Vermiculite Insulation & Asbestos: A Quick Guide

The feverish real estate market in Toronto and the GTA means that sellers aren’t as interested in fixing up the old homestead before they put it on the market. As a buyer, it means that you might well be looking at old problems that should have been dealt with years ago – like vermiculite insulation.

What’s The Problem With Vermiculite Insulation?
Vermiculite insulation was a type of blown in insulation that was commonly used for attic spaces. Vermiculite, a natural material, is not problematic by itself. The issue is that some vermiculite deposits are adjacent to, or mixed in with, asbestos – usually of the actinolite variety. That’s the case in the mines of Libby, Montana, where most of the vermiculite for insulation that was sold in Canada was mined.

Unfortunately for future generations, that combination of vermiculite – a material that expands when heated – and asbestos, which is fire resistant and nearly indestructible, seemed to make the ideal insulation. It looks silvery gold, or a grey brown colour, and it is somewhat shiny. Insulation uses its expanded form, which looks like little pebbles.

More than 680kg of contaminated vermiculite was processed in plants across Canada. According to the EPA in the United States, up to 35 million homes in North America are affected. Insulation from the Libby mine was sold from the 1940s until 1984. The mine was closed in 1990.

Most of the vermiculite insulation sold in Canada from the Libby mine fell under the brand name Zonolite® Attic Insulation. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Canadian government was offering homeowners grants to have attic insulation installed in their home through the late 1970s and into the 1980s.

  • The danger from exposure to asbestos through contaminated vermiculite insulation is real. The EPA has documented cases of asbestosis, a chronic breathing condition caused by the scar tissue that forms after asbestos exposure, that resulted from as few as four or five contacts with the material.
  • You can’t tell just by looking – you need to get the material tested to find out if it contains asbestos.

What Should You Do?
If the insulation is sealed, and isolated from the rest of the home, it is considered safe. But – is it?

If you are planning on any renovations, or installing an alarm or even a home entertainment system, you need to take the vermiculite insulation into account.

  • You must inform any one you hire to work on the home of its presence.
  • You will be liable for any asbestos exposure if you do not.

The only way to be absolutely sure is by professional vermiculite insulation removal.

However, while you are waiting for your asbestos removal appointment, there are precautions you should take.

  • Do not go into the attic, or use it for storage.
  • Seal any cracks or holes in any ceilings in the home, so the insulation can’t sift downwards.
  • Seal the areas around any light fixtures or ceiling fans with caulking.
  • Use caulking to also seal around windows and door frames, along baseboards, around any electrical outlets, thermostats, or any other controls or fixtures that are cut into the walls.

Don’t Take Chances
If you have asbestos-contaminated vermiculite insulation, or asbestos anywhere in your home, let us help with the next step: asbestos removal. Our experienced and certified asbestos removal and asbestos remediation technicians can help keep you and your family safe. In the Toronto area call Environmental at (416) 818-9414. Contact us for a quote today.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite and mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA (North York, Mississauga, Markham, Brampton, Scarborough, Ajax, Oshawa, and beyond) GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414. You’ll be glad you did.