Asbestos awareness for homeowners
Talk to your contractor before starting a home renovation or demolition
Contractors are responsible for protecting their workers from asbestos exposure. If you're a homeowner planning to reno or demo a home built before 1990, you have a responsibility too. 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. So before work starts, talk to your contractor to identify any asbestos in your home and have it properly removed, for the health and safety of everyone working on your project.
What is asbestos and why is it dangerous?
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.
This animation shows how asbestos fibres damage lung tissue and cause serious disease.
How do I know if I have asbestos in my home?
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.
Some common asbestos-containing materials include:
- Vinyl tiles and linoleum sheet flooring
- Roof felt and shingles
- Loose, blown-in insulation, such as vermiculite
- Gypsum board filling compound, and patching and joint compound for walls and ceilings
- Incandescent light fixture backing
- Deck undersheeting
These are just some of the places that you can find asbestos in your home. For a full list, please read Potential Sources of Asbestos in the Home.
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, there are two main steps you need to take to ensure the health and safety of everyone working on your project:
- Identify asbestos-containing materials in your home
- Safely remove any asbestos in your home
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.
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
- Asbestos Hazards When Renovating Older Homes: For Homeowners
This pamphlet outlines what homeowners, employers, and workers must do before beginning renovation or demolition work, to prevent exposure to asbestos.
- Potential Sources of Asbestos in the Home
- Ten Simple Steps to Complying with Asbestos Abatement
Before you begin renovations or start demolishing an older home, follow these guidelines to ensure the safe detection and removal of asbestos.
- Asbestos: Frequently Asked Questions (For Homeowners)
- Asbestos - What You Need to Know (Homeowners)
Bulletins and alerts
- Renovation and Restoration Projects: Low bid may not meet environmental or workplace safety requirements
- Asbestos Hazards in Demolition, Renovation, and Salvage
- 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.