Asbestos Insulation

You may not be aware of the wide variety of construction and interior design products that asbestos was added to before it was banned. Until the 1980s when the dangers of asbestos fibres were discovered, it was viewing as a miracle construction product due to its excellent strength, and other properties like heat-resistance.

One product that benefited greatly from asbestos and can still be found in many attics in US properties is insulation. Asbestos insulation was widely used because of the aforementioned properties. It bolstered the other materials, improved their durability, but also made the insulation more effective. If you have a house that was built before 1990, there is a chance that it could have asbestos insulation.

In this guide, we discuss what it is, what asbestos insulation looks like, when it went out of circulation, and how to deal with it if it could cause health hazards.

What is Asbestos Insulation?

Insulation is material that is stuffed in the lining of roofs and wall cavities to prevent heat from escaping. It bolsters heating systems and is vital for keeping your property warm during those cold winter months.

Before the substance was banned, asbestos fibres were added to various types of insulation. As mentioned, it has natural fire-resistance and excellent strength and thus naturally complemented insulation.

You will most commonly find asbestos insulation in roofs – in your loft of ceiling. This is because it is typically stuffed either on the boarding in your attic or fixed to the ceiling rafters. This helps prevent heat escaping through your roof which is one of the weakest parts of a property.

What Does Asbestos Insulation Look Like?

Asbestos when added to most construction materials like floor tiles, siding, and glue is incredibly difficult to identify visually. This is because there were hundreds of manufacturers across the US – all of these made different variations of products. As a result, there isn’t a uniform type of asbestos insulation.

Furthermore, there was actually multiple types of asbestos insulation including:

Loose-fill asbestos insulation
Vermiculite insulation
Rock wool insulation
Asbestos block insulation
Cellulose insulation
Loose-fill fibreglass

As you can see, asbestos insulation won’t have a single style or identifying feature due to the fact that it was added to many products. Loose-fill asbestos insulation is typically one of three different colors – gray, brown, or silvery gold. Furthermore, one of the main ways to identify asbestos insulation is by the age of your home. If your property was built in 1990 or after, it will not have any asbestos products as we explain below.

Loose-fill asbestos insulation

One key feature of loose-fill asbestos insulation is that it is usually fluffy – almost like candy floss. This type of asbestos contains a very high percentage of the substance and is thus considered to be the most potentially dangerous as its so friable.

Vermiculite insulation

In contrast, vermiculite insulation was used widely and this also contains a high strain of asbestos. This is usually silvery or grey-brown and has a pebble-like texture and look. This is because the substances were mined.

Loose-fill fibreglass

This type of asbestos insulation is often shiny, with a white color, and has a fluffy texture. This is one of the more dangerous insulation products to handle, it should be left to the professionals and can health and breathing problems if the fibres are inhaled.

When Did They Stop Using Asbestos in Insulation?

Asbestos was outright banned in the USA in 1978. After this, manufacturers could no longer produce products containing it. However, they were allowed to sell their existing stocks.

This resulted in a delay before properties stopped containing asbestos completely. This is why we typically say that any property built after 1990 should not contain asbestos insulation. There was a period from 1978 to the mid-1980s where asbestos products were still used. Therefore, it is safer to ere on the side of caution and say 1990 as the cut-off point.

How to Deal With Asbestos Insulation?

If your property was built before 1990, there is a chance that it could contain asbestos insulation. Therefore, we advise checking so that you are aware of any heath hazards, and what you can do.

Use a home testing kit to confirm the presence of asbestos

The first step is to clarify if your insulation does contain asbestos. As mentioned, it is difficult to spot visually. Therefore, we advise using one of our asbestos testing kits. These kits included everything you need to safely extract an asbestos sample and then send it off to a laboratory for testing.

You get a proper filter mask, PPE overalls, and the packaging required to send the sample off. Once completed and sent off, you can get results back within 72-hours of receipt at the lab. This is the only sure-fire way to say with certainty if your insulation contains asbestos without hiring a potentially expensive professional.

Get your asbestos insulation removed

In most instances we would advise removal of the asbestos insulation. The health risks are too great with this relatively exposed type of asbestos-based product. Some items like asbestos tiles and siding can remain if they are undamaged as there is a low likelihood that the fibres will be released.

However, with asbestos insulation, it is typically hanging loosely, or laid on your loft boarding. Therefore, there is a much higher chance of it escaping and the fibres being disturbed. This could cause serious health hazards if it escapes to your top-floor rooms.

Under no circumstance should you try and remove the asbestos insulation manually. You simply won’t have the correct PPE and know-how. Instead, we recommend seeking professional assistance. There are companies that specialize in the removal of asbestos products and can do this in a safe manner without causing any potential dangers.

We hope you have found this guide on asbestos insulation useful. If you have a loft and your property was built before 1990, it is prudent to check for this product. By using our asbestos testing kits, you can quickly identify the presence of asbestos in your insulation. After that, depending on the results and what you want to do, you can either maintain it or have it professionally removed.