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Two out of three Cowichan homes were built before 1990 when asbestos was often used in house construction. Asbestos is everywhere in these older homes: in the insulation, walls, ceilings, surface coatings, floorings, ducting, plumbing, wiring, light fixtures and more. Asbestos is commonly mixed with other materials, making it difficult to recognize. All pre-1990 building materials should therefore be considered suspect. Asbestos is commonly found in: loose insulation (e.g. vermiculite), roof gutters (asbestos cement), stucco, soffit boards, light fixtures, acoustic tiles, textured or coated walls and ceilings, siding and under sheeting, pipe insulation, insulation on electrical wires, furnace duct tape, boiler and furnace insulation, vinyl or linoleum flooring, drywall fillers and joint compound, roofing felt, shingles and tiles, etc. Check out this WorkSafe BC poster to see where asbestos could live in your home.
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As long as the asbestos-containing materials remain in good condition and are not disturbed, there is very little risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibre. The risk of exposure arises when the asbestos-containing materials are disturbed (e.g. during renovation) and the fibres become airborne. Airborne asbestos fibres are a risk to you, your kids, your building contractor, the trucker who hauls away your construction waste and the worker at the waste facility who handles it.
If you are buying a house, have a hazardous material assessment done by a qualified person in addition to your building inspection as a condition of your purchase. This hazardous materials assessment will help you determine the true cost of buying the house, especially if you are planning to renovate and will have to manage asbestos material and other hazardous materials.
The cost of this service is a small price to pay when buying or renovating a house to protect everyone you care about and many you have never met.
The cost of a hazardous materials assessment will vary (~ between $500 and $3,500) depending on the size of your house, if you are testing the entire house and how many samples are needed. Depending on the size of your renovation project, you can decide to have:
1. A full hazardous material assessment of your house or,
2. A hazardous material assessment with limited scope (i.e. an assessment of the materials that will be disturbed during your renovation project).
For example, if you are renovating the bathroom, you may only need to test the materials in your bathroom. The hazardous waste assessments will provide you with written documentation of the results. A full hazardous material assessment will come in handy for future renovation projects, or for when you plan to sell your house.
WorkSafeBC’s brochure for homeowners will provide you with information on where to look for a reputable contractor and questions that you should ask every contractor that you consider hiring. (As an example, a reputable company will have a Hazardous Waste Generator number and a Waste Manifest number). Environmental companies that deal with hazardous waste material may also be able to provide a listing of reputable contractors. Remember to ensure that you find current information as a company that was considered reputable a few years ago may no longer be so.
Do not hire a regular carpenter or renovation company to deal with asbestos material as you not only put your life in danger, you also put their lives in danger.
Asbestos-containing material that is properly prepared for disposal (i.e. double-bagged in 6 mil polyethylene bags, properly tied, and labelled) can be taken to the following facilities:
DUNCAN: Coast Environmental Ltd.* 5271 Boal Road, Duncan 250-748-4611 or 250-715-0954 *Note: Coast Environmental Ltd. Chemainus location does not accept asbestos waste.
NANAIMO: Regional District of Nanaimo Landfill* 1105 Cedar Road, Nanaimo 250-722-2044*Note: Asbestos waste is accepted by appointment only.
VICTORIA: Hartland Landfill* #1 Hartland Avenue, Victoria 250-360-3030 *Note: Asbestos waste is accepted by appointment only.
Asbestos Sampling The methods used to collect samples are just as important as the methods used to analyze the samples. To ensure that you do not get false-negative results it is vital that the samples are collected properly by a company that is qualified to do so. Asbestos Removal Have all identified (or suspected) asbestos-containing materials removed by a qualified asbestos removal professional. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE THESE MATERIALS YOURSELF. The cost of material removal will vary depending on the type of material, the volume of material, the accessibility of material, etc. For example, the removal cost for vermiculite insulation may cost around $10/square foot, stucco ~$8-$10/square foot, plaster flooring ~$8/square foot, drywall ~$5/square foot, and tile flooring~ $4/square foot. How Long Does it Take to Have Asbestos Removed? The time it takes to remove asbestos depends on the type of material, the volume of material, the accessibility of the material, the type of equipment the contractors have access to, etc. Typically, removal of one type of material will take three to five days as the contractor must seal the area off and carry out a number of other preparations both before and after the actual removal of asbestos to keep you and their staff safe. How is Asbestos Disposed of? Asbestos removal professionals have appropriate training and safety equipment that enables them to handle asbestos while avoiding exposure. Asbestos-containing material must be double-bagged in 6-mil polyethylene asbestos bags and properly labelled before they can be taken to an asbestos disposal facility. Be Aware, Unfortunately, there are contractors that will accept jobs that they are not qualified to do, putting their staff and you at significant risk. Qualified contractors will remove and properly dispose of asbestos from your home. Be aware that it is not acceptable or legal for a contractor to leave asbestos at your home for you to deal with.