Frequently Asked Questions

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a generic name given to a number of naturally occurring hydrated mineral silicates that possess a unique crystalline structure, are incombustible in air, and are separable into fibers. Asbestos includes asbestiform varieties of chrysotile (serpentine), crocidolite (riebeckite), amosite (cummingtonite-grunerite), anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Now that you know what asbestos is, it is time to find out what materials contain asbestos.

What building materials contain asbestos?

Asbestos has not been completely banned in all building materials, and therefore unlike with lead-based paint, no firm cutoff date has been established. This is a short list of some of the more common building materials that may contain asbestos:

This list is not intended to show all products that contained asbestos, and an accredited AHERA building inspector should be consulted for final recommendations.

How can I identify what materials in my building contain asbestos?

To accurately inspect, quantify, and categorize the potential materials that contain asbestos in your building, you should hire an accredited AHERA building inspector to perform a site survey. This fully accredited survey will meet local, state, and federal regulations and ensure that you are meeting your legal responsibility and protecting both yourself and your contractors from liability in regards to building materials that contain asbestos.

All asbestos sampling performed by Hawk Environmental Services is carried out pursuant to 40 CFR 763.86 as required by both AHERA and ASHARA. All samples will be collected by an AHERA accredited asbestos building inspector and analyzed by polarized light microscopy by a laboratory accredited by the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). All asbestos samples are taken under the wet-removal method to limit the likelihood of airborne particles being released from materials containing asbestos.

Notes and terms you may find in your report detailing what materials contain asbestos:

  • Homogeneous Sampling Area: An area of suspected asbestos-containing building materials that appears similar throughout in color, texture, and date of material application.
  • Thermal System Insulation: Material applied to pipes, fittings, boilers, breachings, tanks, ducts, or other interior structural components to prevent heat loss or gain or water condensation, or for other purposes.
  • Surfacing Material: Material that is sprayed-on, troweled-on, of otherwise applied to surfaces, such as acoustical plaster on ceilings and fireproofing materials on structural members, or other materials on surfaces for acoustical, fireproofing, or other purposes.
  • Miscellaneous Material: Interior building material on structural components, structural members, or fixtures, such as floor and ceiling tiles, not including thermal system insulation or surfacing materials.

How many asbestos samples do you need?

1) What is the scope of the project?

To determine what materials need to be tested for asbestos, first we need to know what areas of the building will be disturbed. Are you simply planning to scrape popcorn ceilings from a bedroom, will you be completely demolishing the property, or is this a planned remodel that is limited to one or more rooms? A certified AHERA inspector can help you to determine exactly what materials may contain asbestos and how many samples are required.

2) What potentially asbestos-containing materials (PACM) may be disturbed?

Once you have discussed the scope of your project with the inspector, he/she will walk through the site, document all of the PACMs, and separate them into homogeneous testings groups. A thorough listing of all PACMs is crucial to a professional report that will protect the health and legal liabilities of all parties involved.

3) What category do these PACMs fall into?

The EPA divides potentially asbestos-containing materials into three distinct categories, and uses those categories to determine how many samples are required. Properly identifying and categorizing the building materials is essential in assuring a professional report with a limited scope and cost of asbestos testing.

Surfacing materials:

Materials that are sprayed, troweled-on, or otherwise applied to surfaces (such as acoustical plaster on ceilings, wall textures, fireproofing on structural members etc.).

Thermal surface insulation (TSI):

Materials applied to pipes, fittings, boilers, breechings, tanks, ducts, or other components to prevent heat loss or heat gain.

Miscellaneous materials:

All other building materials that may contain asbestos (vinyl flooring, wall board, acoustic ceiling tiles, window glazing etc.).

4) How many samples of these PACMs will be needed?

Surfacing materials:

Due to the nonhomogeneous nature of these materials (they were usually mixed on-site and may not be the same throughout), the EPA requires a certain number of random samples per square foot:

  • 0-1,000 square feet: three randomized samples
  • 1,000-5,000 square feet: five randomized samples
  • 5,000+ square feet: seven or more randomized samples

Thermal surface insulation (TSI):

  • At least three bulk samples from each homogeneous area
  • One bulk sample from patched areas of 6 linear feet or less

Miscellaneous Materials:

  • At least one sample per homogeneous area
  • More samples may be needed at the AHERA inspector’s discretion

When do you need our help?

When applying for a remodeling, repair, or demolition permit, an AHERA asbestos site survey is almost always required. Our inspectors will create a thorough and professional site survey that can easily be read by the regulators or abatement contractors, saving you valuable time and money. These surveys may be required by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA), state inspectors, county officials, or city building inspectors.

What qualifications are required for asbestos consultation?

Generally, an asbestos consultant will be certified as an AHERA (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act) building inspector. This certification allows a professional to document, sample, and describe all of the potentially asbestos-containing materials (PACMs) in a building and design a testing plan that will meet the EPA and other regulatory agencies’ requirements.

How are the samples analyzed?

All of our samples are carefully rushed overnight to an NVLAP accredited lab that will test and report according to established EPA guidelines. The lab will report on each layer of a given sample and you will get a report outlining exactly what materials in your building contain asbestos, what kind is present, and what percentage of the sample is asbestiform.

Can I take the samples myself and send them to a lab?

Unfortunately, unless the building is owner-occupied and the owner will be performing all of the work, a certified AHERA inspector is necessary to gather the samples and create the site survey document.

What will my report include?

Your site survey will include:

  • 1) A list of potentially asbestos-containing materials (PACMs)
  • 2) A floor plan showing all sample locations
  • 3) Photos of the testing sites
  • 4) Results from the lab