Asbestos was one of the most common types of insulation materials used in homes up until the 80’s, and for good reason. Asbestos was a cheap and reliable way to ensure proper fire safety requirements were met with most building materials.
It was commonly used for heating and water pipes until the chemical causing properties of asbestos were discovered.
Asbestos Pipe Insulation Identification
If your home was built before the 1980’s there is a very good chance your pipes contain asbestos insulation. As with most other asbestos containing building elements, it’s impossible to visually confirm if the materials contain asbestos, which is why we would always recommend an asbestos testing prior to performing any work. Once asbestos is disturbed, or broken open, the fibers released into the air make their way to your lungs and can cause serious long term side effects, with the chance of death.
Asbestos Pipe Insulation Encapsulation
If removal of the asbestos containing pipes is out of the question, encapsulation can provide a safe, short term solution to crumbling or cracked pipes.
As with most asbestos jobs, the first step is to secure yourself and the area you will be working in. This means sealing off the room and covering your entire body in clothing. Most importantly, wear a respirator at all times to avoid any fibers entering your lungs.
To properly encapsulate an asbestos pipe you will need a fiber-locking sealant. Most materials will fully seal within 24 hours, so prepare to not run water through the pipes during this time, or you will just have to reseal the pipes again.
How To Remove Asbestos Pipe Insulation
If you plan on removing the pipes altogether (the safer option), the same security measures still apply. When the pipes are removed from the walls of the house, they have to be done gently as not to disturb the materials.
The pipes need to be sealed in airtight bags to avoid the fibers entering the air. They also need to be brought to a certified hazardous waste dump. They cannot be placed curbside.
If, instead of replacing the entire pipes, you simply want to remove the asbestos insulation, you should soak the pipes for at least 20 minutes to reduce the amount of dry fibers that may enter the air. You then will need to scrape the material off of the pipe and place them into airtight bags for disposal (same rules as before apply here).
If the asbestos seems to be breaking apart and entering the air, you should pause all work and allow the pipes to soak even longer in water. Be careful as you remove the asbestos, large chunks are better than small scrapes, and reduce the risk of the removal process.
As you can probably see, the process is not easy. We would highly recommend using a certified asbestos abatement company to remove any asbestos insulated pipes from your home, as the risk is just too high.