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A family member is considering purchasing a house, built in the Midwestern United States in 1958. In the basement, there are nine inch ceiling tiles on the ceiling. The home inspection mentioned that it cannot confirm that these tiles are not asbestos.

I've received four pieces of advice:

  1. "Just remove it yourself."
  2. "Hang drywall underneath the tiles and seal it up."
  3. "Professional removal is the only way to go."
  4. "Take a sample and send it in to a laboratory."

I suspect the tiles do have some asbestos content. Some of the advice sounds reasonable enough (especially 2, 3, and 4)... looking for guidance.

What's the best approach in this situation?

EDIT: Thanks all for the helpful advice. We had it tested, and it turns out not to be asbestos.

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Do 4. If positive for asbestos do 3. Note though that if they do contain asbestos, it is likely that as long as you do not disturb them, they will not affect your health. In otherwords you could keep them as long as you don't cut into them. Hanging drywall sounds like it would cause tile particles to enter the air (what would you hang the drywall to?) and probably would be a bad idea. – shufler Nov 22 '11 at 5:49
@shufler +1 that would have made a good answer. Welcome to the site. – BMitch Nov 22 '11 at 12:51
We got the test. Negative! Definitely feel that testing wad worthwhile. Seems obvious now. – Kyle Hodgson Nov 24 '11 at 13:17
up vote 8 down vote accepted

As a certified home inspector I will give you some more specific advice from a Buyer's point of view. If the inspector suspected asbestos, then this warning should be taken seriously. At this point in the house buying negotiations, it would be wise to insist the "Seller" have the material sampled by a licensed tech and tested by a certified lab with a copy of the results given to you before proceeding to a closing. If the tests do come back positive for asbestos, get a quote from a licensed asbestos remediator to remove it, and a quote to replace the ceiling with some safe material such as drywall. I would recommend asking that the total amount of both of these projects be adjusted from the selling price.

Under no circumstances would I advise one of my customers to proceed further into the purchase until this issue is resolved. If positive for asbestos, this could be an expensive fix and definitely not a DIY project under any circumstances.

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I would get it tested.

If it comes back negative, then at least you know you don't have to worry about it.

If it comes back positive for asbestos then your offer price should be adjusted to account for that.

If it isn't a complex removal job, and it sounds simple, it might be best to have it professionally removed before you move-in. It allows you to do what you want with the basement for future DIY jobs. Basement ceilings also tend to be lower and more easily disturbed, and you don't want to worry about kids disturbing it.

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If you suspect asbestos you need to be very careful.

If taking samples wear fully protective clothing and masks- once a sample if safe in a sealed container- remove your clothes outside far away form anybody and incinerate it or bag it up and keep safe for removal later if test is positive on asbestos.

It only takes short period of time to cause serious respiratory and health issues

If you are in the UK contact your council- Asbestos removal is funded by the local council to keep people from dying.

If you are anywhere else try and contact your local government body and ask for advice, usually they will know if your area has asbestos builds and how to handle this things.

I understand some countries are difficult to deal with governing bodies, so just get a professional-- I am sure a few bucks to save your life is worth every penny

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When taking a sample, don't you also need to be venting the room to minimize the risk that asbestos particles land and get kicked up into the air later? Seems like you really need some professionals involved for anything that involves messing with potential asbestos. – freiheit Nov 22 '11 at 19:02
Yea - I would advise not entering the place at all without any proper gear and disposal methods. – ppumkin Nov 22 '11 at 19:45

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