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Trusted Saskatoon Discuss The Dangers of Asbestos During Home Remodels

The Dangers of Asbestos During Home Remodels

When you want to renovate your home, your focus is often on the design and scope of the project, the cost of the upgrades, and the eventual impact of the renovation on your home’s value. Your mind rarely goes to the presence of potentially toxic materials inside the structures of the building. But this is a real risk during home improvement projects, especially when dealing with homes that were built in the 1980s. Homes from this era often have materials that contain asbestos and those hazardous building materials may still be in the home to the present day.

What is asbestos and why is it dangerous?

Asbestos used to be considered a revolutionary material for building construction. It is a natural silicate mineral that is resistant to chemicals and able to withstand high temperatures. It was widely used in the building industry all the way from the 1920s to well after the 1980s. In 1960, it was conclusively linked to a range of long-term illnesses and many forms of cancer. After it was identified as the number one cause of occupational cancer, asbestos has been heavily regulated and its use is no longer as widespread as it used to be.

But, it still remains a problem today, particularly in homes built 40 or more years ago. Asbestos becomes dangerous when materials with asbestos in them are worn down or damaged. Sanding, sawing, grinding, and any physical impact on such materials will make them unsafe.

These are the kinds of actions that typically happen during a home renovation. This is why asbestos exposure is a high possibility when renovating your home and you may be exposed to asbestos even if your home is less than 40 years old.

Health impact of asbestos exposure

The following diseases are known to be linked to asbestos exposure:


When inhaled, asbestos can cause scarring in lung tissues. This prevents the passage of oxygen and carbon dioxide, making breathing harder. Asbestosis is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. It is more common with people who work in the building industry.

Pleural Disease

Asbestos can damage the surrounding membranes of the lungs and chest cavity (pleura). The membrane can become thicker, hardened, or experience fluid buildup. This is not a cancerous condition but it can cause difficulty with breathing and lung malfunction.

Lung Cancer

Asbestos can cause lung cancer or increase the chances of lung cancer in individuals. The risk of lung cancer is greater for smokers who are also exposed to asbestos.


This cancer affects the membrane around the lungs and chest cavity. It can also affect the abdominal lining and membranes surrounding other organs of the body.

Building materials that may contain asbestos

Common building materials that may contain asbestos include roof shingles, sheet vinyl, pipe wrap, plaster mud and texture, vermiculite insulation, glazing on older windows, door gaskets, duct seam tape, electrical wiring, fireproof products, boiler wrap, popcorn ceilings, joint compounds, and cement asbestos board siding.

The threat of asbestos exposure becomes even higher when the asbestos is friable, easily crushed, or crumbled by hand. Examples of products with friable asbestos include older types of spray-on insulation and spray-on ceiling textures. Newer products may not have this issue.

How to tell if your home has asbestos

There is no straightforward way to detect the presence of asbestos in your home. Generally, you can assume the presence of the material if the building is more than 40 years old. But you cannot completely rule out its presence in more recent homes.

Asbestos is used in a wide range of building products. This makes its presence hard to identify. Knowing products with a history of containing asbestos can help. But to be completely sure that your home is asbestos-free, you need a certified building inspector to check the home.

If your home is older and there are visible signs of aging on the property, this inspection is absolutely vital. Aging and damage will increase the chances of exposure to asbestos in a building. You should also get a professional asbestos abatement contractor if you are about to renovate that building.

There are three important things to note about the presence of asbestos in the home and how to deal with this problem:


·       In most provinces, testing for asbestos is not a requirement when selling a home. As long as a seller does not knowingly sell you a home with asbestos, they are not liable. This means your new home can have asbestos in it.


·       Home inspections do not include inspecting the home for asbestos. Just because a home got a good inspection report, it doesn’t mean there is no asbestos in it. But you may order an asbestos inspection as an add-on if your home inspector is also certified for asbestos inspections.


·       If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your home, do not attempt to remove it by sweeping, vacuuming, or other similar actions. This will only make the asbestos airborne and more dangerous.

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