“Asbestos in Basement: To Remove or Not to Remove?”

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Photo by PoPville flickr user VJ Kapur

“We recently moved into a 1930’s home in Northeast DC. The basement has a half bath, and the previous owners laid down carpet in the rest of the room. Soon after moving in we had a sewage backup in the basement, and the carpet was ruined.

Here’s the problem: When we pulled up the carpet, we discovered tile underneath, and we’re reasonably certain the tile and floor adhesive contain asbestos (we discovered a stack of extra packages of the tile, warning in small print that the product may contain asbestos and should only be removed by professionals.) The tile is cracked and loose around the edges of the room due to the carpet having been nailed down on top of it.

The first two contractors who came to see the basement didn’t mention asbestos at all, and it was only the third who brought up the issue with us (we discovered the extra packages and started researching after his visit). He said we could simply cover the existing tile with vinyl flooring, but said we should avoid carpet because additional nailing would cause the tile to crack further.

Obviously we would rather not have to pay thousands of dollars for asbestos remediation, and we’re fairly certain we won’t be able to get anything from the previous owners, who can claim they didn’t know about it (though they most likely did). So, we’d love to just carpet or tile over it, which seems to be common practice and what the previous owners did. On the other hand, we’re concerned that this is something we’ll have to deal with down the road anyway, particularly when we want to resell.

Any thoughts on whether professional asbestos removal is necessary in this situation? Any ideas on how much it should cost (the tiled area is about 300 square feet)?”

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19 Comment

  • The risks and cost involved in removing it are much higher than leaving it. If you have it tested because then you will be legally required to disclose it when you sell the house. You can have it professionally encapsulated for relatively cheap, then you can float an engineered flooring (I don’t think you can do actual hardwood, nor would you want to in the basement) over the encapsulated surface. I would do than, then buy some throw rugs if you intend on actually using the space.

  • HaileUnlikely

    If you ever need to disturb the concrete for anything, you will obviously need to remove the asbestos then (e.g., if you are going to install a french drain or something like that), so if you think that’s in the forecast, I’d go ahead and get it removed.
    .
    FWIW I had asbestos tiles and glue removed from my basement, precisely because I was about to have a french drain installed. I got four estimates, two from mid-sized companies, one from a mom and pop company, and one from a very large company that does seven-figure jobs to remediate asbestos in schools, government buildings, etc. The very large company (ACM Services) was the least expensive by a lot and did a very thorough, professional job. They charged me $3000, which was their minimum at the time (this was in 2012, might be different now). The other three estimates were between just under $6K and close to $10K.

  • Very common situation and not a big deal. Undisturbed, the tile won’t pose a hazard, and there are numerous ways to install flooring over the tile that will not require nailing (for instance, additional adhesives may be used to secure carpet in place of nailing on the edges). See http://www.capitalgazette.com/lifestyle/home_garden/ph-ac-cn-rooney-0328-20150326-story.html for other suggestions.

  • We just used Demolition Services in my condo building, they came in as the least expensive, were highly recommended by our contractor and they did a fantastic job. I’m not sure what their minimum job would be, but worth a call.
    Even if you don’t remove it now, when you do decide to sell, you will either have to remove it then or disclose it to buyers.

  • Have it taken out. A contractor can do it without too much trouble or the risk of making it airborne. It really shouldn’t cost so very much.

  • I used Lang Environmental Services ~4 years ago and was happy with the cost and service. they removed about 900 sq feet of asbestos tile and adhesive (I had it tested) for about $2600. Now, I also did it before I moved in–the guy mentioned that if I had lived there, there would have been different permits needed, which presumably would jack up the cost. Really worth the peace of mind, especially because like yours, my tiles were loose.

  • Anyone have experience with removing drop ceiling tiles containing asbestos?

  • I Dont Get It

    On the plus side there’s a good chance there is a secret room underneath it!

  • Floor tiles being removed isn’t as bad as other types (such as the kind around pipes) we had a layer of them under our kitchen floor that were removed as part of a kitchen demo. We also had some in a basement bathroom that we personally just covered with laminate peel and stick tiles from Lowes.

    I would NOT get it tested just get it removed or covered. Most contractors have experience with it and wont require you to test it. Having the test means you are legally required to disclose

  • I suggest that you have a asbestos remediation company look at the tiles and advise you. Most companies will give you a quote for removal and also let you know whether you really need to remove them. We used NorthStar Contracting Group, Inc. to remove asbestos pipe insulation from our basement. They are in Baltimore but do business in parts of DC. They were the lowest quote we received and came highly recommended. They told us that we did not have to remove the insulation so long as we kept a soffit around the pipes to ensure that the insulation wasn’t disturbed. This wasn’t an option for us so we had it taken out. I found the owner of Northstar, David Rymers, to be honest, knowledgeable, and reliable. Their number is 410-247-5031.

  • We used Young Environmental to remove asbestos from an attic. They were great and will tell you if it needs to come out. If it does, they’ll give you an estimate up front.

  • Also, I wouldn’t follow the advice that you shouldn’t have it tested because then you will have to disclose. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that if you suspect asbestos, sticking your head in the sand won’t protect you later on. More importantly, asbestos is nasty stuff, and these tiles may be a hazard to you and your loved ones, so it’s best to get some quality, professional advice and not mess around.

    • Ashy Oldlady

      And despite the perception of anonymity, they’ve admitted it on this site. It wouldn’t be hard through subpoena to put 2 + 2 together.

      • unless it’s tested (which they haven’t yet according to above) there isn’t anything to disclose. having gone through multiple home inspections with “possible” asbestos (tiles, insulation, siding, etc) that’s how it works. an inspector will say “might be” but again you need to have official test done before any seller would have to disclose anything.

        • PDleftMtP

          Don’t get legal advice from the internet (or a real estate agent, for that matter). If you have a possible asbestos issue that hasn’t been remediated, this is one of the times you spend a couple hundred bucks and talk to a real lawyer.

          • Anyone who will even talk to you for a couple hundred dollars is not a real lawyer. The cost of talking to a qualified lawyer about liability issues involved in asbestos in your home will exceed all of the removal quotes given here.

  • HaileUnlikely

    If at any point in the future you ever have to dig up part or all of the slab or foundation for any reason, you will absolutely have to remove the asbestos before proceeding. You can get this done for $3K, possibly less. Just get it done.

  • Agreed with the above on just getting it removed, but mostly just came here to note how amazing the scare quotes around “free” in the photo is.

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