So with the crazy hot real estate market right now, and the dwindling inventory levels out there, it’s no surprise that people are gravitating toward older homes now as possible starter homes.
Older homes usually come with a lot of charm and interesting architectural features.
But, they also occasionally come with baggage in the form of hazardous materials and old electrical systems.
I’ve been inspecting a lot of old homes lately, and have been coming across those curious 9×9 tiles – often times hidden under new flooring.
To the general public, 9×9 tiles don’t often trigger any questions or concerns. But to a builder or an experienced home inspector, it typically stops us in our tracks.
6×6, 9×9, 12×12, and even 18×18 tiles are known to sometimes contain asbestos fibers.
In fact, if your home was constructed between 1920 and 1960, it’s fair bet that the tiles do indeed contain asbestos fibers.
So what is asbestos? Well, believe it or not it is not a man-made material as most people in my experience are convinced.
Asbestos actually occurs in nature. It’s a silicate / fibrous material that is actually mined out of the ground.
The reason asbestos has been used in construction over the years is because the material is heat-resistant. It was widely used in this past century as a fire-proofing material.
On the downside, asbestos fibers are known to be a serious health hazard. If the fibers get into the human lungs, they fester and can potentially cause cancer or other asbestos-related ailments. Our bodies can not reject the material.
For this reason, asbestos was eventually prohibited from use in modern construction. It was outlawed in the 1970s, but was used right up until the early 1980s (when the material was allowed to be sold off from hardware stores).
Asbestos is considered dangerous when the material in question is “friable,” which means the fibers can be released into the air if the material deteriorates or crumbles and then becomes airborne.
So how can the average person tell if you have asbestos tiles in your home? Well, if you can view a cross section of the tiles, you might be able to see if there are any asbestos fibers protruding out of the material.
Or, to be sure, you can bring a sample to a local testing lab (I usually recommend using Optimum Analytical and Consulting in Salem, NH). You can bag up the sample and bring it to their lab, and they will analyze it and give you the breakdown of what the material contains.
Okay, so what if you do have asbestos tiles located in your home?
So there are two ways you can deal with it. The easiest was is to simply encapsulate the tile material – typically under a new floor. This is the solution we see most often as home inspectors.
Most of the time I wouldn’t even know the tiles are present in the home until I open up a closet door and see the old tiles on the floor of the closet.
And even then, our home inspection license forbids us from positively identifying the material as containing asbestos. We have to defer to having the material tested to make an accurate determination.
Encapsulating the material is considered a safe option in most states and local municipalities. If you do chose to have the material removed, it should be done by a qualified contractor that will strictly adhere to the parameters of removing the material safely from the home.
But check the local regulations before you move forward with the removal. Be aware that the proper disposal of the material is strictly regulated as well.
In closing, get educated about your new home by an experienced home inspector!
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939