Should I buy a house with known asbestos (covered)?

Asked by Home Buyer, San Ramon, CA Fri Dec 24, 2010

I liked a house but it was built in the 50s. In the disclosure there was a mention of asbestos in the tiles underneath the carpet of the family room in the basement. The disclosure said no effort was made to remove it because it's covered. What should I be concerned about? Would this be deal-breaker for most people? How much does it cost (estimate) to remove asbestos for a 700 sqft area? Thanks, worried home buyer

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The Medford…, Agent, Fremont, CA
Fri Dec 24, 2010
There has been a lot of misinformation concerning asbestos over the years. Let’s look at the facts:

(1) A very large percentage of homes in the bay area have asbestos in some form (ducting, flooring, ‘popcorn’ ceiling texturing, siding, roofing shingles, cement, insulation, etc.). It has also been used extensively in commercial applications for years (such as hair dryers, automobile brake pads, pipe insulation, etc.).

(2) The real problems with asbestos products are not in residential applications; it is the manufacturing sector or the military. Most people with malignant mesothelioma (cancer resulting from exposure to airborne asbestos fibers) worked on jobs where they breathed airborne asbestos – these were typically manufacturing jobs or jobs resulting in prolonged exposure such as those working in shipyards or, as example, on-board maintenance of WW2 era naval vessels. Extensive workplace environment guidelines and precautions are now in place to prevent the likelihood of malignant mesothelioma from occurring.

(3) As long as asbestos is left alone, it poses no significant problem. It becomes a problem once it is disturbed, such as during renovations.

(4) Scare tactics have been used in the past number of years, raising the specter that any asbestos in a home is bad and that it must be removed. This is simply not the case, and these tactics have been used by some companies trying to play off public ignorance for their own gain.

For more information, see:

To specifically answer your question about the flooring: it is not an issue as long as it is not disturbed. For floor tiles, “disturbed” means “breaking the tile in pieces” – the type of thing that would happen during a renovation. This also applies to ceiling “popcorn”, ducting and other applications. It is recommended that you use a professional asbestos abatement company to remove the product in question if it will be disturbed during a renovation.

MAKE SURE you get a number of bids from EPA certified contractors: costs can vary significantly from one company to another. Additionally, many general contractors now have asbestos removal certification along with a lead-based paint cert, etc. The least expensive route would be to locate a general contractor with this certification and have them include the abatement as a part of a larger project.

Otherwise, encapsulating the product is a totally acceptable means of protection. A layer of paint will encapsulate “popcorn” and properly installed flooring over asbestos floor tiles should also be adequate. As for ducting, the general rule of thumb is “leave it alone” unless you plan to upgrade your heating system, etc.

You can also have an asbestos test done on the property in question – they are typically very inexpensive and there are a number of companies in the bay area that perform the tests.
4 votes
Pacita Dimac…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Fri Dec 24, 2010
There are all kinds of information you can read to familiarize yourself with asbestos starting with the EPA

Then research asbestos abatement specialists because this is not something you should tackle on your own should you decide you would like to have the asbestos removed. The cost does not depend on the square footage alone


It doesn't have to be a deal-breaker. There was a time when asbestos siding proliferated. If the asbestos is not broken and is left alone, the advice is usually to just leave it alone. However, if the asbestos is present in heating ducts, then it may be another issue altogether and it may behoove the buyer to get an asbestos specialist to inspect and offer recommendations on abatement.

Good luck!
2 votes
Keith Manson-…, , Milwaukee, WI
Fri Dec 24, 2010
As long as the asbestos is covered and not loose there is no issue. However, if the asbestos is loose and particles are fliying in the air, there are reasons to be concerned. Also if you plan or any remodeling in the future that would distrub the asbestos then you have a issue. To remove the asbestos requires a specialist that can mitigate the amount of asbestos that goes into the air of the home. The speicalist wear special suits and enclose the effected area to prevent asbestos from going out side area

Keith Manson
Certified Distressed Property Expert
Metro Milwaukee
1 vote
I would have them removed before you buy it. Asbestos can be a nasty thing to deal with and having them removed would save you a lot of time and money. I would talk to the owners to see if this is something they will do. Good luck and I hope everything works out for you!
Flag Wed Jan 14, 2015
Bill Eckler, Agent, Venice, FL
Fri Dec 24, 2010

You should investigate further to determine the extent of the presence of this material and if it exists in other locations. Asbestos can, in some cases be easily removed but in others, nearly impossible. In the case of having asbestos in a "crawl space" abating it may be difficult and expensive. On the other hand, if it's only a matter of having asbestos floor tile, this can be easily remediated.

Before making your decision "to buy or not to buy" you should clearly understand the source and extent of of this material and the cost to remove it.

It may not be unreasonable to attach an addendum to your purchase offer specifying a price seiling for removal and/or a clause that requests the seller to remove the asbestos prior to closing.

Happy holidays,

1 vote
Brenda Feria, Agent, Richmond, VA
Fri Dec 24, 2010
Removing and disposing of asbestos tiles can be costly. You will need to check with a licensed, EPA certified contractor in your area to get a quote. Once you have a quote, your realtor should be able to advise you.
1 vote
Dan Tabit, Agent, Issaquah, WA
Fri Dec 24, 2010
Home Buyer,
Any hazardous materials can be an issue for you to consider. Asbestos was commonly used in homes for many years in heating systems, ceiling tiles and flooring. Consider any pre-existing health issues you may have and contact professional Asbestos Abatement companies for a quote.
In some states encapsulation (covering it up) is considered an acceptable way to deal with asbestos, exactly what constitutes successful encapsulation may vary and laws may change before you sell. If you choose to have the asbestos removed once and for all it shouldn't be an issue in the future.
1 vote
Kalono808, Home Buyer, Danville, CA
Thu Aug 25, 2016
As long as the asbestos flooring is sound, it is relatively safe. Asbestos is only dangerous when the fibers become airborne. And they can only become airborne if you scrape, crack, abrade, saw, or otherwise disturb the integrity of the flooring. The chances of this happening to a covered up sound floor is little to none. People are led to believe that asbestos is as dangerous as radiation (oftentimes to get you to pay out ridiculous sums of money for the unnecessary removal of it). Do your own research, and see if you can find any measurable catastrophes caused by asbestos exposure in the common home. Sure, asbestos can be deadly, but the fact of the matter seems to indicate that those illnesses happen to those that are heavily exposed to asbestos (mining, auto repair, construction,
demolition etc...)
0 votes
garypuntman, , Los Angeles, CA
Wed Nov 19, 2014
I think that if you do end up buying it, then you will want to find someone to get rid of it. Asbestos can have some very negative health affects. You will need to get this checked out more.
0 votes
Ali Qureshi, Agent, Pleasanton, CA
Wed Nov 19, 2014
What did you end up doing?
0 votes
John Connor, Home Buyer, Kansas City, MO
Mon Oct 27, 2014
I would think about looking at different homes. I wouldn't want to get a home that I know I am going to have to put money into it right after I buy it to make it liveable. I would look elsewhere because of the the money that you have to put in after would not be worth it.
0 votes
Arpad Racz, Agent, San Jose, CA
Fri Oct 24, 2014

Perhaps getting a bid from a remediation company would be a good step in the process.

Kind regards,

0 votes
Trevor Smith, Renter, Denver, CO
Fri Oct 24, 2014
As long as the asbestos are covered, you should be fine. You could have a company go in and remove them if it will make you feel better about it. It really depends on your personal preference.
0 votes
prickwillow, Home Owner, Danville, CA
Fri Aug 8, 2014
Every one breaths in the stuff every day its all around us, even over the sea its a natral eliment, maybe not as much as old lagging, its the Dusty stuff thats bad for you,

if you read the UK goverment guide lines it says do not take it out its better to Encapusulte it with plasterboard, if you do have to drill or cut it then whear a mask goggles ear plugs and damppen it down and wipe it away not vacum as filter isnot good enough,

Also told this by surver last month, as i have all internal walls covered in it,

hope this helps
0 votes
Kara Blader, Home Owner, Salt Lake City, UT
Wed Dec 4, 2013
I bet if you were to ask anyone who has done asbestos removal in Melbourne they would say to be very careful in this situation. It can be a dangerous thing, but if taken care of properly, can be handled.
Web Reference:
0 votes
susan, Home Buyer, Dallas County, TX
Mon Sep 23, 2013
Asbestos is a concern and should not be ignored, although it is true that it is not harmful if left undisturbed. You can read more here about the risks of asbestos:
0 votes
Bob Georgiou, Agent, Danville, CA
Wed Dec 29, 2010
Home Buyer,

Aesbestos is a naturally recurring material throughout california that may cause heath conditions if cetrain conditions exist and the material is ingested. The material was commonly used in construction during the 50's through the early 70's and is still in many homes and commercial properties in California. The main concern regarding asbestos is during a condtion called "friable". When friable asbestos is discovered on a property is must be handled with care and should be left to professionals. Have the home inspector give you a preliminary evaluation and if you like you can have an asbestos specialist come out and provide additional estimates.
Web Reference:
0 votes
Dallas Texas, Agent, Dallas, TN
Fri Dec 24, 2010
Virtual estimate not to your benefit best receive bids from contractors.

If you applying for a mortgage lender COULD decline approving the home. Best confer with mortgage broker.

Lynn911 Dallas Realtor & Consultant, Loan Officer, Credit Repair Advisor
The Michael Group - Dallas Business Journal Top Ranked Realtors
0 votes
Scott Godzyk, Agent, Manchester, NH
Fri Dec 24, 2010
In most cases asbestos is just fine right where it is. It is common to see it used in alot of different building materials from that period such as flooring, siding and heating systems. The problems come when it is cut into or removed, if it becomes airborn, then by breathing it in causes the illnesses.

A good home inspector can check it and explain it's condition to you, you could take a step further by having a licensed asbestos company inspect and offer their opinion.
0 votes
Mack McCoy, Agent, Seattle, WA
Fri Dec 24, 2010
Wow. 7 for 7. Great answers, all!

HB, old houses have old house problems. I'd leave it right there as it is, and cover it. In fact, I did that, in a 1946 house I used to own. There's probably asbestos in the flooring in the kitchen, too, btw.

All the best,
0 votes
Bernard Gibb…, Agent, Danville, CA
Fri Dec 24, 2010
If the asbetos is encapsulated and there is no inetent to disturb it at any time in the future, you need have no concerns, but if you want to replace it, it could get expensive. If that may be a future consideration, I would get an estimate from an asbestos abatement company.

Bernard Gibbons

Bernard Gibbons, J. Rockcliff Realtors
DRE License # 01331583
Phone (925) 997-1585 -
0 votes
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