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Q&A about asbestos pipe insulation in buildings:
Questions and answers about how to recognize asbestos insulation on heating or water pipes and what to do about it.
This article series provides photographs of abandoned and partly-covered-up asbestos pipe insulation in buildings to assist in the recognition of that material.
These questions & answers or comments about asbestos-containing pipe insulation and asbestos pipe insulation removal and disposal procedures and costs were posted originally at ASBESTOS PIPE INSULATION - be sure to read that article.
Watch out: asbestos pipe insluation in good condition is usually best left alone or encapsulated: left alone, in place, undisturbed, risks and costts are minimized. But if asbestos pipe insulation is in poor condition, shedding, damaged, fallling-off, or if it is in a location where it is likely to be damaged, it should be removed and the pipes cleaned and sealed.
For asbestos pipe insulation that is in poor condition, falling off it is beyond encapsulation and needs to be removed by a professional.
This article series assists building buyers, owners or inspectors who need to identify asbestos materials (or probable-asbestos) in buildings by simple visual inspection.
Photo: corrugated asbestos paper on a roof drain pipe in a commercial building.
[Click to enlarge any image]
On 2019-01-15 by (mod) - fiberglass insulating pipe wrap
The photo is a bit blurry but to me your image of pipe insulation looks like yellow fiberglass insulation.
On 2019-01-15 by Mamabear710
Can someone tell me if this is exposed asbestos? It's supposed around what seems to be a hot water pipe.
On 2019-01-01 by (mod) -
What's this asbestos pipe, probably transite cement which contains asbestos, actually doing? If it's moving house are it's an asbestos Hazard if it's venting flue gases that sounds like a safety hazard.
On 2018-12-31 by Old home owner
My floor furnace has an aspestos vent pipe that runs under the house and next to the chimney. It has been knocked loose and repositioned several times by plumbers and my roofer. Should I have it checked?
On 2018-11-12 by (mod) - more fiberglass pipe insulation
Fiberglass covered with something i cant ID
On 2018-11-12 20:17:34.302768 by Steveinsul
Thanks again for your help.
On 2018-11-12 19:23:00.276242 by (mod) -
Thank you for the added detail. Perhaps you can show me in a couple of more detailed and sharp photos.
On 2018-11-12 18:11:46.263387 by Steveinsul
What I have is a dark green plastic wrapping over what looks like a fiberglass but the fiberglass-like material (visible in pic where wrap meets copper pipe) feels softer than fiberglass in other parts of house, so wasn’t sure what it was.
On 2018-11-12 17:53:06.608870 by (mod) -
A black foam insulating jacket will not be asbestos.
On 2018-11-12 16:51:57.824276 by Steveinsul
That was me who made last comment, it came up as anonymous for some reason.
On 2018-11-12 16:50:43.022240 by Anonymous
The pipe has what looks like an insulating jacket on it. Not sure it’s fiberglass in there, but was curious if the type of insulating jackets contained asbestos from 1977 when house was built.
On 2018-11-12 02:31:34.229489 by (mod) -
Looks like some kind of spray over spray on foam insulation
On 2018-11-12 00:50:48.443870 by Steveinsul
House built in 1977. This insulation wrap is on water pipe near valve where outside faucet is. This pipe is located in basement adjacent to outside wall.
On 2018-11-01 17:23:15.676963 by (mod) -
Thank you for the important question.
You are right, most of the asbestos use world wide was of the Chrysotile or serpentine (curly fiber) form.
I thought I had reviewed and corrected this point.
I have reviewed and clarified the article text above.
On 2018-11-01 15:41:46.630672 by (mod) -
Thank you for the important question.
I thought I had reviewed and corrected this point but now I will go back and look at our notes and research again and post a follow-up comment here
On 2018-11-01 07:08:30.970435 by Vincent
The article states that most corrugated asbestos pipe insulation worldwide was made of crocidolite. Was this also true in the United States? My understanding is that chrysotile was the primary fiber type used in 95 percent of applications in the US. Thanks!
On 2018-08-13 21:22:53.473295 by (mod) -
I agree that the black stuff looks like mold growth.
The pipe wrap appears to be intact and not shedding.
The safest, least-costly and most-recommended approach (including by US EPA) is to leave such insulation in place, undisturbed, covering or encapsulating it.
The only down-side is that some day if a section of pipe has to be repaired it has then to be handled with appropriate care.
If your pipe insulation is what it looks like, originally it had a sticky surface - it's not likely to be shedding if left alone. I'd encapsulate it.
On 2018-08-13 20:46:02.201775 by (mod) -
That could be a stick caulk-like pipe wrap - some of which contained asbestos depending on age of production.
It would be helpful to know the age of the building, piping, and when the wrap was installed.
To keep your photo in view and to invite comments from other readers I will repeat your question, your photo, and a longer reply in the article above.
On 2018-08-12 23:51:44.715146 by Dan
Are these copper water pipes wrapped with asbestos? They are hidden above the drop ceiling in the basement.
The house was built in 1973 in Maryland. Another question is about what appears to be black mold on the wrap. I am assuming that either way, we're going to have to get a proffessional to remove this, correct?
2018/04/11 Antonio said:
Is this asbestos on my pipes - I'm really scared. [paraphrasing from private email]
You can use the picture frame icon to the right of the Comment button to post photos here. For security and to protect our readers, direct links can't be posted in reader comments. To save you some trouble I'll post your photos just above.
I looked at your photos - they look like asbestos lagging or paste on pipes.
Rather than being very scared, it would be prudent to avoid disturbing the material and to either encapsulate it in place or have it removed professionally.
Watch out: while asbestos in good condition is usually left alone or simply encapsulated (if you avoid making a dusty mess the hazards to building occupants from the material, left alone, in place, undisturbed, are minimized) your case is different.
For asbestos pipe insulation that is in poor condition, falling off, or especially when it is an area accessed by people, it is beyond encapsulation and needs to be removed by a professional.
On 2017-12-13 by (mod) - what to do about asbestos-suspect materials
Nick, I don't have much context around the photo but this looks like it might be a lagging or paste type asbestos pipe cover, in poor condition. If we knew the age of the building and more of the context: what's around, that might help.
I would not disturb the material nor do any messy demolition/removal without either assuming the material contains asbestos, or if faced with a high removal cost, have a sample tested.
Search InspectApedia.com for ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST if that's needed.
On 2017-12-13 by Nick
I came across this today hidden in some boxing, looks very suspicious and it's not bee picked up on the asbestos register.
Any thoughts on what it could be.
On 2017-09-19 by (mod) -
You are welcome to send photos for comment, Matthew.
Use the page top or bottom CONTACT link. While a photo is never a substitute for a lab test for asbestos, some materials are easily recognized and unambiguous.
On 2017-09-19 by matthew.brett.anderson
Looking for help identifying outgoing ductwork white insulation.
Rest of Furnace ductwork was replaced, but 1 10' stretch covered with white covering. Doesn't look to me like any of the asbestos insulation I've seen. Is there any place to send pictures for a second opinion?
On 2016-08-25 by Howard Johnson
I have just found some old insulation lagging to iron pipes in my loft of a 1920's house; it has the name "Melsulite" branded on the outer face and an imperial measurement alongside;
whilst it looks like a "modern" lagging material as it is foam like and fitted in loose sections like normal lagging, its age and the imperial reference suggests that it may be of some vintage, possibly original and, therefore, may well contain asbestos.
Any comments would be very welcomed.
On 2016-02-06 by (mod) -
I'm surprised. Age and appearance of heating pipe insulation matching the page top photo of this article are rather reliable indicators.
I'm not aware of a non-Asbestos lookalike.
I can't know just what you saw and would sure like to see some sharp photos as well as to know the age of the building, it's heating and it's heat piping systems.
On 2016-02-06 by fortwaynemark
I noticed a pipe at a local business I often go to that had damaged insulation looking like gray corrugated cardboard. I asked the proprietor about it who said they had that specific pipe's insulation tested when it broke at another joint years earlier. They were surprised to hear it was asbestos-free and 'just cardboard'.
I can't help but think it looks just like the Aircell (gray, corrugated) and you say visual identification can be a virtual certainty. Is it possible this is some Aircell-lookalike material? Thank you.
On 2015-12-30 by (mod) -
Yes certainly, Kelly, though there will be an additional cost to remove at least enough asbestos to permit workers to make proper connections to the existing building steam piping.
There is no justification for a complete asbestos pipe insulation removal job just to replace the boiler; however if the pipe insulation in other areas not right at the boiler is not in good condition or is in an area likely to be disturbed then it probably needs removal. Usually it's best to leave asbestos in good condition alone, or to encapsulate it.
On 2015-12-30 by Kelly
Can my steam boiler be replaced if I have asbestos insulation on the pipes? In other words, can it be replaced without disturbing the pipes, or will the insulation have to be removed/replaced before I can have the boiler replaced?
On 2015-11-17 by (mod) -
That's not an approach I've seen used, I suspect because it's not practical - your foam will ooze all over the place and drop in blobs onto the floor. You'd have to box-in the pipes and then fill the box with foam;
On 2015-11-15 by Duane
Could i use closed cell spray foam to completely encapsulate asbestos covered radiator pipes ?
On 2015-09-06 by norm
can you cover asbestos pipe covering
I have about 30' of old hot water radiator heat piping with asbestos insulation like that shown at the top of this page. Need to remove insulation and then piping. Insulation appears to be wrapped in a cloth wrapping (more asbestos?).
Is the insulation very friable? Besides using all proper PPE, isolation and clean-up described in your other sections, what is best method for removal of this asbestos insulation? - Tom
Tom, the corrugated-paper like asbestos pipe insulation we show at page top is quite soft and friable; the cloth wrapping its exterior is usually cotton or linen that has been painted and is not itself an asbestos material. I'd call a licensed asbestos removal company for this project.
In many jurisdictions you may be legally permitted to remove asbestos but the disposal of the asbestos containing material (ACM) waste must comply with local or state hazardous waste disposal regulations.
The difference between an amateur asbestos removal and a professional job is also that the pros can be expected to take the the steps we list below.
You could follow these and the more detailed procedures for asbestos cleanup in the US EPA regulations and documents in our references, but the risks are detailed at ASBESTOS REMOVAL, Amateur, Incomplete and include health hazards for the worker(s) and a risk of contaminating the building with asbestos, leading to a still more-costly cleanup.
Because we are past the peak of consumer fear about asbestos contamination and because the procedures, regulations, licensing have become well known, removal prices for a job like the one you describe should be manageable.
Current (2011) costs per foot to remove asbestos pipe insulation range from around $12. to $25. per foot on larger jobs, and $40. to $65. per foot on a small job. Those per foot costs tend to be less on a larger asbestos abatement project than on a smaller one because of the overhead of coming to the job, setting up containment, etc.
If the asbestos pipe insulation is in good condition (not falling off, damaged, making a mess) and especially if it's not in an area where it is likely to be disturbed, you have the option of leaving it in place, perhaps coating it with an encapsulant. The cost of this approach is less than asbestos pipe insulation removal, and the total release of asbestos particles in the building is also less.
Of course plumbing and heating repairs or changes may make it necessary to disturb asbestos-insulated piping, in which case the material needs to be removed and disposed-of.
Typically you'll get a quote based on the number of linear feet of asbestos-insulated pipe to be cleaned, possibly such a quote can be obtained just by telephone, with of course the proviso that on seeing the site and a need for other measures that quote is "subject to site inspection" . If an onsite survey is required to plan the asbestos cleanup, some contractors charge around $300. for that service, and may for give that fee if they are then hired to conduct the cleanup.
We find this cost varies widely from being included in the cleanup per foot cost, to low fees for in-ground burial where permitted, to a cost per bag or pound to have the asbestos containing waste material double bagged and hauled to an approved dumping site by a licensed hazmat waste hauler.
Other costs on larger asbestos abatement jobs typically include fees to run an air scrubber - figure $100./day - and the fees paid to a qualified expert for asbestos tests performed at the site before, during, and after the cleanup. For small residential asbestos cleanup jobs such as yours, onsite airborne asbestos monitoring is not performed.
Keep in mind that an amateur asbestos removal that contaminates the building is likely to result in a far greater subsequent cost to inspect, test, and clean the building of scattered asbestos dust and debris. During the peak asbestos scare I inspected a home for a buyer and observed extensive asbestos-insulated heating piping in the basement.
The owner decided he'd do the abatement himself. His wife later told me that "... he had white powdery stuff tracked literally all through the first floor of our home and even upstairs at times ...". In short, he made a horrible mess. The real estate sale stopped dead while the owners had to hire experts to then come and clean the entire home by wiping and HEPA vacuuming everything. It would have been less costly to have done the cleanup right the first time.
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