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

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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