Preparing for Asbestos Abatement

Anyone who suspects they may have asbestos-containing materials in their home should first have it professionally inspected or have a sample taken to send to an accredited lab for analysis.  If the presence of asbestos is confirmed, there are decisions to be made about how to deal with the material.  If it is not damaged or worn, it may not pose any danger, since asbestos fibers are only dangerous when they crumble and become airborne.

Choosing a Contractor

However, if action needs to be taken, it is strongly recommended to contact a licensed abatement agency. While it is legal for homeowners to perform asbestos abatement on their own, it is a complicated process that involves a great deal of safety equipment and attention to strict regulations regarding transport and disposal, so the EPA encourages homeowners to seek professional assistance.  It is illegal to hire an unlicensed contractor to handle or remove asbestos.

Removal is not the only option.  In some cases, it may be feasible to encapsulate the asbestos-containing material in sealant or resin to prevent toxic fibers from escaping.  This type of repair is cheaper than removal, and also safer, since the asbestos is not disturbed.  However, it can make removal at a later date more difficult and expensive.

Wetting the Material

If removal is necessary, the abatement team will perform most of the necessary preparations.  Since asbestos is dangerous when airborne, preparing the material for removal often involves getting it wet to prevent the production and spread of dust and particulate matter.  The EPA publishes detailed “Adequately Wet” Guidelines to help abatement professionals know the proper methods for keeping asbestos-containing materials from becoming dangerous when they are removed.

When moistening asbestos-containing materials, removers will often use amended water, or water that has been combined with surfactant chemicals to lower the surface tension of the liquid and allow it to be more easily absorbed by the material.  Typically, the process simply involves wetting the material until it can absorb no more water, though the EPA gives specific recommendations for asbestos-containing products like molded pipe insulation and thermal block insulation.  Often, these items will be wetted and removed in smaller sections, rather than attempting to do so in one piece.