Is There Asbestos in Your “Dream Home”?

It’s spring and a time of year that many people start to think about looking for a new home, whether that’s “brand new” or “new to you”.  Certainly, there are advantages – and disadvantages – to newer and older homes alike that go beyond the structures to the neighbourhoods and surroundings. Many people are attracted to mature, older neighbourhoods with tree-lined streets and established infrastructure.

However, as the Canadian Real Estate Association advises, there are steps you should take to protect your interests, not only the economic side of things but also in terms of your health. Older homes , particularly those built before 1970, can present a number of issues that need special consideration beyond the usual inspections.

Asbestos
Among these is asbestos. Nowadays, it’s the pariah of the construction industry but at one time, it was considered a miracle material – fire resistant and extraordinarily resistant to damage of almost any kind. In the early 20th century, it was widely used for a huge variety of products from oven mitts to home insulation – in fact, Germany’s infamous Kaiser Wilhelm built himself a cottage entirely made of asbestos in order to withstand fire bomb attacks in the First World War.

Asbestos may show up in a range of areas in a home, including:

What Should I Do?
It sounds alarming, but the first thing to remember is this: as long as the material is intact and/or bound up in concrete (as it would be in tiles or paneling), asbestos is not considered to be a threat. Once it has deteriorated, or is damaged, it can become friable, which means that the fibres may be inhaled. Inhaled into the lungs, it can cause lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Standard home inspections do not look for asbestos in all these areas, and it’s doubly important if you’re planning on renovations.

If your home was built before 1970, then you have to assume that it does contain asbestos. Before any renovation projects, call in the experts from GreenStream Environmental Services for an asbestos inspection. At GreenStream Environmental Services, we offer professional vermiculite and asbestos remediation services to help you deal with this problem.

In the Toronto area contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca at (416) 818-9414.

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.

Asbestos in the News

National broadcaster the CBC has begun a series of segments this week devoted to the issue of asbestos, a lingering concern in Canada decades after the problematic mineral was banned or restricted from use virtually worldwide.

One of the segments profiles an innovative program at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital, a world leader in cancer treatment and research. The Mesothelioma Research Program is the only one of its kind in North America. Among other things, it looks to proactively screen people who were exposed to the dangerous material via the workplace. The hope is to catch the deadly disease early, since most of the time, by the time symptoms appear, the disease is already in an advanced state and death sometimes imminent.

Nearly a thousand such workers have been screened with CAT scans since 2005, and the Program has established a biobank of mesothelioma tumours. Physicians believe even a small amount of exposure can result in the disease, which then takes decades to develop. That’s why the incidence of mesothelioma continues to rise, even though it’s been banned from virtually every workplace since the 1970’s. In fact, there were 400 cases diagnosed last year, about double the rate of occurrence found 20 years ago.

Construction Trades
The majority of workers came to be exposed to asbestos while employed in the construction field. Some of them described working in clouds of asbestos dust. Once seen as a near miraculous material, asbestos – fireproof and nearly indestructible – was used in virtually every part of a building, from siding to roofing to window and door sealant, ceiling panels and floor tiles. Both residential and industrial construction was affected.

In another headline, an Australian man who’d famously been given up for dead at the foot of Mount Everest in 2006 succumbed to mesothelioma and passed away this week. He too, was exposed to the material at a construction job.

Asbestos in Your Home?
If the exposure came from building homes, then what does that mean for you and your home? If your home was built before 1970, it’s almost certain there is asbestos somewhere in one of the many locations it was commonly used. But don’t panic just yet.

Renovations
The danger from asbestos comes when it becomes friable, or the fibres deteriorate and become airborne – meaning you can inhale them. As long as it’s bound up in a mixed material like cement tiles or contained in walls, it’s not considered a threat.

However, age and lack of maintenance over time can potentially cause damage or deterioration to the asbestos that may exist in your home. Renovations of any kind can disturb materials and cause just the kind of damage that can lead to airborne asbestos fibres.

If your home was built before 1970, then you have to assume that it does contain asbestos. Before any renovation projects, call in the experts from GreenStream Environmental Services for an asbestos inspection. At GreenStream Environmental Services, we offer professional vermiculite and asbestos remediation services to help you contain and then rid yourself of this problem.

In the Toronto area contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca at (416) 818-9414.

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.

Asbestos In Your Home

Asbestos was so widely incorporated in both residential and industrial construction at one time (largely from the 1930’s to 1970) that it was used in areas you may not be expecting.  Here’s a look at some of the lesser known places you might find it in an older home:

  • Wall sheeting, often used in areas like the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room – you’ll sometimes see this in the wall panels, often patterned and glazed, which were screwed into the walls around showers or baths, for example
  • Ceiling sheeting and lining
  • Bonded patching compounds, often used around windows
  • Textured paints, which may appear under the brand names Marblecoat, Pebblecoat or Suretex, among others
  • To compound the effect, textured paints were often used to cover other asbestos related materials, like insulation board
  • Asbestos felt, which was sometimes used as a backing of vinyl and linoleum sheet flooring, or under floor tiles in the bathroom
  • Insulation in heaters or stoves – if you’ve got an old stove kicking around the basement or garage, it’s best to get rid of it

The material is not considered hazardous as long as it’s intact. However, scratches, scrapes and any deterioration can result in the material becoming “friable”, meaning the asbestos can crumble and become airborne.  The danger to your health comes from inhaling asbestos fibres. Even where it’s intact and technically not a hazard, it represents a potential barrier to selling your home in an ever more environmentally conscious market.

Call the Asbestos Removal Experts
Be safe rather than sorry – if your home was built before the 1980`s, then assume that it may contain asbestos in a variety of locations and call in the experts from GreenStream Environmental Services for help before any renovations. Please DO NOT DISTURB OR HANDLE the material in question, or try to sweep/vacuum it away. There is no “safe” level of exposure.

At GreenStream Environmental Services, we offer certified asbestos removal services.  In the Toronto area contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca at (416) 818-9414.

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) from homes, condominiums, apartment buildings and more.  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.

Asbestos in Your Windows

If you own an old house – with todays’ energy costs – it’s likely that one of the first renovation projects you’ve considered is replacing old windows. It makes good sense even if the initial outlay is relatively large, since window manufacturing technology has advanced by leaps and bounds and new windows can substantially reduce heat loss.

Before you start, and whether you decide to do it yourself or hire contractors, consider the asbestos risk. That’s right – in addition to the many other uses for asbestos you may already be aware of in your home, it can also be found around your windows.

Window Glazing
Asbestos was once a common component of window glazing and caulking, particularly on the exterior of a home. Window glazing, also called window putty or plumber’s putty, is the material that is used to fit and seal windows and glass panels. It goes on soft and hardens in place. While it’s hard and intact, it’s not considered to be dangerous, since the adverse health effects of asbestos come about as a result of inhaling the fibres. However, as the material ages, it can decompose and crumble, and certainly, when windows are being removed, that seal is damaged and the material becomes “friable” or inhalable.

Windowsills
You may also find asbestos in your windowsills or window paneling, and again, the danger will come when the material is damaged or disturbed and the material can be breathed into the lungs. You’re likely to find asbestos in the window area of your home if it was constructed before the 1980’s, and in particular if it was constructed or last renovated between the 1950’s and the 1970’s.

The risk is no joke; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. has cited contractors in the past for exposing workers to asbestos during window renovations. It’s certainly nothing to take your chances with.

Before any renovation projects, call in the experts from GreenStream Environmental Services for an asbestos inspection. At GreenStream Environmental Services, we offer certified and safe asbestos removal and disposal to help you contain and then rid yourself of this problem.

In the Toronto area contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca at (416) 818-9414.

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.

Danger From Above – Asbestos in Ceiling Tiles

Asbestos was considered a “wonder product” for much of the 20th century. Its fire resistant and nearly indestructible properties made it seem like the ideal material for construction of both residential and institutional structures – both safe and effective. Unfortunately, it took decades before its health effects – including incurable lung cancer – were seen, often in workers exposed to the material without protection.

In addition to its many other uses and seemingly protective properties, it was discovered to have sound proofing qualities, and so became commonly used in what are called “acoustic” ceilings in the form of ceiling tiles. In acoustic ceilings, the asbestos tiles are suspended from the roof, typically with wires – also known as a drop ceiling. This drop ceiling method of construction creates a space between the tiles which augments the naturally sound proofing properties of the material, making it a seemingly natural choice for institutions in particular.

That space between tiles and roof is also where HVAC ducts were often installed. The big problem with this set up is that the danger from asbestos comes when the fibres becomes airborne and are inhaled into the lungs, so the proximity of asbestos tiles and ductwork that runs throughout a building created a great potential for adverse effects.

Identifying Asbestos Ceiling Tiles
Some manufacturers left identifying marks on asbestos ceiling tiles, but age may have deteriorated such markings, and in addition, there`s no guarantee of the label. Asbestos may be present even if the main component of the tiles is another material such as fibreglass or cellulose. In other words, even if you`re familiar with the appearance of asbestos tiles, you cannot assume that visual inspection alone will tell you what you need to know.

Call the Experts
Be safe rather than sorry – if your home was built before the mid-1970`s, then assume that any ceiling tiles contain asbestos and call in the experts for help before any renovations. Please DO NOT DISTURB OR HANDLE the material in question. It is not considered dangerous if the material is still intact; however any future nicks, breaks or deterioration of the surface can mean a potential hazard. There is no “safe” level of exposure.

At GreenStream Environmental Services, we regularly remove asbestos in ceilings, walls, siding and more.  In the Toronto area contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca at (416) 818-9414.

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, Woodbridge, Vaughan, 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.

Popcorn Ceilings – the Hidden Asbestos Hazard

Yesterday’s fads are quaint at best – dangerous at their worst. At one time, the so-called “popcorn ceiling” was everywhere.

Anyone over the age of 30 no doubt remembers those textured, stubbly ceiling treatments that were touted at the time as being easy to clean and maintain. It was a spray on treatment that was quick, easy and cheaper than paint, and could be used to mask imperfections and stains in older houses, and even poor quality workmanship in new buildings, probably all reasons that contributed to the popularity of popcorn ceilings during the latter half of the 20th century. Popcorn ceilings were also thought to have noise reduction qualities, and were often called “acoustic ceilings” as well.

On top of proving hard to clean and nearly impossible to fix up or repair in the event of any damage, (in contrast with the original claims!) and giving a room a very dated look, popcorn ceilings also often contain a hidden hazard. Do you know what was commonly used to create that stippled texture until its use was banned? Asbestos!

That’s right. From the late 1950’s until residential asbestos treatments were banned in the late 1970’s, asbestos was very commonly used in creating that unattractive “textured” look that you can find everywhere in homes from hallways to bedrooms and living rooms. If your home was built or renovated during that period and you have a popcorn ceiling, it almost certainly contains asbestos.

The first step towards ridding yourself of the eyesore and potential health hazard is to have the ceiling material tested for asbestos contamination . If asbestos is present, the next step is having the popcorn ceiling removed by certified experts. This is definitely not a “do-it-yourself” weekend job for handy homeowners. Once disturbed and broken apart, you can expose yourself to direct contact with dangerous asbestos. At GreenStream Envrionmental, our expert technicians are trained specifically in the safe and sound removal of popcorn ceiling, along with other types asbestos removal abatement and disposal.

Once the experts have done their job, you’ll be free to redecorate in a safe and friendly environment.

Should you suspect the presence of popcorn ceiling asbestos in your home or business, Contact GreenStreamEnvironmental.ca – Toronto’s asbestos removal specialists – at (416) 818-9414.

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, mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA, 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.

Standard home inspections aren’t always enough

If you read your typical national Canadian newspaper, you may notice a growing trend: more and more articles are popping up chronicling the struggles of home owners against mould, asbestos and other harmful agents.

One of the biggest reasons why residents or business owners end up paying out the nose: poor home inspections and poor pre-purchase inspections in particular. Too many prospective buyers assume that all inspectors are created equal. That simply isn’t true. A good or bad home inspection company can be the difference between paying thousands of dollars on a major renovation a few years down the road or spending that money on a vacation instead.

Aside from standard practices like asking around or researching customer reviews, there’s another common trick to ensure you get a proper home inspection: seeking out the specialists. If you need asbestos removal, find a company that tells you on its website or ads that it specializes in asbestos removal. Same goes for mould removal.

It’s the same principle you see with medicine. A hand specialist can go into far more detail examining your injured palm than a general practitioner can, right? An inspection company specializing in mould will have a better idea of warning signs, such as moisture, and where to look for mould.

There are other tricks to use to ensure you get a proper home inspection, such as following the inspector around your home, but seeking out the specialists is always a good place to start!

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, mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA, 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.