Asbestos is an extremely dangerous material that shouldn’t be handled without the proper knowledge and safety precautions. Because of this, asbestos testing is often a requirement prior to renovation projects. By reading this guide you will learn the basics.

Asbestos tags

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once used in building materials. This is because it’s fire-resistant and easy to work with.

But it’s also toxic, and exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma and other life-threatening diseases. If you live in an older home built before the 1980s, there’s a good chance that asbestos has been used as insulation or other parts of the structure.

asbestos pieces

Signs to look for

If you’re concerned about whether your home has asbestos, first, look for signs like crumbling walls or pipes, peeling paint on floors or ceilings, or cracks in plaster walls. If you see any of these things, call a licensed professional. They will be able to perform an inspection and determine whether any samples need to be taken for testing.

asbestos in the wall

How to perform asbestos testing

If you want to be sure that your home is safe from asbestos, there are a number of things you can do to test for it. 

1. Test for asbestos in the walls. You’ll need to take some samples of the drywall in your house and send them to a laboratory for testing.

2. Test for asbestos in the water pipes. Mix some water with some powdered milk and add it to a container of water from your tap or bathroom sink faucet. If it turns blue, then you probably have asbestos-containing pipes in your home.

3. Test for asbestos in the air vents and ducts by taking an air sample with a filter that removes particles smaller than 10 microns (µm). Send this filter off to a laboratory and they will analyze it for asbestos fibers using X-ray diffraction analysis or SEM/TEM microscopy techniques like those used by NASA’s Apollo astronauts when they were on the moon searching for signs of extraterrestrial life on its surface.

Bottom Line on Asbestos

At this point, it’s safe to assume that most asbestos detection is performed by professional asbestos testing companies. However, if you need to perform an asbestos inspection yourself, you don’t have to hire an expert.

By following the steps outlined above, you should be able to complete a simple asbestos test without any trouble at all.

Author bio-

Building off over 3 decades of experience from working with his father Jim Mayfield (Mayfield Enterprises, Inc.), James mastered the industry in Foremanship for over 15 years on HAZMAT and Superfund Sites throughout Southern California. Among many other partners, we has worked with Project Navigator, RE Solutions, Crew Grading Inc., WSP, SCS Engineers, TRC Corporation, GeoSyntec, NV5 Environmental, Entact Corp, Waste by Rail, Michael Baker, ERRG, O&M Corp, Largo Concrete, B&D Construction, Xebec, WorkSmart, JLL Enterprises, Mayfield Enterprises, Inc., Arcadis, and more. In addition to being a Stanford-educated Professor with over 30 publications and books in several languages (see Academic Resume), James’ real passion lies in Construction-related Project Management, Environmental Cleanups, HAZMAT, Excavation, and Field Labor. We are also Minority-Owned. James Mayfield is a Native American citizen of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska.

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