The Standards of Practice for RI and Massachusetts Home Inspectors both explicitly exclude the need for Inspectors to identify and report on asbestos products during an inspection but most inspectors go beyond the standard in this regard and identify products they believe could contain asbestos due to the health and safety concerns for our clients and their families. So, a home inspector is not an Asbestos Inspector per se but will generally share his or her knowledge of possible asbestos products which are visible during a Home Inspection.
Most inspectors will not state “this is asbestos” or “this contains asbestos” since a lab test, where the suspected material is examined under a microscope, is technically the only way to know for sure that something does or does not contain asbestos. The terms “this product may contain asbestos” or “probably contains asbestos” are more accurate.
Here is a list of the most common products we see during inspections which could contain asbestos:
- Floor tiles, especially 9 X 9 floor tiles. Many of the petroleum based floor tiles manufactured between 1920 and 1980 contain asbestos. The most common tile containing asbestos is the 9 X 9 tile but 12 inch and 18 inch square tiles can also contain asbestos (though there is much less probability that these size tiles will than the 9 X 9 tiles).
- The black mastic used to secure floor tiles down can also contain asbestos.
- Insulation on old heating pipes and boilers. This is usually the most visible and well known asbestos product. The vast majority of the old, white or grey insulation on heating pipes contains asbestos but not all of it does.
- The thin grey boards installed on doors between the garage and the house and also found installed as heat shields above and behind old heating systems is commonly called asbestos board.
- White tape found on the top and seams of old heating duct work. This tape is a concern since it can allow asbestos fibers to get into the ducts and circulate throughout the house.
- Vermiculite insulation was used in attics and walls. Vermiculite looks like small sized gravel but is much lighter. This product was mined with asbestos and often contains fibers. Lab testing is tricky since the fibers will fall to through the product and end up at the bottom of the pile, allowing for false negative tests of a small sample. The US EPA says to assume this contains asbestos since it is easy to get an inaccurate test if a large enough sample is not taken.
- Ceiling tiles. If a ceiling tile is white or grey under the surface (not brown) it may contain asbestos.
- Asbestos Slate siding and Roof tiles
There are many more products installed in homes which could contain asbestos so this is definitely the “short list” of the most common we see.