Asbestos was once regarded as a highly effective building product and was used in many aspects of the building industry. Today, however, we know it is actually a very hazardous material unless extreme caution is taken when handling it.
Most homes built before the 1970s probably have some product or building material that contains asbestos as a component. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell by looking what contains asbestos and what does not.
In the absence of original labeling that lists component ingredients, asbestos surveys are the most reliable way to determine the presence of asbestos in your home.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chartered with safeguarding the health of the American public, recommends leaving the asbestos surveys and all work involving asbestos to the professionals who are trained to detect and handle these products safely.
Federal guidelines suggest no danger in products containing asbestos as long as those products and building materials are in good repair and will remain intact as installed.
Asbestos surveys are recommended, however, whenever remodeling or repairs are planned for parts of the home that may contain asbestos-based products.
In fact, the federal recommendation is to expect the presence of asbestos in all homes built or remodeled before the 1970s and to hire professionals to conduct asbestos surveys before disturbing anything.
When asbestos surveys confirm the presence of asbestos, most local and state governments require homeowners to hire specialists trained in handling this dangerous substance to do the work.
In many cases, handling asbestos-based products and building materials by someone other than a trained professional when asbestos surveys confirm its presence, it is a violation of the law.