No one would consider using a material that contains asbestos today, but back in the 1930’s to the 1970’s it was considered practical due to its great fire resistance and fibrous strength characteristics. Roofing and siding are some of the most common materials from that era that contain asbestos.
If it is not “broken,” don’t fix it.
The mantra for most asbestos-containing materials is to leave it alone. The asbestos is normally sealed in the matrix of the component, and therefore contained does not pose a health risk. Only when the material is disturbed does it become a problem.
When dealing with a product that needs repair or maintenance, there are two primary paths to take, repair and removal. The first and simplest path is the repair route. Sealing or covering can accomplish this. Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so that the asbestos fibers are not released. Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent the release of the fibers. Removing asbestos is the more costly option and unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations.
How much is this going to cost?
Cost will vary by region and often include the needed preparation work, the removal phase, and the regulated disposal phase. Since this tends to be a costly project, ensuring that you actually have asbestos is the first step. This is normally done with samples and testing. On-site testing can run from $250 to $1000 with additional costs for “real time” air quality monitoring. These monitoring costs can also be in the $500 to $1000 range. A sample can also be sent to testing facilities for analysis at a lower cost. Once removal is slated, some contractors will “prep” the area using HEPA vacuums. This cost can run about $40 a sq. foot. With the actual removal cost at $15 to $25 a sq. ft. Encapsulation, by comparison, can range from about $3.00 a sq. ft to $6.00 a sq. ft.
Who can do the work?
While some regulations allow single family homeowners to undertake this type of project on their own, most regulations require a licensed contractor for this type of work. It is required for projects that involve public buildings, like schools, or structures that contain 4 or more residences. Hire a team that is versed in the complex nature of dealing with this potentially hazardous material. Local regulations can vary widely, and these are often based on city, county or state requirements. A specialist that performs these abatements for a living should be vary familiar with the local regulations and all of the special requirements for a safe and productive process.