Home Remodeling

Home remodeling is something that needs to be done every so often if you plan to live in a house for a long time or if you move into an old house. Bathrooms and kitchens don’t last forever and changes in family size may mean you have to make changes to your home to match your family’s needs. This is a task that has to be thought about and done properly or else it could turn out wrong. It is also important, if your home is an older one, that you consider whether there may be any asbestos present and if so, that you take the correct steps to minimize risk to the occupants and anyone else.

Plan

You may know the saying, “to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail” and nowhere is this more true than in home remodeling. You need to know how to plan properly, whether you are going to do the work yourself or bring someone in to do some or all of it. If you do not plan, then you may end up with a project on your hands that you cannot finish. It can cost a lot more money if you make a mistake to fix that mistake by hiring someone than if you were to just have someone work on this that was an expert in the first place. Think about what you are going to do to get to the end result that you are looking for, and make sure you write down every step that you need to take before you take it.

Hiring

Make sure that if you do hire someone, that they have three years experience or more if possible. You do not want to just hire someone random that does general contracting and just got started in the field. You need to make sure that you do some research on everyone that you are going to hire to see if they have done past work that people were happy with. You can generally find out more about a contractor or a company if you look their name up online and try to find reviews about them. Sometimes a friend will have used someone they were happy with but make sure that it was for the same kind of work.

Contract

Whether you use a legal contract or not, when you agree work with someone for a price, you are setting up a contract with them, so you need to put together something that makes sense to both of you and that is enforceable. You do not want to go into this without a contract because then if they don’t do the work properly you have no legal recourse. You are going to want to make note of the dates when the work will be done, and when it should start. You also need to make sure you make note of everything that you are going to have done. Otherwise, you may as well hire an attorney right now because something could go wrong if there isn’t anything in writing and you wouldn’t have any recourse. Any contractor worth having is going to provide you with a quote or estimate, with details of all the work to be done that has been agreed between you. There may also be unexpected work that cannot be quoted for before the job starts (maybe somethiing hidden) but make sure that a limit is put on any extra that can be charged, to avoid nasty surprises when the final bill arrives.

Store Your Valuables

Make sure that when someone is remodeling your home, that you put away your valuables. You do not want your house to be set up the way it is right now if you want someone to come in and help you remodel. For instance, a vase that is very expensive and sitting on a table around the work site could get knocked off the table and broken. You are better off putting everything in a room and locking it up if possible so that you don’t have to worry about it going missing or other problems with it.

Get The Tools

If you are going to do the remodeling yourself, you will need the correct tools and protective equipment, whether that is breathing masks, gloves, hard helmets or eye protection. You may be able to hire the tools you need and if so, the supplier should be able to advise you on safety and protective equipment.

Can You Do It?

Home remodeling is something that you have to take seriously. There are a lot of factors at play here and you need to make sure that you get help if you’re not comfortable with dealing with all of this alone. Anyone can remodel a home whether they have to hire someone or do it themselves and sometimes, the planning is almost the best part, except for actually moving into your remodeled home.

Asbestos Definition

Asbestos Definition

Loose asbestos fibers

Billbeee at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

What the term “asbestos” refers to is a set of six fibrous minerals that are naturally occurring, those are crocidolite, anthophyllite, actinolite, chrysotile, amosite, and tremolite. Among these, the most common are chrysotile and amosite asbestos.

Any material that contains more than one percent of asbestos is defined as Asbestos Containing Material (ACM). This can include insulation on pipework and boilers, fireproofing that has been sprayed or troweled on, sound proofing material such as acoustic plaster, floor, ceiling and wall tiles and linoleum, roofing materials, ceiling plaster, fuse box insulation and gasket materials.

Although in nature asbestos fibers are microscopic, they are resistant to fire and most chemical breakdown and reactions and they are extremely durable. These properties that asbestos offers are the reasons which for many years its use was supported in a number of different industrial and commercial capacities.

The resistance to heat of asbestos combined with its strength allowed it to become the choice material for various products, including cement compounds, automotive parts, roofing shingles, ceiling materials, and textile products. As exposure to this toxic material has now been scientifically and directly linked to a variety of respiratory and lung conditions such as mesothelioma, its use and removal is now strictly regulated.

Why Is Asbestos Hazardous?

There was a sharp decline in the use of asbestos in the late 1970s when it started to become evident that it was posing a threat to the health and safety of humans. Nowadays, asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen. The durability factor of asbestos which made it so desirable to manufacturers is in fact what makes it so extremely hazardous.

Asbestos fibers are roughly around .02 the diameter of a human hair, they are microscopic and as such they are inhaled easily. Once the fibers have been inhaled, they cling to the respiratory system; this includes the inner cavity tissue and the lining of the lungs. Being as typically, asbestos fibers are quite rigid; they become lodged in the respiratory system and are not easily broken down by the body or expelled.

In some capacity, due to the extensive use of the mineral in industrial, commercial and even domestic products, hundreds and thousands of people were exposed to it. There is not a single type of asbestos that is safe nor is there a safe level of exposure. Nearly everyone who has ever been exposed to asbestos is potentially at risk of respiratory health complications that are quite serious.

Who Is At Risk Of Being Exposed to Asbestos?

There are hundreds of occupations that were affected by asbestos exposure. Some of the industries in which asbestos was especially prevalent include but are not limited to commercial product manufacturing, construction, shipbuilding, and power plants. Prior to 1980, workers employed in these industries likely came into contact with asbestos products. Also at high risk for having been exposed to asbestos are military veterans.

Although exposure to asbestos is hazardous, not every asbestos product is inherently hazardous. Being as in order to represent health risk asbestos must be inhaled, a true hazard is represented only by asbestos found in the air supply, a condition that is known as friable, or loose asbestos fibers. Stable asbestos compounds, such as tiles, intact cement, or other products, generally are not an immediate hazard. If you believe that you have been exposed to asbestos in some way or another, it is important to report it and seek immediate medical evaluation.

Asbestos Curtains

Claude Shafer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Theatre Fire

The cartoon above was drawn following the Iroquois Theater fire, which took place December 30, 1903, in Chicago, Illinois and in which at least 602 people died. It was the deadliest theater fire ever in the US.

The theater was billed as fireproof, however, the fire department had toured it before opening and found it deficient, as had others, including the use of wood in the construction and a lack of fire exits but they were unable to stop it opening and operating.

A fire started backstage, during an afternoon performance when a cloth curtain went on fire, and flames climbed high above the stage, igniting canvas stage scenery. The “fireproof” curtain was blocked from dropping by the construction and was later found not to be fireproof anyway, containing only a small amount of asbestos!

The audience included many women and children and the only way out was down a staircase that was blocked by the many people trying to use it at the same time. As the actors and stage hands leaving at the back managed to escape, their escape doors let in blasts of wind that fanned the flames at the front, creating a fireball that incinerated those still trapped in the upper levels of the theater.

The tragedy was the impulse for many health and safety laws on theater safety.

Building Consultants Asbestos Fine

Danger sign for asbestos

Asbestos is Dangerous

Building consultants, Watts Group PLC were prosecuted and fined £30,000, plus costs in January 2016 for health and safety breaches that allowed two construction workers to be exposed to asbestos.

The group was the asbestos removal project manager and surveyed for asbestos prior to replacement of doors in a service duct below a hospital. They drew up plans showing where asbestos was present and where it had been removed. The survey, however was defective and asbestos in poor condition was present throughout the area but not shown on the plans.

It is vital to health and also to comply with legal requirements that the correct type of asbestos survey is carried out systematically and results recorded. Information on where to find asbestos can be found on the HSE website.

Persons responsible for managing premises such as shops or industrial units have a duty to manage asbestos. You can find out more about that at HSENI’s ‘Duty to manage asbestos’ page

Asbestos found in Children’s Crayons

Some crayons, imported from China, have been found to contain traces of Asbestos!

crayons

crayons

They are not being recalled because the asbestos is set in wax and is thus not thought to be a problem for inhalation.  However, experts at UKATA say that any level of asbestos present in a children’s product, is unacceptable because asbestos presents very real dangers of cancer. And while the asbestos may be set in wax, reducing dangers of inhalation, many children put crayons in their mouths and parents may not find this a problem as they believe the wax is non-toxic.

 

One company has already pulled the crayons, (some marketed with images from films such as Frozen and TV programmes like Peppa Pig) from its shelves, bringing praise for acting responsibly.

 

 

Heating Engineer Fined £5,000 and costs – Asbestos Risk

Circular Saw

Circular Saw

A self employed heating engineer was prosecuted and fined for not preventing exposure to asbestos in a home where he was carrying out work. He was installing a new heating system at the home and removed redundant pipework with a circular saw and then carried the lagged pipework through the house and left it outside in the garden. This meant that asbestos fibres could have been released exposing both him and the homeowners to contamination.

The contractor had not undertaken any asbestos awareness training, which would have helped him recognise that the lagging could contain asbestos. Once recognised as a possible source of asbestos, he should have had it removed by a licensed contractor. As it was, the house owners had to move out for their home to be decontaminated.

Karl Locher pleaded guilty at Trafford Magistrates’ Court to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £5,000 with £3,000 costs.

Remember, his insurance company will also have had to pay for compensation associated with this, so his insurance costs will skyrocket too!

7 Surprising Uses Of Asbestos

Asbestos

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is useful for insulation for fire, heat and sound and was widely used in the 19th and early 20th centuries until the health problems associated with its use (causes cancer) meant it became banned in most countries. Asbestos had been used for thousands of years before this and some quite surprising uses were made of it. For instance:

1. Burn The Tablecloth to Clean It

Charlemagne

Charlemagne

The Emperoror Charlemagne is said to have had a tablecloth made of asbestos that was thrown on the fire to clean it and retrieved totally unharmed. He may have got the idea from the Persians who did the same with napkins. Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asbestos

2. Used as Artificial Snow

Snow scenes in films used to use asbestos to produce the snow effect, for instance in the

Judy Garland

Judy Garland, in the Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz film (1939) with Judy Garland and in Holiday Inn (1942) with Bing Crosby, where Bing sang the classical “White Christmas” song. It was also supplied as fake snow for households to use as decoration at Christmas. Credit: http://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-exposure/products/fake-snow/

3. Baby Talcum Powder used to contain Asbestos

Talc is a mineral that is mined from the Earth and is used in many cosmetics and for making talcum powder. It is often found in areas where asbestos is also found, so there can be some contamination of the talc with asbestos. Since the 1970s, companies in the USA have been required to ensure that cosmetic grade talc is free from asbestos. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm293184.htm

4. Used in Making Cheese

Spores were placed on asbestos for making blue cheeses

Credit: http://www.weitzlux.com/asbestos-products_1962747.html

5. Used in Fermentation Tanks for Producing Methane.

Credit: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC533400/pdf/jbacter00821-0058.pdf Page 70

6. Used to Give the Appearance of Dust in Theatre Productions

cobwebFor instance, dust on Cobwebs and wine kegs and in old attics!.

Credit: http://www.aic.org.uk/Asbestsuses.htm

7. In Soldiers’ Helmets and Gas Masks

gas mask and helmet

gas mask and helmet

Asbestos was used in helmets from WWI and in gas masks in WW2

Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2626948/Teachers-told-use-wartime-helmets-gas-masks-classroom-props-contain-ASBESTOS.html

Sources of Asbestos Hazards

Where can Asbestos be Found? Potential Sources of Asbestos

Warning sign for potential asbestos

Asbestos Hazard Warning Sign

Do you have any idea where asbestos is lurking? Though regulations have become quite strict, there are still some residential and commercial sources of asbestos.

Asbestos products have gradually been disappearing but they were widely used before the introduction of bans on the use of this material and it’s still possible to find asbestos in older constructions.

Identifying and getting rid of asbestos is essential because of the numerous health risks associated to it. Here are some of the most common sources of asbestos that you could come across.

 

Asbestos Cement

water tank

water tank

Asbestos cement roofs and flues were common in the past. Asbestos cement roofs can be commonly found on farms and commercial properties.

Sometimes, asbestos can also be discovered in the roofs of sheds or garages. Asbestos cement flues were common in boiler systems, air conditioning and ventilation. These were typical for both commercial and residential developments.

Asbestos cement was sometimes used in the construction of water tanks, as well. Properties constructed prior to the 1980s could potentially have a water tank made of this material.

Sealants

furnace

furnace

Until the 1980s, asbestos was frequently used as a sealant around windows and doors. Its insulating properties made the material a really common pick in both residential and commercial buildings.

Asbestos is also heat-resistant, which is why the material could be found as a sealant in old furnaces. Cleaning older furnaces could potentially be a dangerous activity because it may release the asbestos particles in the air. Figuring out whether the material was used for insulation prior to getting started with cleaning will be essential.

 

 

Wallpaper

Yes, asbestos could be found in something as innocent as old wallpaper.

wallpaper

wallpaper

Many vinyl papers made prior to the 1980s contain asbestos. Removing those and replacing them with something a bit more innovative could be a downright dangerous task. Intact wallpaper isn’t dangerous but trying to tear it from the walls will release the asbestos fibers in the air.

If you’re looking at an older house that’s in need of wallpaper removal, you should first talk to a professional about it. Experts in the field will test the wallpaper and the adhesive for asbestos, after which they’ll recommend the best removal procedure.

Textured Coatings

textured coating

textured coating

In the past, textured coatings were used as a decorative finish. They were popular for use on the walls and the ceilings of buildings.

Depending on the particular decorative effect that was sought, such textured coatings could have peaks or different patterns. The original color of the material is white. It can easily be painted over.

If undisturbed, textured coatings containing asbestos are not dangerous. Still, it’s essential to get those identified and assess the risk. If you plan to carry out a renovation project in the future that involves tearing down the coating, you’ll need professional assistance.

Floor Covers

Vinyl sheets and rubber floor covers often contained asbestos fibers in the past. These

floor tiles

textured tiles

materials were “tight” and heavy because of the presence of asbestos fibers. Even the adhesive that was used for such floor covers contained some amount of asbestos.

It’s a general assumption that floor covers and tiles installed prior to the 1980s contain some amount of asbestos.

The amount of asbestos in flooring is generally small and older floors can be easily covered with new materials. If the old flooring is to be removed, however, the danger will have to be evaluated in advance.

How to Check for Asbestos and Identify It

A visual inspection of your home, office or other commercial property is the only one you should be undertaking. Don’t disturb the material that could potentially be a source of asbestos. Inhaling the fibers will increase the risk of experiencing asbestos-related health problems, so be careful about it.

Asbestos is a fibrous material and any old insulation fibers could potentially contain it. Requesting the assistance of a certified professional is the best idea in such situations. The professional will take a small sample from the questionable material and lab exams will be performed to determine whether there is asbestos.

Depending on the location of the material and its condition, you’ll have to determine whether to remove it or leave it undisturbed. Asbestos products in good condition will not release dangerous fibers. If any damage has been incurred, however, safe removal will be the best strategy.

Any older building comes with the risk of asbestos being present in the construction materials. Since the health risks associated with asbestos are serious, it’s important to identify it and assess the material’s condition early enough. Asbestos-containing materials may be isolated, repaired or removed. Whichever option you choose, it’s crucial to pick a certified professional for the execution of the task.

Asbestos Spider

Rose Tarantula

Picture in public domain, downloaded from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Grammostola_rosea_adult_m%C3%A4nnlich.jpg under GNU free documentation license.

As if asbestos itself were not dangerous enough, an asbestos removals firm in Cardiff, Wales, UK found the cast off coat of what is believed to be  a Rose Tarantula in the attic of an abandoned house they were working in. While the Chilean Rose Tarantula is fairly docile, with weak poison, it is not known if there is a possible breeding population of these creatures in the house. Read the full story from the Independent newspaper online.

Asbestos Dangers

Asbestos

Chrysotile

Chrysotile (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral material that is still found in many buildings, especially older ones. It is a good insulating material but is linked to causing very serious health problems for people, including cancer, so is rarely used in the construction industry nowadays. In many countries, it is illegal to use it any more but it sometimes has to be removed from facilities where it was installed previously.

There are several forms of asbestos and some are more dangerous than others, with chrysotile appearing to be the most dangerous form. Those working in areas with this type of asbestos or living near production facilities using it have developed health problems, especially lung problems and tumors. Asbestos consists of many small fibers that can become airborne when the asbestos is disturbed and are then breathed in, causing various illnesses. Some people have become so ill due to their exposure to asbestos that they are unable to go about their normal life and this has resulted in lawsuits from workers who believe that their health was not properly protected even though the dangers were known about.

Fiberglass has replaced asbestos in many areas now. It is a good insulating material also. Removing asbestos from buildings and replacing it with new materials is very costly and time consuming. Those involved in the process have to wear protective clothing to help prevent the harmful fibers from getting into their bodies.

Asbestos & Mesothelioma

English: Mesothelioma of the left lower lung.

English: Mesothelioma of the left lower lung. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure. It has a very poor prognosis (outlook) and most people diagnosed as having it are likely to die from it, either directly or from the effect it has on their other vital organs. It affects the cells lining the lung area as well as the chest cavity and promotes the growth of tumors in these areas, some of which (though not necessarily all) may be cancerous.

For some people, it takes only a single exposure to asbestos to develop mesothelioma, while others are exposed to it for many years before being affected. And it can take many years for mesothelioma to develop – as long as 20 years between exposure and development of the illness. It is this illness that means that construction or building workers must assess whether asbestos is present before they begin any remodeling or destruction of an existing building.

Asbestos Testing

In order to determine if asbestos is present in a given location the materials have to be tested. They are collected and then sent to a laboratory for the testing to be completed. If the tests are positive then measures are taken to secure the area until the removal or encapsulation process can be implemented and completed. For many people, knowing where to look for asbestos is very important too. In older homes you may not even realize it is a factor to be concerned about.

Fuse Box  with asbestos

Fuse Box with asbestos (Photo credit: sarflondondunc)

Asbestos was once very popular as a type of insulation, so anywhere using insulation is the first place that someone testing for asbestos is likely to take test samples from. They will also look into any heat ducts, the fireplace, around wiring housing, the furnace, and around plumbing pipes. Any workers should wear protective gear as a precaution while searching for collection samples.

Only trained professionals should be used to assess whether asbestos is present: they will know where and what to look for. The general homeowner doesn’t usually have this knowledge or the training. Your local health department or building services department may be able to provide a list of professionals in your area to carry out this work for you.

There are many different times when you may decide to do asbestos testing. If you live in a home that was built before 1980 it may not have been tested before. Finding out if you have asbestos in the area or not can give you peace of mind. You certainly don’t want to risk exposing your family to the harmful effects. You also don’t want to lie awake at night wondering if it is present or not.

You will also need to complete an asbestos test before you begin any type of remodeling or if you are tearing down something. These types of activities can loosen the fibers associated with asbestos and make them airborne as dust. This is when they are most dangerous and this is why asbestos is often kept damp if it becomes necessary to remove it.

Asbestos Removal

English: Worker are removing asbestos before d...

English: Worker are removing asbestos before demolishing the Imperial Courtyard Apartments in Irving, Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since asbestos can be so very dangerous for both people and animals, it has to be either covered up or removed and replaced with other types of materials such as fiberglass. The first option is to cover it, if possible (e.g by encapsulation) but if it cannot be safely covered, then it may need to be removed in a safe manner and this may even involve you having to move out for a few days. This is important so that residents don’t end up becoming ill from any airborne fibers.

Generally, a person has to be certified in asbestos removal to be able to perform the duties. There are plenty of well trained contractors out there with the right training. They also have all the safety equipment to do the job properly without putting their own health at risk.

The process has to be systematic so that as few fibers are broken loose during it as possible. It is the many fine fibers in asbestos that are responsible for the medical problems so the asbestos may be wetted down to help reduce the amount of fibers and dust that get loose into the area.

Once the asbestos is removed it has to be stored properly as well. There are special containers made for it that won’t leak the asbestos out into the environment. They are classified as a container for hazardous materials so that anyone coming upon them will know that what is inside could potentially be harmful.

In many locations, the collected containers of asbestos are buried in landfills. In other areas, asbestos can be dumped ONLY at licensed dumps for such hazardous waste. An asbestos removal professional will know the regulations for your area. Many areas will impose hefty fines and even jail time for not properly disposing of asbestos. This is due to the many health concerns related to it.

Asbestos can be a dangerous material, although it has been very useful in the past for insulation. If you discover it in your house, or if you want to do construction work on an older house, you would be well-advised to get a trained and qualified asbestos professional to assess any problem and advise on containment or removal.

 

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