Need to Sell a House with Asbestos? Is It Legal to Sell a House With Asbestos?
Asbestos. It’s a scary-sounding word, isn’t it?
It’s remarkable to think that substance - that is so demonised today - was refined and installed in homes with the absolute best intentions.
Let’s back up a little bit to understand a little of the history and makeup of asbestos, since the background is at least a little important to comprehending how it may affect the sale of your home.
What is Asbestos?
Many people have heard the term, but few people can really define what it actually is. Asbestos is simply a set of natural silicate minerals that has been mined and exported from locations around the world for centuries.
Builders started integrating asbestos into their construction, attracted by its resistance to fire and heat, its strength, and its relative cheap nature. Asbestos was installed or applied to nearly everything in the home, from concrete, bricks and fireplaces to ceiling insulation, drywall, and roofing.
However, it wasn’t soon after that doctors around the world started noticing asbestos’ negative health impacts, particularly in towns marked by heavy asbestos production or installation (the United States shipbuilding town of Hampton Roads, Virginia, for example).
As it turned out, the fibres from asbestos dust were extremely damaging to the human lungs - causing lung cancers, specifically mesothelioma, asbestosis (the scarring of the lungs) and other medical diseases.
As a result, over the years, asbestos has been phased out of construction of homes and other buildings. However, there is a good chance that asbestos is still present in older homes - which, in addition to causing a health risk, can have a significant negative effect on the prospects for selling your house.
Signs of asbestos in the home
The only surefire way to determine if your home has asbestos is to get professionals involved.
That means to contact a reliable consulting firm, specialist or building inspector who will come in, take very small samples, and test them in a laboratory for the presence of asbestos. This is not something you can just look and spot with your own eye.
Depending on how extensive the search is - and where the inspectors or services need to look, it can be pretty costly.
The most likely places they’ll look for asbestos include:
Roof shingles and flashing
Joint compound of sheetrock
There are a few things you can spot when it comes to searching for areas in the house that may have possibly contained asbestos.
Look for floor tiles that are in 9x9 patterns - that classic style was commonly made with the element - or uninsulated pipes with white or grey installation.
Asbestos in the walls, ceilings and Artex
There are very common places you may find asbestos in the home. Familiarise yourself with these locales on how to recognize asbestos:
In the walls - For many years, asbestos was used in constructing walls of homes - in plaster, for example, in insulation and in many other materials
In the ceilings - For some styles of ceilings popular throughout the 20th century - those types of ceilings called “stucco” or “popcorn” ceilings - asbestos was a must-add to the construction formula.
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Years asbestos was used in the home
A good rule of thumb is that if a house was built before the past two decades, there’s a good risk of asbestos being present.
Generally, the older the house is, the more likely it will be that asbestos is in the household. However, that is absolutely not a hard-and-fast rule. There’s always the option that a house built in the 1990s contains at least some asbestos somewhere. Be prepared to check the house thoroughly, no matter what the age.
When asbestos becomes dangerous in the home
Asbestos-covered materials, on their own, undamaged and undisturbed, do not need to be touched - they are usually in good condition.
In fact, if there is asbestos in the home that isn’t in danger of being rattled, damaged or disturbed, you can leave them alone. The only time that asbestos becomes a hazard is when the asbestos fibres contained within are damaged and enter the air, and then travel into your lungs.
That type of asbestos is generally contained in material referred to “friable” - easily damaged or disrupted.
When asbestos goes into that state, the fibres in the material are released where they can do their most damage. Unfortunately, since asbestos is oftentimes installed in places that are susceptible to encountering this state, there’s a good chance that this material will escape into the air.
Here are some common situations where asbestos can turn harmful:
When asbestos around heat sources (boilers, furnaces, flue pipes, chimneys) deteriorates due to the temperature
Water pipes containing asbestos may start to break down over time
Drilling or patching into walls or ceilings with asbestos could release the fibres
Continued deterioration of insulation containing asbestos
If any of those situations occur - or if asbestos anywhere else in the house starts to break down - there’s a good chance that these harmful asbestos elements could be released into the air.
How to safely remove asbestos
The way to safely remove asbestos is to engage the professionals.
If you think you need to replace materials with asbestos in the house, it’s best to engage a licensed contractor or specialist first. These people will be able to recommend the best course of action - whether it is better to leave the material alone, repair it by sealing the potential problem, or (in the most extreme occasion) removing it themselves.
Again, don’t attempt removal of suspected asbestos on your own. Engage a licensed local contractor, or talk to your local environmental health contractor for the best advice in the process.
Disclosure of asbestos to buyers
It’s absolutely essential that you get your house properly asbestos surveyed from a health and safety executive to discover all the potential sources of asbestos in the home. Once that’s done, either get the problem fixed (if necessary) or be sure to inform the buyer of its presence.
If you don’t disclose that there is asbestos within the household, you could be held liable for the omission and the cost to repair the problem. However, if you’re looking at selling a house as is, we will buy your house in as is condition without you having to spend any money on an inspector. We will buy your house even with asbestos.
Is it legal to sell a house with asbestos?
As just stated, the presence of asbestos brings up some naturally-scary thoughts when it comes to the selling process - nobody likes the word.
So don’t panic!
Evaluate what you have to do, keep the buyer in the loop, and you’ll be fine when it comes time to sell.