In Alberta homes of a certain age, the likelihood of finding asbestos material used in their construction is quite high. But what exactly is asbestos and why do you need to be careful when carrying out even small renovations?
We’ve put together all the information you need to understand the dangers of asbestos, how to know if it’s in your home, and how to properly deal with it if you live in Alberta.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral compound that was used for decades in construction as an insulator that has since been proven to cause severe illness, such as Mesothelioma cancer.
You cannot tell if a product contains asbestos just by looking at it. The only way to tell if asbestos is present in your home is through laboratory testing.
Any building that was built in the mid-80s or older needs to be tested before doing any type of renovation, demolition, or flood reparation.
Asbestos use has been severely restricted over the last few decades due to the direct link between the inhalation of asbestos fibers and mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, but you might be surprised to know it wasn’t until 2018 that Canada introduced an almost total ban on its use.
Where is asbestos found in the home?
Albertans would be surprised just how common asbestos is in their older homes. Older properties may have had asbestos used in their construction, which can be dangerous if it is disturbed or degrading. Asbestos can be found in older homes in many places, but most commonly is in drywall, flooring and ceiling textures.
The most common areas to find asbestos include:
- Ceiling tiles
- Roof tiles and felt
- Plaster (the type used in soundproofing)
- Vinyl tiles
- Insulation and lagging around pipes and water heaters
Asbestos was also sometimes mixed with treatments used in construction and renovation including:
Some Alberta homeowners may not realize the dangers of asbestos or know that it is present in their home. But beware that it can be present and may be disturbed during routine DIY tasks such as drilling, hammering, or when another repair is being carried out.
How do you know if your home has asbestos?
Unless you know exactly how your property has been built and renovated over the years, there’s no sure way for you to know if it is present in your property. If your home was constructed before the 1980s, then there is a good chance that asbestos-containing materials and insulation were used.
You should always be extremely careful when carrying out any small DIY projects. To be safe, you should have any materials tested in a professional lab to confirm the presence of asbestos.
Before starting any renovation project, you should assess the area and call a professional company to do proper testing. It is not worth the risk to skip this important step.
The identification and safe removal of asbestos in the home needs to be carried out by professionals. At Lambert Brothers, we work with the very best asbestos abatement and removals experts for our older home renovation projects.
The health risks of asbestos
Asbestos fibers pose a great risk to health. Over time, materials containing it can degrade, or become damaged, which releases tiny fibers into the air around them. They are then unknowingly inhaled, leading to potentially deadly diseases.
Before the dangers of asbestos were known, there were high numbers of people dying from lung disease from working with or around materials containing asbestos. In fact, asbestos exposure remains the number one cause of occupational death in Canada.
The use of asbestos is highly regulated in Canada and in many other countries around the world. The production of new materials containing asbestos is banned and the maintenance and removal can only legally be carried out by licensed companies.
Safety precautions in the home
If you think asbestos may be in your home, usually the best thing you can do is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs.
But, when dealing with an accident, flood or planned renovation, you need to be sure you avoid the area entirely and have it removed by a licensed professional.
Laws around the use of asbestos in Alberta
Asbestos regulation is a federal responsibility, and like many other countries, Canada has very strict rules around the use, identification, and disposal of it. During the 1990s, asbestos use was scaled back considerably following research on its effects on health and until the outright ban was put in place, with some exemptions, in 2018.
Working with the right renovation specialist
When selecting a company to handle your renovations, you need confidence that you are working with a contractor that understands the ins and outs of renovation standards and safety.
At Lambert Brothers, we take the time to carefully survey the area we will be working in and the surrounding areas. If we suspect that there is asbestos present, then we will work with experienced abatement professionals who safely test and remove any asbestos before we begin our work. Our priority is to keep you and your family safe by working to the very highest standards.
We have a wealth of renovation experience in the Edmonton, Sherwood Park and Strathcona County areas. Take a look at some of our previous work and get in touch with us today for a free consultation and quote for your upcoming renovation.