Does the house you’re working on contain asbestos?

Geoff Clark, Senior Occupational Hygienist with WorkSafeBC, presents a list of important characteristics to be aware of and look for when doing construction work on older homes. Most importantly, identify asbestos within any building under construction or demolition. With this video Geoff Clark will take you through a house and identify things that contain asbestos.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is tough and very resistant to chemicals and heat. It was commonly used in building materials until the 1980’s. If building materials containing Asbestos are disturbed, as in drilled, sawed, sanded, or broken up as in demolitions or renovations, then workers can breath in asbestos fibers. When workers breath in enough asbestos fibers, it can cause permanent damage to the lungs, and the worker can get lung cancer.

Any house built before 1980 will probably contain asbestos products. Before doing a house demolition or renovation and to avoid exposure to asbestos particles, is best and recommended to have the house inspected by a qualified asbestos professional. They will collect samples from suspect materials within the house and have them tested for asbestos. Building materials containing asbestos can look exactly like materials that do not contain asbestos. An inspection by a qualified laboratory is the only way to distinguish the difference. In some houses the asbestos containing materials can be in poor condition and therefore are a risk to the technicians collecting a sample.

Both plaster and drywall can contain asbestos. Asbestos containing drywall filler, or mud, is very common in housed constructed before 1990. Ceilings with sprayed on texturing may also contain asbestos. Many flooring materials contains asbestos such a Vinyl Sheet flooring and Vinyl tile flooring. Older homes may have several layers of flooring. The backing of Vinyl sheet flooring can contain asbestos.

Fireplaces may contain asbestos boards or pads below the mantel or hidden in the back of the fireplace. Artificial embers and ashes in gas fireplaces may also contain Asbestos.

House can be heated with heaters and boilers, and this equipment especially older boilers can be insulated with asbestos.

Seams of metal ducting are often covered with asbestos tape. Ducts and piping may also be wrapped in asbestos insulation.

Even the mastic used to seal pipes where they go through walls may contain asbestos.

The walls in some furnace rooms may be covered with asbestos cement board also known as Transite.

Many attics, particularly in British Columbia, are insulated and this insulation may contain asbestos. Sometimes the loose asbestos insulation layer is under a pink fiberglass insulation. Loose insulation, particularly Vermiculite attic insulation, is known to contain asbestos fibers.

Even the outside of older homes should be checked for asbestos products, include the putty of older windows. Asbestos cement siding is a commonly used material in older homes.

Asbestos is also found in common roofing materials including asphalt roofing shingles and asphalt roofing paper.

Concrete block walls are hollow and the spaces may have been filled with the same type of asbestos containing Vermiculite insulation that you can find in an attic.

For your safety any asbestos containing material that are found during a work site survey must be removed by workers who are trained in asbestos removal and wear protective clothing and a respirator. Unless you are properly trained, do not try to remove asbestos yourself.

Before you work on a house, ask if it has properly been inspected for asbestos.



  1. i e done 3 houses so far im the only guy my boss puts in there, take me 3 or 4 days a house alone,, je didint say shit ive been there for 2 weeks no mask nothing,, most likey have a dieses

  2. Why is this information not given as a public service announcement? I was already aware of the possibility of the popcorn ceiling containing asbestos, so I had a sample tested at a lab before I started removing it in 2011 (fortunately the results were negative). It was only today when I started searching online for rubbish removal businesses that I discovered one has to have the drywall tested for asbestos before they will haul it away! It would have been nice to know ahead of time before I started pulling drywall down in the garage due to a leaking deck above.

  3. And I'm sure 30 years from now, today's common fiberglass insulation will be declared a carcinogen and people will have to pay to remove them from their walls.
    NEWS FLASH – asbestos is not dangerous unless it gets into the air and you stick your head in it every day.

  4. Worksafe in BC..looking out for us here in Washington State!! Thank You!
    I have MUCH information to share! Rip and Running Asbestos Demolitions here and no enforcement as of yet? Why?? Political possibly..yet we was Left in 80% PURE ASBESTOS dry unprotected Cross Contaminated our homes!


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