Planning a renovation for your home is an exciting time!
Whether you’re renovating one room, like your master bedroom or bathroom, or you plan to re-create an entire floor, home renovations require more forethought than just choosing a design direction.
Whenever you renovate you run the risk of encountering hidden mold and/or asbestos behind the walls, under the floors or in the ceiling. Learn more about what to do if you find asbestos here.
Asbestos was one of the main sources of insulation before 1990 because it not only keeps heat in, but noise out. It was also used for fireproofing at that time as asbestos is heat and fire resistant. Now we know better! Learn more about the history of asbestos in Canada here.
Should you be worried about asbestos? If you’re about to renovate a home that was built before 1990, the answer is yes. Although the use of asbestos started to decline in the 1970s, the most stringent regulations that prohibit the manufacture, import, sale and use of asbestos were only enacted in 2018.
Let’s be clear. If you don’t disturb asbestos—if it stays isolated in an attic or sealed behind walls and floorboards that you are not planning on removing—there aren’t immediate health risks. But if it’s disturbed, like it would be by renovation projects, there are big health risks. Breathing in asbestos fibres is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Learn more about the risks associated with asbestos exposure here.
Asbestos can be found in cement, plaster, building insulation, house siding, floor and ceiling tiles, and furnaces and heating systems, to name a few. Any amount of drilling, sawing, or disturbing of asbestos containing materials can release dust and fibres into the air, which is hazardous to your health. Learn more about asbestos containing materials (ACMs) here.
No, you cannot safely remove asbestos yourself. Health Canada cautions all Canadians against disturbing and/or attempting to remove asbestos themselves and recommends reducing the risk of exposure to asbestos by hiring a professional to test for its presence prior to undertaking any renovation work.
Removal of asbestos must follow all local asbestos abatement regulations to ensure safe and lawful removal of the asbestos containing materials from your home or commercial building. Learn more about the asbestos abatement process here.
At got mold?™, our team of trained and certified professionals are able to assist you with all asbestos testing, abatement and removal services. Having a professional team come out and handle your asbestos concerns allows for proper regulations and safety protocols to be in place, making sure that your home and your health are safe. Let us help you keep your home, health and family safe!
However useful asbestos was, exposure to it is hazardous to human health as the fibres can become permanently lodged in the body, specifically in the lungs, when inhaled. Exposure to asbestos can lead to various negative health conditions such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer. Learn more about the symptoms of asbestos exposure here.
If left undisturbed, you can live alongside asbestos without putting your health on the line. However, if asbestos is disturbed, for example by renovations, you could become seriously ill due to exposure. Therefore, while anyone could potentially be at risk for asbestos exposure, those that work, or have previously worked, with or around asbestos products have a higher risk of exposure. This can include occupations such as:
Learn more about building materials containing asbestos, and how to ensure the health and safety of your friends and family during renovations here.
Asbestosis is a chronic illness that comes from inhaling asbestos fibres. It can take many years to show symptoms of asbestosis. Learn more about asbestosis here.
The easiest way to prevent asbestosis (and other complications from asbestos exposure) is by ensuring the removal of asbestos exposure risks in the workplace and in your home. Learn more about the history of the use of asbestos in Canada here.
Drilling, sanding and scraping, sawing and other such routine renovation activities can disturb asbestos fibres and release them into the environment. If you’re unsure about the presence of asbestos, it is always wise to consult the professionals, and to have samples taken prior to undertaking renovations. Learn more about asbestos testing here.
If a sample can be safely taken, put it into a Ziplock bag, and seal the bag tightly. If you are taking an asbestos sample, it is important to wear the proper PPE and take all safety precautions to ensure that your health, and the health of others, is protected.
Click here for more information on how to take an asbestos sample properly and safely; including instructions on how to take samples of various materials (including floor tiles, popcorn ceilings etc.).
If you are working in a building and you suspect that a building material might contain asbestos, stop work immediately. It’s important that you NOT disturb the area suspected of containing asbestos in order to limit the amount of asbestos fibres released into the air.
Yes. The regulations pertaining to asbestos abatement work vary by province in Canada. Furthermore, the standard operating procedures and reporting requirements for the different risk levels can vary by province. For example, intentions to undertake abatement projects in Alberta must be declared 72 hours prior to their commencement. In Saskatchewan, it is only a requirement to report high-risk asbestos removal projects and those projects must be reported 14 days prior to work commencing.
The easiest way to make sure that you are following the proper protocols set out by your provincial jurisdiction is to call in the pros.
Finding mold or asbestos can be frightening. You may wonder how long your air quality has been compromised, and if your health, or that of your family or employees, is at risk. The costs of mold and asbestos removal and remediation can vary depending on the location of the project, the size and severity of the contamination, and the complexity of reaching and remediating the hazardous material. Get an inspection and quote from the certified experts at got mold?™ and drastically improve your indoor air quality.
Low inspection fees
Our initial inspection cost is a flat $195, and if you choose the got mold?™ team for removal and remediation, we will credit the entire $195 fee to your final invoice.
Based on our experience, most small mold removal projects cost around $1000. Because of the complexity associated with asbestos removal, including doffing and shower requirements for our team, these types of more hazardous projects typically cost a minimum of $1500.
There are six types of asbestos, namely: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. Of these, chrysotile and amosite asbestos are most common. Asbestos in all its forms is a naturally occurring mineral substance. It is a silicate (a material composed of silicon and oxygen atoms) and its fibres can be manipulated and pulled apart until it has a fluffy consistency.
Individual asbestos fibres are microscopic and have a needle-like structure. When materials containing asbestos are disturbed, these tiny fibres can become airborne and are then easily inhaled or ingested. Once inside the body, they can become lodged in the lining of the stomach, your heart, or your lungs, and can remain there for decades. Over time, this can lead to inflammation and the development of serious health conditions.
So, why was asbestos so widely used prior to 1990 if it is so dangerous? In short, we didn’t know any better until it was too late. At the time, we only knew that asbestos fibers were soft and flexible while also being extremely durable and resistant to heat, electricity and corrosion; which made asbestos seem like the perfect material for a variety of applications across a wide variety of industries (for example as insulation in homes, as well as in roofing, shipbuilding and the manufacturing of auto parts). It was only decades after the material’s popularity and use soared that the link between asbestos exposure and serious illness was uncovered. Now we know that asbestos exposure leads to inflammation, scarring, and eventually, diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. As a result, the use of asbestos has since become highly regulated or outright banned in a number of countries around the world, including in Canada.
Asbestos mining in Canada began in the 1800s. The country quickly became one of the world's top producers of the mineral. The town of Asbestos, Quebec, was the site of the world’s largest asbestos mine and remained a significant player in the asbestos industry for over a century. Canada was also one of the world's leading asbestos exporters when, by the 1970s, health risks associated with asbestos exposure started to become more widely recognized, and the demand for the mineral began to decrease. Despite the mounting evidence of the dangers of asbestos, the Canadian asbestos industry and the government denied these claims for a long time, insisting that the economic benefits and jobs provided by the industry outweighed the potential risks.
The last asbestos mine in Canada was only officially closed in 2012, and the country finally banned asbestos entirely in 2018. The ban prohibits the import, sale, and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), including the manufacture and export of products containing asbestos. Despite this ban, asbestos-related illnesses continue to be a significant public health issue in Canada due to past exposures and the presence of asbestos in older buildings.
Many building materials used in both residential and commercial construction projects completed in and before the 1980s contain asbestos. These materials include, but are not limited to:
Asbestos testing typically involves taking samples from a building and sending them to a lab for analysis. While got mold offers sample testing services for those of our customers who have taken their own samples, we recommend leaving sample collection to the professionals in the interest of your own health and safety and the health and safety of your family, tenants or coworkers who share the space. This is because even taking samples can be enough of a disturbance to cause the release of asbestos fibers into the air.
The two primary types of tests for the presence of asbestos are:
If you’re beginning a renovation project, contact us first to evaluate any potential dangers. The first step in our process is to conduct sampling with one of our certified asbestos and mold inspectors. We can determine whether asbestos or mold is actually present in your home before you begin to move and disturb building materials.
We then follow the steps below to address the threat be it mold or asbestos-containing materials:
Don’t risk your own health, or that of your family, by taking on a renovation project without knowing whether or not you will be disturbing and releasing dangerous particles (mold or asbestos) into the air.
Here is a more detailed look at the steps involved in the asbestos testing and remediation process when you involve professional asbestos removers in your home renovation:
The first step in asbestos testing involves a detailed assessment of the property, primarily to determine whether it was constructed before the 1980s (when asbestos was commonly used). The professional asbestos inspector will then develop a plan for which materials to sample based on this assessment. Commonly sampled materials include insulation, floor tiles, roofing materials, and others suspected to contain asbestos.
When it comes to indoor air quality and safety, conducting proper asbestos identification and testing procedures prior to construction, renovation, or demolition of a building may be the most important step you can take to protect your health.
Once the inspector has identified potential asbestos-containing materials, they will collect samples. While it may be tempting to collect DIY asbestos samples, this act is best performed by trained professionals. Improper handling can disturb asbestos-containing material, causing fibres to become airborne and potentially be inhaled.
During the sample collection process, the area is usually isolated to prevent contamination, and protective measures are in place to protect the tester from exposure. These protective measures can include personal protective equipment (PPE), such as respirators and gloves. The professional will then carefully cut a small piece of the material in question to test; trying to minimize the release of asbestos fibres.
The samples are then placed into sealed containers, typically zip-lock bags, and clearly labeled with the sample location and other relevant information.
The health and safety of our communities is our top priority.
Maybe you aren’t convinced you really have asbestos in your home. Maybe you’re confident you can collect your own sample safely. Whatever your reason for collecting samples, we’ll not only test them for you; we’ll teach you how to collect asbestos samples as safely as possible without formal training or access to professional equipment:
When testing your vinyl sheet flooring or floor tiles for the presence of asbestos;
When testing your popcorn ceiling for the presence of asbestos;
When testing vermiculite or other insulation materials from your attic and/or wall cavities for the presence of asbestos;
When testing wallboard, plaster, textured walls and/or drywall mud for the presence of asbestos;
When testing silicone sealants for the presence of asbestos;
When testing your thermal insulation for the presence of asbestos;
When testing your roofing materials for the presence of asbestos;
Unfortunately, your test results will only be as reliable as your sample collection methods are thorough. False negative test results are possible when samples have not been collected correctly. We take no responsibility for false negatives as a result of improper sampling or handling of samples performed by our customers.
Once your samples have been collected, whether professionally or independently, they are brought to our laboratory, which is specifically accredited to analyze asbestos samples.
Once the laboratory completes the analysis, we will provide a report detailing the types and concentrations of asbestos found in each sample. If asbestos is detected, the report may also include recommendations for remediation, including containment, removal, or other forms of management to prevent exposure.
Our professional asbestos inspectors, and our labs are certified by all relevant national and provincial bodies to ensure that all necessary safety guidelines and protocols are met and exceeded; both for your safety and that of our employees.
Asbestos abatement is the process of removing, or at the very least minimizing the health risks of living with, asbestos in a building. This can involve several methods:
An asbestos abatement project typically involves 5 phases:
Due to the inherent risk associated with asbestos abatement, it should only be carried out by trained professionals. Improper handling of ACMs can lead to the release of asbestos fibres into the air, increasing the risk of asbestos exposure and exposure-related diseases.
A large part of understanding the asbestos abatement process is knowing about the different risk levels associated with its removal. There are three different risk levels that can be assigned to an asbestos abatement project:
Each asbestos project will be defined as either a low-risk, medium-risk, or high-risk abatement. Each abatement level requires an escalating amount of safety procedures to ensure the safe removal of asbestos from the area. These procedures are in place to protect the workers on the job site and to ensure proper and complete removal of the asbestos for the long-term health and safety of the site occupants.
Low-risk abatements do NOT require a containment area. Often simple banner tape can suffice to keep people out of the abatement area.
Air monitoring must be completed before the project commences to make sure that the number of airborne fibres are within acceptable limits. Materials to be removed should be wetted with a surfactant to inhibit asbestos fibres from becoming airborne during the removal process. Low-risk abatements have a minimum PPE requirement of a Tyvek suit and a ½ mask with a P100 filter.
Medium-, also referred to as moderate-risk abatements, require removal site containment. This means that the abatement area must be completely isolated from uncontaminated areas. A three-stage chambered exit must be set up with a dirty room, transfer room, and clean room. All materials leaving the containment area must be bagged, wiped down and then double-bagged in yellow hazardous-waste bags clearly marked as containing asbestos.
All workers must wipe themselves off with a cloth soaked in soapy water prior to leaving the containment area, and any clothes worn in the abatement area must stay in the containment area as they are considered contaminated materials.
Negative air pressure must be maintained throughout the abatement, air monitoring is mandatory inside the containment area, outside the containment area, and in the cleanroom, and a mandatory occupational exposure test must be performed on a daily basis.
Medium-risk asbestos-containing materials include drywall mud, decorative plaster, roofing shingles, and wallboard.
The protocols for high-risk abatements are far stricter than those for low- and medium-risk abatements. The entire operation becomes increasingly sophisticated once an abatement is deemed high-risk. A three-stage containment unit, consisting of a dirty room, transfer room (and shower unit), and cleanroom must be set up for all high-risk asbestos abatements. Negative air pressure must be maintained throughout the duration of the abatement, and a shower unit equipped with a 10-micron filter is required to keep asbestos out of the water supply. All workers must shower before leaving the containment area.
In terms of PPE for high-risk abatements, workers have to be naked under their Tyvek suits, and PAPR full-face masks with P100 filters are a requirement. All materials leaving the containment area must be bagged, washed, and then double-bagged in yellow hazardous-waste bags clearly marked as containing asbestos. Air monitoring must be set up inside and outside the containment area, as well as in the cleanroom. In addition to continuous air monitoring, a daily occupational exposure sample must be taken to ensure that the air quality is still within occupational exposure limits.If the air sample comes back containing unacceptably high levels of asbestos, workers are required to upgrade their PPE to a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for the remainder of the abatement period.
Materials considered high-risk include linoleum, popcorn ceilings, vermiculite, boiler insulation, pipe wrap, ceiling tiles and spray-on asbestos insulation.
Exposure to asbestos, especially long-term exposure, can lead to serious health issues such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. These illnesses are often associated with a latency period, meaning symptoms may not appear until decades after the initial exposure.
The primary symptom of asbestosis is a slowly developing and often progressive shortness of breath on exertion. In other words, the main symptom of asbestosis is difficulty breathing when you exercise and this can get worse over time. In severe cases, this may be accompanied by respiratory failure. Other symptoms can include:
Asbestosis is specifically related to prolonged exposure to asbestos and the subsequent lung damage. However, asbestos can also lead to other diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma. Symptoms of these diseases can vary but might include similar symptoms to asbestosis along with additional symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and swelling of the face and arms.
Because symptoms of asbestos-related diseases can take many years to develop, it's crucial to have regular check-ups if you know you've been exposed to asbestos in the past. Regular monitoring can help detect any potential issues early, increasing the chances of effective treatment. Asbestosis can be diagnosed through a thorough physical exam, imaging tests (X-rays or CT scans), lung-function tests or a lung biopsy. There is no cure for asbestosis, but treatments can alleviate discomfort and improve your quality of life.
Treatments for asbestosis are symptomatic and supportive and may include pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy or, in severe cases, your doctor may recommend you for a lung transplant. In the case of asbestosis, prevention is better than cure. If you live or work in an environment where you're likely to be exposed to asbestos, it's important to follow all safety guidelines to minimize your exposure. If you suspect asbestos in your environment, you should have the area inspected and, if necessary, abated by a professional.
Reduce your risk of asbestos exposure by hiring professionals to test for asbestos. Not doing so greatly increases the risk of you, your family, or your employees from being exposed to asbestos fibres that cause health risks such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.