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Green Renovations and Asbestos Removal

Home renovations – whether DIY or professionally contracted – require a significant amount of planning and foresight. Most homeowners put plenty of effort into choosing a design and crafting a budget – but there’s one consideration that’s drastically undervalued: preventing asbestos exposure during the remodel. 

While we’ve talked extensively about the natural origins of the carcinogen, we’ve spent little time discussing the ways that we can encounter it during everyday life. Most exposures occur in the workplace – but for those whose residences were built before the 1980s, exposures can occur at home as well.

Home construction materials that contain asbestos can easily be disturbed during renovations. From the kitchen and the bathroom to the garage and the attic, these products may be found nearly anywhere. Commonly contaminated items include: 

  • Floor tiles
  • Shingles
  • Textured paints
  • Carpet backing
  • Caulking
  • Thermal insulation
  • HVAC duct insulation

When these products are removed, replaced or otherwise altered during construction, the fibers may enter the air. Something as simple as drilling through a sheet of asbestos wallboard or chipping away at asbestos paint can create an exposure risk.

Once the asbestos is no longer encapsulated within the original product, it can circulate around the home for an extended period of time. Standard vacuums and residential air purifiers (i.e., those without HEPA filters) are unable to capture the microscopic fibers. This makes it especially important to prevent its release in the first place.

Avoiding Asbestos Exposure During Home Renovations: Tips When Hiring a Contractor

Trusting your home remodel to a professional contractor? Consider the following:

  • Before signing a contract, ask to see proof of asbestos certification (along with traditional licenses and insurance, of course). This indicates that your potential hire has received complete training in identifying and safely removing contaminated products.



  • Check the potential hire’s performance with the Better Business Bureau. Not only will you be able to make sure their overall job performance is satisfactory, but you’ll also ensure that they haven’t been fined for asbestos violations in the past.


  • Stay out of your home while the renovations are taking place. While remodelers use techniques to keep exposures to a minimum, they also rely on respirators and other safety equipment to keep themselves completely protected during the project. Without this equipment, you may inadvertently inhale loose fibers that are contaminating the workspace. (A company worth its weight will also include complete cleanup and disposal services before you re-occupy your home.)


  • You’ll also want to confirm that the materials they plan to use are asbestos-free. (Some home renovation products used in the United States can still legally contain the fibers.) Ask for alternatives made with polyurethane foam, silica fabric or similar non-asbestos options. However, this tip also applies if you’re selecting your own materials for a DIY remodel.

Avoiding Asbestos Exposure During Home Renovations: Tips for the Do-It-Yourself Project

Prefer to handle your own renovations? The following tips will help keep you and your family safe:

  • Opt for a professional asbestos inspection before you begin. You’ll learn which products in your home should not – under any circumstances – be handled by anyone other than licensed abatement contractor. (Keep a written copy of the inspection results on hand for future projects.)


  • File the appropriate permits with your local government agency. While many contracting companies will take care of this paperwork for you, you’ll need to file it yourself if you do your own renovations. Each jurisdiction requires different information; check with your local agency to see which papers need to be filed (and how far in advance they need to be received).

Post-renovation, consider professional air monitoring to make sure no residual fibers are contaminating your home.

Faith Franz blogs for The Mesothelioma Center at She enjoys educating cancer patients and their families about the benefits of alternative medicine.



US Environmental Protection Agency. (16 April 2013). Protect Your Family. Retrieved from

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). How do I Manage Asbestos in my House or Apartment Building? Retrieved from

United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. (2013). Asbestos in the Home. Retrieved from