We’ve carried out several residential asbestos assessments. In our opinion the following are the most common asbestos containing materials found in homes and apartment buildings.
Vinyl Floor Tiles or Sheet Flooring
The poster-child of asbestos containing materials in the industry. Asbestos in vinyl flooring made it harder and resistant to damage. It’s a low risk material because asbestos fibers are well bound into organic material that make the majority of a floor tile. Using power tools can release a significant amount of asbestos into the air (asbestos is an airborne hazard). Commonly contains 20% to 30% asbestos but varies. There is a myth that only 9”x 9” floor tiles contain asbestos but asbestos is also common in 1’x 1’ vinyl floor tiles.
Texture Coat or Stipple – Walls or Ceilings
Textured finishes applied to walls and ceilings but most often located on ceilings. It’s a decorative finish that asbestos was added to make it harder (asbestos has high tensile strength) and resistant to damage. Texture coats or stipple are moderate risk materials unless severely damaged. Asbestos fibres are easily released during disturbance but concentrations of asbestos are generally low. Typical concentrations of asbestos are between 3% to 10% but the concentration varies.
Drywall Joint Compound – Walls or Ceilings
Also known as “drywall mud” applied to drywall sheet seams and over finishing nails. A low to moderate risk material. If it’s directly disturbed with power tools it can generate airborne asbestos. However, it is only applied to specific locations on drywall and the majority of drywall (in most cases) does not have the compound applied to it. Typically contains 5% asbestos but the concentration is variable.
Plaster Residential Asbestos – Walls or Ceilings
A cement like product that is applied to wood or metal lath to make walls or ceilings. Asbestos in the material made it harder and resistant to damage while also providing resistance to heat transfer. It’s a moderate risk material that takes more than a little pressure to disturb and release asbestos fibres. If It’s pulverized to a powder due to damage or if power tools are used on it, it can release a significant amount of asbestos into the air. Typically contains 2% to 10% asbestos but concentrations vary. Stucco (textured plaster) often contains asbestos and it is common to find this stucco used as exterior cladding.
Foundation Parging or Trowelled-on Concrete
Cement-like material applied over residential foundations usually cement block. Asbestos provided more resistance to heat (asbestos is an excellent thermal insulator) in this material slowing down heat transfer through the foundation. A low risk material because it’s difficult to damage and is located outdoors (well ventilated). However, power tools are usually needed to alter or remove it making disturbance a higher risk operation. Typically contains 15% asbestos.