Residential buildings may contain asbestos in their walls, ceilings, floors, roofs, siding, HVAC systems, insulation, pipes and more. When asbestos-containing material is disturbed and improperly handled, tiny hazardous fibers are released into the air and may cause lung cancer and other illnesses. It’s important homeowners identify asbestos and have it properly removed before beginning remodeling projects.
What homeowners need to know about asbestos
Prior to demolition of a residence constructed prior to 2004, you are required to hire an accredited inspector to conduct an asbestos survey to determine the presence of asbestos-containing materials. The accredited inspector is required to produce an asbestos survey report. If asbestos-containing material is identified, the friable (or easily crumbled) asbestos-containing material must be properly removed and disposed of by a DEQ licensed asbestos abatement contractor prior to the demolition. If nonfriable (non-easily crumbed) asbestos-containing materials are identified, they can be removed by any Construction Contractors Board (CCB) licensed contractor. The CCB contractor must submit a nonfriable notification form to DEQ, follow all work practices, packaging, and disposal requirements.
Note: Owner-occupants aren’t allowed to perform friable asbestos abatement for demolition projects as they can for renovation projects.
Hiring the right contractor for asbestos abatement
DEQ issues licenses to contractors that meet the requirements of Oregon's asbestos program and who can legally perform friable asbestos abatement projects. Make sure the contractor you hire appears on DEQ's list of licensed asbestos abatement contractors. Hiring a licensed asbestos abatement contractor ensures they have the knowledge to properly remove asbestos-containing materials, use safety equipment, implement required work practices and safety measures.
As part of obtaining a license from DEQ, contractors are required to submit the information described below. You should feel free to request this information from contractors to assist you in your selection.
- Registration with the Oregon Construction Contractors Board.
- Registration with the Oregon Business Registry Section of the Corporations Division.
- A list of certified workers and supervisors employed by the company.
- A list of asbestos abatement projects conducted in the prior year.
- A list of all asbestos-related enforcement actions taken against the company.
The following is not required, but would give you added confidence that a contractor is capable of conducting an asbestos abatement project properly:
- A list of all equipment that will be used for asbestos work. That list should include negative air machines, HEPA vacuums, type of respirators they will use, asbestos barrier tape, viewing windows, decontamination facilities, disposable clothing.
- Written standard operating procedures and employee protection plans, which include specific reference to Oregon OSHA medical monitoring and respirator training programs.
- References from previous clients.
You can't identify asbestos-containing material simply by looking at it. Before beginning any renovation, you should hire an accredited inspector to conduct an asbestos survey of your home. To be safe, treat all suspect materials as if they contain asbestos until you get samples analyzed. You should confirm the presence of asbestos by having suspect materials analyzed by a laboratory. A DEQ licensed asbestos abatement contractor may have the ability to facilitate an asbestos survey for you.
If you have asbestos in your home
If the asbestos-containing material isn’t broken, worn, damaged or disturbed, it poses little or no danger. Asbestos removal involves disturbing the material and possibly releasing asbestos fibers into the air.
DEQ recommends you hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to ensure asbestos removal is performed properly by trained professionals. Removing asbestos-containing materials properly requires special equipment and training. DEQ strongly recommends against repairing or removing asbestos-containing materials yourself. Improperly handling asbestos-containing materials could put your family and community at risk of exposure to hazardous asbestos fibers.
However, regulations allow homeowners to repair or remove asbestos-containing material in a house that’s their primary residence. If you choose to do your own asbestos abatement work, you are responsible for following all handling, transportation and disposal regulations. Asbestos-containing waste material requires special packaging, a completed asbestos waste shipment form (ASN4), and must be disposed of at a landfill permitted to accept asbestos waste.
How to take a sample to send to a lab
DEQ strongly recommends that an accredited asbestos inspector take samples and send them to a laboratory for analysis. However, if you are the homeowner living in the home you’re remodeling, then you can take a sample yourself. To avoid exposing anyone else, only you should be in the room when taking samples. If the home is going to be demolished, you must hire an accredited asbestos inspector to conduct an asbestos survey.
Wet down the material with a light water mist before taking the sample. This reduces the potential release of asbestos fibers.
Do not disturb the material any more than is necessary to take a small (2” x 2”) sample.
Place the sample in a clean, air-tight container such as a zip-lock bag or small jar. Seal the container tightly. Each sample must be packaged in its own independent container.
Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or that might have spilled onto the floor or horizontal surfaces.
Clearly label the container, stating where and when the sample was taken.
Send the sample to an laboratory for analyses. Make sure to take one sample for each different type of suspect material.
If asbestos is released in your home
If you think asbestos has been released in your home:
- Close off the part of the home where the release occurred.
- Turn off the HVAC or furnace. Close air ducts and vents. Radiant heating systems may remain on.
- Shut windows.
- Tape bottoms of doors to prevent drafts.
- Contact a licensed asbestos abatement contractor or DEQ for information on what to do next.
If your property has been affected by the 2020 wildfires, please go to the DEQ wildfire website for more information on cleanup and debris removal.
A variance was approved by the Environmental Quality Commission on Oct. 9, 2020, which temporarily suspends certain asbestos requirements for wildfire cleanup work. This variance has been extended until July 31, 2022. See the DEQ wildfire rule suspensions page for more information.