Asbestos in the home is an issue faced by many home owners and buyers. Asbestos is a heat resistant, fibrous “silicate” material which can be woven into fabrics, and was commonly used for decades for any number of purposes in home construction. It was used primarily to insulate pipes and heating ducts, but can also be found in some kinds of exterior siding, roofing material, attic insulation, “popcorn ceiling” texture, and a myriad of other purposes.
The use of asbestos in home construction was curtailed because it was determined that asbestos is a carcinogen, and can also cause mesothelioma (a rare and aggressive form of cancer) as well as asbestosis, a respiratory condition. The danger from asbestos comes when it escapes to the air and is ingested by humans through their noses and mouths; if it is left inert and undisturbed, it generally poses no risk.
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However, there is always the possibility that the asbestos could be disturbed and become airborne, and thus become a health risk.
What do you need to do about asbestos in your home if you are planning to sell it? In California, the only requirement is that you disclose the presence of asbestos, if you know about it. There is no requirement that you have the asbestos removed, which can cost thousands of dollars. A general home inspection will typically reveal if you have asbestos or not; if there is any question, it is best to have whatever questionable material tested before any buyer goes under contract on your home. This is to avoid any hang-ups later on, because if the buyer finds asbestos that was not disclosed, the buyer will most likely try to re-negotiate the deal because of it.