywall can release large volumes of asbestos fibers into the air in the form of dust. The fibers can travel throughout the building and be sucked into HVAC systems. This presents a risk not only to the workers immediately breathing the fibers but to occupants that will return to live and work in the building.
Why You May Need An Asbestos Inspection
Asbestos is a very common component of many building materials. Homeowners, landlords, and contractors are required to have an asbestos survey completed prior to any project that will potentially disturb asbestos fibers. For every demolition and renovation project an asbestos inspection is required.
When Do You Need An Asbestos Inspection?
The US Environmental Protection Agency and Georgia Department of Natural Resources (Environmental Protection Division) are responsible for the laws and regulations concerning Asbestos. Local building departments will often require proof of compliance when you are obtaining a permit for work.
According to the State of Georgia EPD:
“Owners and operators of a demolition or renovation activity, must thoroughly inspect the affected facility or part of a facility where the demolition / renovation operation will occur, for the presence of friable and non-friable asbestos, including Category I & II non-friable asbestos containing material (ACM). This should be done prior to the commencement of the activity.”
All that is to say: you must inspect any demolition or renovation project for asbestos before you begin disturbing material. Even if your county does not ask for your asbestos survey when you get a permit, Georgia laws still apply to your project. It is a common misconception that there is a cut off year for properties that must be inspected.
In addition, you may have circumstances that would cause you to want to test your own home or workplace for asbestos outside of planned renovations. We will be happy to discuss a custom asbestos survey plan for needs other than regulatory compliance.
How Much Will An Asbestos Survey Cost?
That depends on the type of project you have planned. All asbestos surveys include submission of samples to an accredited laboratory for PLM analysis. Our base prices assume standard access to the property with no atypical hazards. Standard turnaround time is one week.
The cost of your asbestos inspection is determined by the base fee + samples collected + additional fees.
- The base fee is the cost of the inspector’s site visit and preparation of your survey report. This amount varies based on the type of inspection you need. Commercial vs. residential, demolition vs. remodel, and size of the structure are all items that will determine your amount. When you call to schedule your inspection, we will determine the category of your project and tell you your base fee.
- Each sample collected is invoiced at $27 for standard turnaround. See below for an idea of how many samples may be required.
- Additional fees may apply for rush delivery, extended travel, etc. We will discuss any additional fees that apply to your inspection when you schedule.
Every job is unique. We will work to identify suspect material, and take only as many samples as necessary for a thorough report. While we can not guess how many samples will be needed prior to seeing your project, here are some general estimates that will help you understand the scope:
- Bathroom renovation: ~5 samples
- Multi-room residential renovation: ~10 – 25 samples
- Residential demolition: ~15+
- Commercial projects: Call for Estimate
What Materials Will Be Tested?
Most any material that is NOT wood, metal, or glass has the potential to contain asbestos fibers. The most common materials a residential renovator will encounter are joint compound, ceiling textures, vinyl flooring, and pipe insulation. We will use our expertise and experience to identify materials that require sampling.
Commercial projects may have other unique materials based on the type of building.
Can I Drop Off My Own Materials To Be Tested?
Absolutely. While you will not receive an Asbestos Site Survey, we will be happy to send any material you bring us to the laboratory for analysis. The report you receive will be limited to the presence or absence of asbestos in the sample material, and will not make further assumptions about the property where the sample originated.
We’re Here When You Need Us
Remember, the state of Georgia requires that an asbestos survey be completed on any structure, regardless of age, prior to renovation or demolition. Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts at asbestos removal with over 25 years of experience. Our AHERA accredited inspectors will help you determine the appropriate sampling plan for your project. Our goal is to move your project forward without wasting money, while keeping you safe and in compliance with all applicable regulations. Let us help you navigate asbestos inspection or abatement. Call us or click here to schedule an inspection today!
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
For more information go to:
- Asbestos Professionals | Asbestos | US EPA
- Asbestos Notification Requirements | Environmental Protection Division – Georgia EPD
- How To Follow Asbestos Regulations – Branch Environmental
- What Is Asbestos?– Branch Environmental
- Can I Put a New Floor Over Asbestos Tiles? – Branch Environmental
- When Do I Need an Asbestos Inspection? We’ve Got Your Answer! – Branch Environmental
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