Yesterday we talked about finding asbestos in your attic. Today, we move downstairs and look at the rest of your house.

So you’re finally getting that kitchen of your dreams, and as the remodeling process begins, you look at the old tiles that are original to your home and begin to wonder if they contain asbestos. How can you tell? And, if asbestos is present, what course of action should you take? Is costly asbestos removal the only way to go?

Prior to the 1970s, many items that went into the construction of homes contained asbestos. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), roofing and siding shingles, popcorn ceilings, acoustic tiles, textured paint, patching products, various insulation, millboard, cement board, backing on vinyl floor sheeting and floor tiles themselves often contained asbestos. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for a remodeling homeowner to come across a product with asbestos and run in to the possibility of asbestos removal.

In general, the best thing to do with possible asbestos-containing materials in the home is to leave them alone. You should monitor these materials regularly to check for signs of wear or damage. If a material appears to be damaged, flaking or crumbling, having it tested is your next step. Like we’ve mentioned before, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has a listing of federally accredited laboratories around the country.

The CPSC suggests that oftentimes the best way to deal with only slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area, as well as not touching or disturbing it in any way, as opposed to asbestos removal. For asbestos flooring that is in reasonably good shape, some contractors suggest laying carpeting or another floor material over it. If your ceiling has asbestos-laden popcorn paint, this can be repainted, which should seal the hazardous fibers in place, again negating the need for asbestos removal procedures. However, if the ceiling must be demolished or the texture removed, and testing has indicated it to be positive for asbestos, only a certified remediation company should be contracted to perform the work, in order to ensure safe removal and proper disposal.

Siding and roof shingles known to contain asbestos should also be removed by a certified contractor. Placing new siding or shingles over this material can often result in the release of hazardous fibers. Heat pipes wrapped with asbestos-containing insulation do not necessarily need to be removed. Instead of removing asbestos, this insulation can be encapsulated with a special sealant to prevent the release of fibers, but this must also be performed by a certified professional.

Not so long ago many home construction materials contained asbestos, a carcinogenic material known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. Today, as these homes age and homeowners go to remodel, it’s not uncommon for them to run into asbestos-containing products. In some instances asbestos removal by a certified remediation contractor is the choice that needs to be made.