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Asbestos awareness for homeowners

Talk to your contractor before starting a home renovation or demolition

Contractor talking with a homeowner 

Found in more than 3,000 pre-1990s building materials, asbestos can be hiding in plain sight. Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause serious health problems, lung diseases and cancer.

If you're planning to renovate or demolish a home built before 1990, as a homeowner you need to talk to your contractor about planning for asbestos testing and proper removal. While there may be an additional cost to identify and remove asbestos, doing so will ensure the health and safety of everyone working on the project.

What is asbestos and why is it dangerous?

Debris

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that was used in more than 3,000 building materials from the 1950s to 1990s.

When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, intentionally or unintentionally, asbestos can be released into the air; and exposure to harmful airborne asbestos can cause serious health concerns for anyone working or living on your property.

Asbestos exposure is the number one killer of workers in B.C. and was the contributing factor in 47 work-related deaths in 2018, or about 36 per cent of all work-related deaths in the year. This animation shows how asbestos fibres damage lung tissue and cause serious disease.

How do I know if I have asbestos in my home?

Sources of asbestos in a house

Unfortunately, it's hard to know if you have asbestos in your home because it's often mixed with other materials. However, if you are renovating or demolishing a home built before 1990, it's likely that at least some parts of the home will contain asbestos. Asbestos is only harmful when materials containing asbestos are disturbed, so know where to look for it and how to remove it safely.

Asbestos can be found in more than 3,000 common building materials, such as vinyl and linoleum flooring, stucco, loose-blown insulation, roof felt shingles, gypsum board filling compound, incandescent light fixture backings, and deck under-sheeting.

Explore our interactive house to see all the places asbestos could be hiding.

How do I test for asbestos and have it safely removed?

The safe removal and disposal of asbestos is a shared responsibility, and homeowners have a role to play. If you are renovating or demolishing a home that was built before 1990, the key steps to protecting everyone's health and safety is to identify asbestos-containing materials in the home and have them safely removed prior to renovating or demolishing the home.

Danger asbestos!

In order to properly identify asbestos in your home, you must hire a qualified testing company or asbestos surveyor. The testing company or surveyor will take samples of possible asbestos-containing materials in your home, and send them to a lab for testing. The surveyor will then provide you with a report of the location of asbestos in your home.

Testing for asbestos

Once you have identified the asbestos-containing materials in your home, the next step is to have the identified asbestos removed by a qualified asbestos abatement contractor. Provide the contractor with the report from the surveyor to ensure that all of the identified asbestos-containing materials are removed. Once the work has been completed, the abatement contractor will provide you with a report confirming that all asbestos has been removed, and your property is ready for demolition or renovation.

For more information on how to hire qualified companies to safely test for and remove asbestos, please read Asbestos: Frequently Asked Questions (For Homeowners), or visit the Hazardous Materials Association of BC.

Health and safety resources

Safety pamphlets

Bulletins and alerts

Videos

  • Asbestos: Why Risk It? (1 min 2 s)
    A message to contractors
  • Asbestos (2 min 16 s)
    This animation shows how asbestos fibres can damage lung tissue and lead to lung disease.
  • Asbestos in Construction: Homeowners (30 s)
    A homeowner reacts to the potential exposure of her family to asbestos during home renovations.
  • Asbestos Hazards in Renovations, Restorations, and Demolition (2 min 55 s)
    This video walks you through an older home, identifying the most common places asbestos is found and highlighting the importance of proper testing and removal.
  • The History of Asbestos in B.C. (11 min 15 s)
    Asbestos was used in construction throughout B.C. until the late 1990s and it remains a threat today. This video, produced for the B.C. Labour Heritage Centre, tells the story of asbestos use and the price workers and their families have paid in disease and death.