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Asbestos: Everything you need to know

Asbestos was commonly used as a construction material before the 1980s. If you are thinking of buying an older home, check for asbestos first.

For much of the 20th century, asbestos was a popular construction material because it’s flame-retardant and provides insulation. Although the material has some benefits, it’s also a carcinogen. As you’ve probably heard, it leads to cancer if a person inhales its fibers for a prolonged period. If you are thinking of purchasing a home built before the 1980s, the material can be a concern.

The buyer’s agents at Duffy Realty in Atlanta and the surrounding areas of DeKalb, Douglas or other nearby counties recommend inspecting older homes for the material before you buy.

What to watch for, and where to look

Although asbestos comes in various forms, in most cases it looks like a ball of gray fuzz. Prolonged exposure to the fibers increases your risk for developing respiratory problems. If you inhale the material over a long period, you can develop lung cancer or mesothelioma.

In an older home, asbestos can be almost anywhere. The material was commonly used to insulate pipes and in vents. It can also be found in flooring, roofing and siding. You usually can’t detect it by sight, so there is no way to know if something contains it without sending a sample to a lab. Since the fibers are so dangerous, it’s recommended that you hire a professional to collect samples and run the tests. Testing for the material isn’t a do-it-yourself project. If you’re buying a house, your pre-purchase inspection should uncover potential problems with the material.

What to do

If the materials that contain asbestos are damaged, you’ll need to hire a professional to remove them. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends leaving materials alone if there is no damage, as the fibers aren’t released into the air if the material containing them is still intact. But, if you plan on doing any renovations to the home after you buy it, you’ll need to tackle removal first.

Removal costs

The cost to inspect a home and remove the material isn’t prohibitively high, but it is an expense you should keep in mind when looking for a home. In the Atlanta area, the average cost to remove asbestos is between $800 and $900, according to HomeAdvisor. But remember, the exact cost to you depends on how much of the material is in your home and how much you need removed or contained.

Learning as much as you can about the home before you buy eliminates the need for costly repairs down the line. Duffy Realty of Atlanta can help you do research on a home to avoid the need for asbestos abatement and removal in the future.

Image source: Flickr

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