Common Signs of Asbestos in the Attic

vermiculite insulation-752661-edited.jpgIf your home was built before 1990 and you have vermiculite insulation, or if your house was built prior to 1970, it’s likely that you have some form of asbestos in your attic or elsewhere. Used for fireproofing and insulation, asbestos was a cheap and effective material that became an industry standard for buildings across the country. However, asbestos can become incredibly dangerous when airborne, and its effects can be fatal even decades after the initial exposure. This guide will help you understand the common signs of asbestos and what you can do to protect yourself from exposure.


What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos, which meant "inextinguishable" in ancient Greek, refers to a collection of minerals mined from the ground and used for construction purposes because of their insulating and fire-resistent properties. Chrysotile and amosite are the most commonly used forms of asbestos, but all six varieties are considered harmful. While asbestos has been used for thousands of years, it wasn’t until recently that people began to understand its harmful effects.

In the 1900’s, asbestos was often mixed into binding agents and commonly used in ceilings, walls, tiles, and heating fixtures. In addition to being fireproof and insulating, asbestos can also help with soundproofing. By the 1990’s, however, asbestos had been phased out of most new American homes in favor of safer materials.

Asbestos becomes dangerous when its fibers released into the air, whether in a factory or during a home renovation. The fibers, which look similar to fish hooks, enter the lungs and latch along the thin membranes. Coughing is the natural response, but the fibers continue to stick, causing further irritation. Over many years, scar tissue begins to build around the fibers, which can lead to breathing difficulties or an asbestos-related cancer known as mesothelioma.

Most cases of mesothelioma occur decades after exposure, and many sufferers worked either in the asbestos industry or in construction. However, there is no safety threshold for asbestos. It’s advisable to minimize your exposure by never renovating your home before having it checked for asbestos.


How Can I Identify Asbestos?

Unfortunately, you cannot safely identify asbestos on your own. While there are some telltale signs, you may put yourself at risk by looking for them. It’s safer to assume that you have asbestos than to risk exposure, but there are some common signs that you may have noticed previously.

Properties built before the 1990’s may have asbestos in bonding agents, insulation, or the roof. One of the most common types of insulation that features asbestos is vermiculite insulation (picutred above). It has a pebble-like texture and comes in a variety of colors, including gold and brown. Popcorn ceilings were often made with asbestos as well. An expert with knowledge of the materials used in your home and construction date may be able to tell immediately, although they will likely get a sample to verify before starting any project.


What If I Have Asbestos in My Home?

While it’s never pleasant to learn that your home contains asbestos, you don’t have to immediately panic or worry about your health. Asbestos is only dangerous when airborne, and common problems like roof leaks will not typically put you at risk. However, if your home has recently been damaged, or if you'd like to remodel, you should consult professionals to prevent exposure. It’s also highly recommended that you replace asbestos with a safer material during the remodeling of your home to avoid any potential exposure in the future.


Contact a Professional Today

You don’t have to remove stagnant asbestos, as it’s unlikely to cause problems. However, if you’re planning a renovation or have recently experienced damage to your property, you should contact a licensed professional to ensure any asbestos is safely and immediately dealt with. Any type of damage related to vinyl flooring, walls, ceilings, or insulation may put you at risk of exposure, and it’s important to take care of the problem before it gets worse.


If you need insulation or roofing services in the Des Moines or Ames areas, Hedrick Construction is here to help! We will work with you to keep you safe from asbestos exposure. Our roofers have been serving Central Iowa for over a decade, and we take pride in efficiently repairing homes, offices, and properties throughout the area. We install high quality, safe blown-in insulation for our customers. Call us today or fill out our online form by clicking below for more information.