Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is resistant to heat and flame. For this reason, it was once common in home building materials. Unfortunately, however, inhaling asbestos fibers can cause life-threatening lung diseases.
Once the government realized the health hazards that asbestos poses, it placed restrictions on its use in building materials, starting around 1980. However, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, older homes may still have siding, roofing or insulation that contains asbestos. Homeowners who suspect, or have confirmed, the existence of asbestos in their homes have several different options for dealing with it.
1. Leave it alone
As long as the asbestos is intact and stable, there is no need to do anything further with it. As long as it is not releasing fibers, it poses no health threat. If the homeowner intends to perform any home updates or renovations, it may be necessary to have the asbestos removed. Otherwise, it is actually safer to leave it undisturbed because removing it could result in unintended exposure.
On the other hand, if the homeowner is planning to have any updates or renovations performed on a house that could contain asbestos, it is better to have the asbestos removed first. Otherwise, the construction could disturb and destabilize the asbestos, putting homeowners at risk of exposure. For example, trying to install new vinyl siding over asbestos siding requires nailing into the asbestos, which can release fibers.
According to This Old House, it may be possible to repair the material containing asbestos to mitigate the threat of exposure without removing it altogether. Examples of asbestos repair include covering the material with a protective wrap or treating it with a sealant to prevent the release of fibers.
Repair has the advantage of being less expensive than removing the asbestos altogether. However, if the need to remove the asbestos eventually arises, a prior repair makes the removal more difficult.