Forms of Asbestos Commonly Found in Homes

Asbestos materials were used in many building materials starting at the turn of the 20th century (1900’s) when industry became available to mine it as a mineral and refine it as a fiber to be used in hundreds of applications.

An asbestos inspection is meant to identify those materials in a household and determine if there is a risk associated with the content and form of asbestos. As you know, asbestos is linked with causing cancers and disease with a strong correlation to occupational exposure (exposure through mining, refining, or installation activities). There is no good data regarding incidental exposure of asbestos fibers in a residential setting, but we do know that identifying and limiting exposure through prevention is the best course of action.

The following are common building materials which may contain asbestos and their characteristics relative to exposure:

Floor tile: Installed from 1930’s to1960’s vinyl floor tile is the most common form found in housing. It usually is identified as a 9 inch square tile with a low concentration of asbestos bound up in a matrix of vinyl (some larger tiles are also suspect). The mastic or glue which was used also typically contains asbestos. This is a relatively low risk material given the form and durability and can be left in place if it’s in good condition.

Pipe Wrap Insulation: Installed mainly in the 1920’s through 1950’s. This is a thermal system insulation usually found on heating system pipes associated with boilers. Often older boilers are also insulated with an asbestos jacketing material. The asbestos content in these materials is usually high with a typical content of 40% to 60%. This material is also easily disturbed and will produce airborne fibers with hand pressure. When in poor condition, this material is usually removed with abatement methods.

Duct Connectors: This is a textile form of asbestos often overlooked or unrecognized as an asbestos material. It is found as part of a duct manifold system which connects an HVAC unit to the rest of the duct work. It is literally part of the duct where the air stream flows across it. It was meant to allow of connecting and isolating vibration. The risk is difficult to define although the fibers are usually tightly bound in the textile fabrication and not often considered to be high risk.

Structural Blown-on insulation: This is the worst kind of material to encounter given it is loose and easily disturbed. It is often found in commercial buildings or larger apartment buildings (the World Trade Center in NY City had this insulation on the structural steel). It is usually of very high concentration of fibers 50% to 80% and goes airborne by simple contact. This material is rare to find in single family households. Larger apartment buildings built in the 60′ and 70’s often have this applied to the structural steel.

Other forms to consider — here is a list of other forms of asbestos commonly found in households:

Transite board – A hard cementious board often installed on walls surrounding boilers
Duct Canvass – A paper-like covering used to cover metal ductwork.
Exterior Shingles – Hard cementious siding found on many neighborhoods in northern states.
Asbestos Duct Pipe- Found embedded in concrete slabs, this material gas a textile core impregnated with cement and is was used to duct air through slabs of concrete.
Let us know if you are interested in knowing what you have in your home. The time to know is especially important prior to major renovations or changes to older heating and HVAC systems.

Please contact RTS Environmental Services at 1-800-722-5589 –

Asbestos Vinyl Flooring: The Basics

Asbestos vinyl flooring was widely used until the early 1970’s and so many homes in this area have asbestos containing tiles or flooring mainly in basements and often in kitchens. Typically 9 inch square tiles can be presumed to contain asbestos although testing for asbestos done by a certified asbestos inspector will confirm if it is or is not with other size tiles such as 1 foot square tiles. Also the glue that was used often contained asbestos as well. A material with greater than 1% asbestos fibers is considered to be an asbestos building material.

Vinyl tiles in good condition are considered to be “non-friable” which basically means they cannot be crushed or pulverized with hand pressure. Unlike thermal insulations such as pipe wrap which is considered to be “friable” because it can be easily disturbed to send asbestos fibers airborne.

Asbestos is a group of minerals known for their strength, flame/heat resistance, and indestructibility, and was considered ideal for insulation and fireproofing. However, it was discovered that asbestos fibers can potentially become a health risk and the EPA banned its use. Floor tile forms of asbestos are some of the most commonly used in households. Most household scenarios do not pose an immediate risk, but it is a good idea to know what you have before you decide to take some action yourself

There is a lot of misleading information regarding asbestos and its dangers, but the following are some facts and considerations specific to tile forms which may be helpful to you:

In good condition, vinyl tile can be left in place or covered with carpet / padding.
If vinyl asbestos tile is mechanically pulverized such as what would occur with a jack hammer to break up a concrete slab, this will send fibers airborne and cause possible contamination. This scenario actually occurs often when basement waterproofing is performed so know what you have before beginning a waterproofing project.
In a residential setting, in small surface area, asbestos tile can be removed by the homeowner. It is best to be removed in whole or nearly whole tiles. Otherwise if there are a lot of tiles, consider using a professional abatement company.
Do not use hammers or means to break up the tile given this causes a “friable condition” which releases fibers into the air* Wear an N-95 or P-100 dust mask if you think dust will be generated.
When performed professionally, the goal in removing the asbestos vinyl flooring is to remove it without causing any fiber or dust broadcast. Before beginning, the work area is isolated by installing plastic sheeting over all heat registers, doorways, cupboards, etc. as well as turning off the heating and air conditioning system. All furniture and other moveable objects will be removed from the room or covered to prevent contamination and to simplify clean-up. Access to the work area will be limited to one doorway, with a slit in the plastic door covering to make the entrance as small as possible. A

machine called a negative air unit will draw the air through a filter to capture fibers if there are any which go airborne.

Careful clean-up is important when dealing with asbestos, and all potential asbestos dust and particulate must be removed from the work area with special vacuum cleaners called HEPA vacuums.

If you suspect that there may be asbestos flooring in your home and wish to have better insight to determine the severity of the problem, give RTS a call to discuss this with a certified mold inspector, please contact RTS Environmental Services at 1-800-722-5589 –

Consumers: Ask About Your Contractor’s Mold Certification

These days, lots of contractors say that they’re experts. But are they really? Before you hire someone to inspect, test, or remediate mold from your home or business, ask about their mold certification.

Some contractors obtain Mold Certificates from organizations that aren’t very credible. The most credible organizations for certifying mold professionals are the American Indoor Air Quality Council and the American Board of Industrial Hygiene.

The American IAQ Council has several mold certifications related to both mold inspection and mold remediation. The following list describes their mold certifications and the associated experience requirements which are dependent on university level of education:

  • Certified Microbial Investigator (CMI), requires minimum 1-2 years of field experience
  • Certified Microbial Consultant (CMC), requires minimum 4-8 years of field experience
  • Mold Remediation
  • Certified Microbial Remediator (CMR), requires minimum 1-2 years of field experience
  • Certified Microbial Remediation Supervisor (CMRS), requires minimum of 1-5 years of field experience
  • The other recognized certifying organization, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) has a more general certification, Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).

You can view our certifications here. RTS has provided thousands of inspections including Radon gas, Lead Paint, Asbestos, and Mold / Indoor Air Quality issues. With more than 20 years of experience in the environmental, mold and asbestos industry, RTS Environmental can protect your family and your home from the dangers of mold.

Contact Information
RTS Environmental Services, Inc.
Tel: 1-800-722-5589
301-607-6276 Maryland Line
Fax: 301-831-6235