Home Inspection

Do Home Inspectors Check for Asbestos Materials

Key Takeaways:

  • Asbestos detection may not be covered in general home inspections due to the need for specialized training.
  • Most home inspectors recommend further inspection by a qualified professional if asbestos is suspected.
  • Asbestos materials must be confirmed by analysis from a certified laboratory, which requires professional sampling and additional fees.
  • Asbestos-certified home inspectors can collect material samples for lab testing for an additional fee.
  • Asbestos must be managed or removed safely by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor due to its associated health risks.

Home inspectors typically do not check for asbestos materials during a home inspection. Many home inspectors are not specifically trained to identify asbestos within a house and lack the proper certifications or licenses. 

However, they may be able to recognize potential asbestos-containing materials based on visual cues and suggest further evaluation.

Asbestos Inspection Considerations:

  • Specialized Inspection: Identifying asbestos requires a specialized inspection by certified professionals trained to handle asbestos testing.
  • Licensing Requirements: In some states, such as California, a person must be licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to disclose and identify asbestos.
  • Homes Built Before 1980s: If you are considering purchasing a home built before the 1980s, getting a home inspection specifically for asbestos is recommended, as it was commonly used in building materials before that time.
  • Visual Indicators: Some signs that may indicate the presence of asbestos include older heating systems, tile floors, popcorn ceilings, textured paint, older roofs with asphalt shingles, and older insulation. These features do not necessarily mean asbestos is present but warrant further investigation.

What to Do if Asbestos is Suspected:

  1. Request Asbestos Testing: If you are concerned about asbestos, you can request that the home inspector take a sample of the material in question and have it tested for asbestos, provided they hold the proper permits.
  2. Professional Evaluation: If asbestos is suspected, it is advisable to have a licensed asbestos contractor or inspector further evaluate the property.
  3. Disclosure Laws: Federal law does not require home sellers to disclose the presence of asbestos, but some states have laws that do require such disclosure.

Health Risks of Asbestos:

Asbestos can pose serious health risks when its fibers are released into the air, such as during demolition work or home remodeling. Asbestos exposure can lead to lung diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Related reading: What Do Home Inspectors Look For?

Understanding Asbestos in Homes

do home inspectors check for asbestos

Asbestos is a significant concern in residential settings because of its health hazards and historical prevalence in construction materials. You must know asbestos, its potential dangers, and how to identify it during home inspections.

Properties and Dangers

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral known for its durability and resistance to heat and corrosion.

While these properties make it a popular choice in building materials, airborne asbestos fibers can harm your health. Inhaling these fibers can lead to diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, a chronic lung disease.

Historical Use and Regulation

Historically, asbestos was widely used in residential homes for its insulating properties and cost efficiency. Common asbestos-containing materials include:

  • Steam Pipes, Boilers, and Furnace Ducts: Insulated with asbestos blanket or paper tape, potentially releasing fibers if improperly handled.
  • Resilient Floor Tiles: Including vinyl asbestos, asphalt, rubber, and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, plus adhesives for tile installation, with risk of fiber release upon sanding or scraping.
  • Cement Sheet, Millboard, and Paper: Used around furnaces and woodburning stoves, with asbestos fiber risk during repairs or if cut, torn, sanded, drilled, or sawed.
  • Door Gaskets: In furnaces, wood, and coal stoves, worn seals may emit asbestos fibers.
  • Soundproofing or Decorative Material: Sprayed on walls and ceilings, with fiber release risk if the material is loose, crumbly, water-damaged, or disturbed by sanding, drilling, or scraping.
  • Patching and Joint Compounds: These are found in walls and ceilings and textured paints, where sanding, scraping, or drilling can release fibers.
  • Asbestos Cement Roofing, Shingles, and Siding: Likely to release fibers if sawed, drilled, or cut.
  • Artificial Ashes and Embers: For gas fireplaces and other older products like fireproof gloves, stove-top pads, ironing board covers, and certain hairdryers.
  • Automobile Brake Pads, Linings, Clutch Facings, and Gaskets: Contain asbestos with the potential for fiber release.

Due to its health risks, the use of asbestos in building materials has been heavily regulated. In many countries, there are strict guidelines for managing and removing asbestos from buildings to ensure safety for occupants.


To protect public health and the environment, various laws and regulations have been implemented:

  • Asbestos Ban and Phaseout Rule: Initially, the aim was to ban most asbestos-containing products, though its scope was reduced following legal challenges.
  • Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP): Specifies work practices for asbestos during demolitions and renovations, including requirements for notification and asbestos waste handling.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations: Establish permissible exposure limits and safety practices for handling asbestos in the workplace.

These regulations are enforced by the EPA, OSHA, DHEC, and other federal agencies to minimize asbestos exposure and protect workers and public health.

Identifying Asbestos Materials

You may come across materials in your home that you suspect contain asbestos. Signs of asbestos materials might include:

  • A home’s age: Homes built before the 1980s may have more asbestos-containing materials.
  • Visible markers: Materials like insulation, tiles, or roofing may have labels indicating asbestos content.
  • Deterioration: Damaged or deteriorated materials may expose fibrous textures akin to asbestos fibers.

However, identifying asbestos materials based solely on sight is challenging, as it often looks like other materials. Professional testing is recommended to confirm the presence of asbestos in your home.

The Role of Home Inspectors

When purchasing a property, you expect home inspectors to evaluate the home’s condition comprehensively. They play a critical role, but you need to understand the extent and limitations of their work, especially regarding hazardous materials like asbestos.

Scope of a Standard Home Inspection

A standard home inspection visually assesses the property’s structure, systems, and components. Certifications may vary, but you should ensure your home inspector is trained to recognize common issues. The key areas they examine include:

  • Foundation and Basement
  • Roof and Attic
  • Heating and Cooling Systems
  • Electrical and Plumbing Systems
  • Doors, Windows, and Floors
  • Walls and Ceilings

However, while home inspections are thorough, they generally do not include specialized testing for materials like asbestos. For this purpose, dedicated asbestos professionals or asbestos testers may be required because they have the specific training and certifications to handle hazardous substances.

Limitations and Liabilities

Importantly, you should be aware of a home inspector’s liabilities. Home inspectors have limitations:

  • Non-invasive: Only visible and accessible areas are inspected.
  • Hazardous Materials: Inspection for asbestos typically falls outside the scope of a general home inspection.

Hiring a qualified asbestos professional is prudent if there is suspicion of asbestos in the property during a real estate transaction. This protects your liability as the home inspector may not be legally responsible for undisclosed or undiscovered asbestos.

Remember, a home inspector often recommends consulting a qualified asbestos tester for specialized tasks like identifying and handling asbestos. This ensures you have accurate information to make informed decisions about the property and its safety.

Conducting Asbestos Inspections

Before beginning a renovation or purchase, you should understand the importance of determining whether asbestos is present in a property.

Specialized asbestos inspections are vital in older homes, especially those built pre-1980, due to the everyday use of asbestos-containing materials in construction before regulations came into place.

When to Consider an Asbestos Inspection

You should consider an asbestos inspection if you plan on purchasing, renovating, or demolishing a home built before 1980. Asbestos was commonly used in building materials for insulation and fireproofing, which now pose health risks if disturbed.

It is critical not to overlook this aspect of your home inspection to ensure safety and compliance with local regulations.

  • Older Homes: Homes built before 1980 are more likely to contain asbestos materials.
  • Renovations: Disturbing materials during renovations can release asbestos fibers into the air.
  • Purchase or Sale: Comprehensive inspections can identify potential asbestos-containing materials before a real estate transaction.

Asbestos Inspection Process

The process involves a thorough visual inspection and careful sampling of suspect materials. Certified asbestos inspectors, equipped with the necessary training and expertise, collect samples without causing unnecessary exposure or damage to your home.

  1. Visual Examination: Inspectors assess areas where asbestos is likely to be found.
  2. Sample Collection: Small material samples are taken from various areas under strict protocols to prevent contamination.
  3. Asbestos Testing: The collected samples are sent to a lab for testing to confirm the presence of asbestos.

Note: Accredited laboratories should conduct testing to ensure accurate results.

Selecting a Qualified Asbestos Inspector

Choosing the right inspector is crucial for a reliable assessment. Look for inspectors with proven expertise, proper certifications, and a good track record.

  • Certification: Ensure your inspector has certification from relevant health and safety authorities.
  • Experience: Extensive experience, particularly with older homes, indicates an inspector’s capability to detect asbestos properly.
  • Reputation: Seek out testimonials or references from past clients to gauge the inspector’s reliability and quality of work.

By following the guidance of trained professionals, you can mitigate the risks associated with asbestos in your home.

Asbestos Testing and Sample Analysis

A home inspector collects samples for asbestos testing and analysis

When dealing with the potential presence of asbestos in your home, understanding the testing process is critical. Asbestos testing involves specific sampling methods followed by detailed lab analysis to confirm whether asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are present.

Sampling Methods

A meticulous sampling process is conducted to identify asbestos in your home. This typically involves:

  • Take a bulk sample of the suspected material, where a small piece is carefully removed to minimize the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Performing an area or air sampling, where air particles are collected on a filter to check for airborne asbestos fibers, is especially useful after an asbestos abatement project to ensure the air is free from asbestos particles.

Lab Analysis

Once the samples are collected, a laboratory equipped to handle asbestos testing conducts an analysis using:

  • Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) are both methods that can accurately identify asbestos particles within the sample.
  • Adherence to strict regulations that govern how testing should be conducted ensures that asbestos detection in your sample is handled with precision and care.

Health Risks and Exposure

When considering asbestos in your home, understanding the health implications associated with exposure is crucial. The Mayo Clinic outlines how asbestos exposure can lead to serious health risks, primarily affecting your lung tissue with diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Asbestos Exposure Health Risks

Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause several serious health hazards. When inhaled, these fibers can become trapped in your lung tissue, leading to inflammation and scarring.

Over time, this can result in chronic lung diseases, including asbestosis, characterized by lung tissue scarring and severe shortness of breath.

Prolonged exposure dramatically increases your risk of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, chest wall, or abdomen.

  • Lung Cancer: Most often associated with smoking, lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos exposure, significantly if you have a history of smoking.
  • Mesothelioma: This cancer is almost exclusively linked to asbestos exposure, and it can take 20 to 50 years to develop after initial exposure.
  • Asbestosis: Unlike lung cancer and mesothelioma, asbestosis is not a form of cancer, but it’s a serious, chronic, non-cancerous respiratory disease.
  • Other Cancers: Evidence suggests asbestos exposure may also cause cancers of the larynx, ovary, pharynx, stomach, and colorectum.

Preventing Exposure

Preventing asbestos exposure is the most effective way to minimize your health risk. If you suspect materials in your home contain asbestos, significantly if they are damaged or deteriorating, it’s essential to handle them with care:

  • Identification: Have your home inspected by a professional who can determine whether asbestos is present. Specialists will take samples in a safe and controlled manner for analysis.
  • Containment or Removal: The expert will recommend containment or removal based on the findings. Containment usually involves sealing off the asbestos material to prevent fiber release, while removal is a more complex process requiring specialized equipment and procedures.

Dealing with Asbestos

When dealing with asbestos in your home, it’s crucial to consider removal methods, associated costs, and legal requirements to ensure safety and compliance.

Removal and Abatement Options

Removing or abatement is necessary to mitigate health risks if asbestos is found during a home inspection. Asbestos abatement involves either the removal or stabilization of asbestos materials.

Removal is often recommended when renovations or demolition activities could disturb the materials. Encapsulation, which consists of sealing off asbestos fibers with a protective coating, is another method if the material is in good condition.

Cost Considerations

Asbestos removal costs vary depending on its amount, location, and removal method.

Abatement costs could range from a couple of hundred to several thousand dollars. Additional repairs or replacement of construction materials could also result in extra charges.

While it may seem expensive, investing in proper asbestos removal can save you from future health-related costs and increase your property’s value.

Containment and Legal Requirements

Containment during asbestos removal ensures fibers don’t escape and contaminate other areas. This requires specific procedures outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and federal law, including the Clean Air Act.

Homeowners must comply with these regulations to ensure the work is done safely. Most states require notification of an asbestos removal project and may require inspections by an accredited inspector.

The asbestos ban does not mean existing asbestos has been remediated. It ceases new use in construction materials. Therefore, older homes may still contain asbestos, and it’s your responsibility to handle it appropriately during renovations or repairs.

Additional Considerations for Buyers and Homeowners

When you’re involved in a real estate transaction, understanding the implications of asbestos is critical. As a buyer or homeowner, it’s essential to consider the presence of asbestos, how it’s disclosed, insurance implications, and potential liability.

Asbestos in Home Purchase and Sale

When purchasing a property, the obligation to check for asbestos may not typically fall on the home inspector unless specified.

Many standard home inspections do not include an asbestos inspection, which is an important distinction to make during the purchase process. Regulations can vary, but generally, it’s the seller’s responsibility to disclose the presence of asbestos.

However, this doesn’t always happen, as indicated in inspection guidance on Asbestos Health Hazards, and the principle of “buyer beware” often applies.

You may need to explicitly request an asbestos inspection, which will add to the overall home inspection cost but can be crucial for long-term safety and financial considerations.

  • What to ask for:
    • Request a specific asbestos inspection.
    • Verify the seller’s disclosure regarding asbestos.
    • Additional testing should be conducted if asbestos presence is suspected.

Insurance and Asbestos Disclosure

Asbestos can significantly affect the insurance aspects of a home for both buyers and homeowners. If not adequately disclosed and managed, it can lead to increased insurance premiums or denial of coverage.

A lack of disclosure can also result in legal liability for sellers and real estate agents involved. In some cases, as noted in the literature about broker’s responsibilities, real estate licensees could potentially face expanded liability for failing to disclose asbestos risks.

As a buyer, ensure that all asbestos findings or suspicions are adequately documented during the sale process.

  • Insurance considerations:
    • Confirm insurance coverage regarding asbestos.
    • Document all findings for potential future claims.
    • Be aware of potential liability issues for nondisclosure.

Understanding these considerations can drastically impact your decisions during a real estate transaction. Make sure to take proactive steps to address asbestos concerns effectively.

Renovating Homes with Asbestos

When you plan to renovate an older home, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential asbestos-containing materials. Ensuring safety and compliance with local regulations is paramount.

Checking for Asbestos Pre-Renovation

Verifying whether asbestos is present before diving into any renovation work is imperative. Homes built or renovated between 1950 and 1980 are particularly at risk of containing asbestos materials.

Inspecting your home by a licensed asbestos professional who can take samples of suspected areas would be best. The inspection process will determine the presence of asbestos and its potential risk.

  • Common materials to be tested include:
    • Insulation
    • Tile flooring
    • Roofing and siding
    • Textured paint and patching compounds
    • Wallboard

Cleanup Methods

Effective cleanup and disposal methods are crucial for minimizing asbestos fiber release into the environment:

  • Wet Wipe Method: Involves cleaning dust and debris with damp rags or disposable wipes to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne.
  • HEPA Vacuuming: Uses high-efficiency particulate air filters to remove small particles or fibers, including asbestos, from surfaces.
  • Proper Disposal: Asbestos waste must be carefully collected and disposed of by regulatory guidelines to prevent environmental contamination.

Special procedures, such as using personal protective equipment and containment measures, are also recommended during cleanup to protect workers from exposure.

Renovation Safety Protocols

If asbestos is found, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Disturbing asbestos-containing materials can release hazardous fibers into the air. Instead, you must follow strict safety protocols and engage certified asbestos removal contractors. These professionals will employ measures such as:

  • Sealing off the work area
  • Using specialized equipment
  • Wearing proper respiratory protection

Strict guidelines must be followed for the disposal of asbestos waste to prevent contamination. Understanding and adhering to these safety precautions ensures that your renovation activities do not pose a health risk to you or the surrounding community.

Asbestos Inspections and Testing Cost

Asbestos inspections and testing costs vary widely depending on several factors, including the size of the area being tested, the type of tests conducted, and the property’s location. Here are some general cost ranges and considerations:

Asbestos Testing Cost Factors

  • Visual Inspection: A visual inspection is typically included in the asbestos testing cost.
  • Sample Collection: Collecting samples can be quick if a direct sample is accessible but may require more time and cost if air samples are needed.
  • Laboratory Analysis: Samples are sent to a lab for analysis to confirm the presence of asbestos.
  • Report on Findings: A detailed report is provided after the analysis.

Cost Estimates

  • General Range: Asbestos testing costs range from $200 to $800.
  • Average Cost: The average cost for an asbestos test in the U.S. is about $482, typically between $230 and $780.
  • Air Testing: Testing the air for asbestos can cost around $500 on average but may range from $200 to $800.
  • Dust Sample Testing: This testing usually costs between $120 and $180.
  • Physical Sample Testing: The most common type of asbestos testing involves collecting physical samples, costing between $250 and $750.

Additional Considerations

  • Home Size: Larger homes may require more extensive testing, which can increase the cost.
  • Location: Costs can vary by city and may be higher if the property is far from the inspector or in a rural area.
  • Asbestos Removal: If asbestos is found, removal costs can range from $1,200 to $3,000 or more, depending on the complexity and location of the asbestos material.

Frequently Asked Questions

What parts of the property are assessed during an asbestos inspection?

During an asbestos inspection, trained professionals evaluate areas where asbestos is commonly used, such as insulation, floor tiles, roofing, and popcorn ceilings. Materials suspected of containing asbestos will be identified and may be sampled for lab analysis.

Is asbestos testing included in a standard home inspection?

A standard home inspection does not typically include asbestos testing. Asbestos-specific inspections are specialized procedures conducted by certified inspectors with the expertise to handle potentially hazardous materials.

What should I do if asbestos is found during a home inspection?

Suppose asbestos is found during a home inspection. In that case, you should consult with an asbestos abatement professional to discuss the options for management or removal, depending on the condition and location of the asbestos-containing materials.

How can homeowners check for asbestos in older homes?

Homeowners can look for tell-tale signs of asbestos in older homes, such as dated insulation materials or textured coatings. However, the only definitive way to check for asbestos is through a professional assessment and laboratory testing of samples.

Are sellers legally required to test for asbestos before selling a property?

Disclosing the presence of asbestos is required in most states if known. However, sellers are generally not legally obligated to test for asbestos before selling a property, though regulations can vary by location.

What are the recommended steps for managing asbestos identified in a home inspection?

The recommended steps for managing asbestos include leaving undisturbed asbestos-containing materials in good condition alone or hiring asbestos removalists for proper abatement. It is crucial to avoid disturbing the materials and to follow legal and safety requirements for handling asbestos.


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.