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My insurance sent me a letter today that they are cancelling my homeowner's insurance, because I supposedly have "asbestos siding" on my house.

I don't really know what counts as "asbestos siding", but I'm 99% sure my home is using wood shingles (redwood or cedar). I don't think the inspector took any samples of the paint or the singles themselves. The home was re-painted fairly recently.

The insurance company's inspection report does not contain any explanation, other than a picture of my house from the street and the comment "this is asbestos siding". No lab report or anything.

Is this "asbestos siding"?

Located in California - might be one of their attempts to kick Californians off their policies.

enter image description here

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    I don't know of any wood or paint having asbestos. You can send a sample off to be tested, the only way to know, but it sounds like your insurance is just trying to drop you and came up with a weak excuse. I would check if your area/country government has an office that oversees insurance.
    – crip659
    Jul 19, 2023 at 17:46
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    Easy to tell. Light it on fire. That piece would make pretty good kindling if it's wood, and will sustain a flame. If it's asbestos it won't burn at all. There is no such thing as paint containing asbestos. The scary stuff found in paint is lead, so don't eat it - otherwise it's not a big worry. However, what's underneath that? It may have been applied over some sort of hard-board siding. They may know that neighborhood development was built that way. Jul 19, 2023 at 17:50
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    Home insurers are looking for any and every way to cancel polices in CA and FL right now. This seems like a fishing expidition in an area where several homes probably had/have that type of siding (not that it's prohibited anyway, to my knowledge). Same thing happened to me this spring. A lot of homes in my neighborhood have open eaves with the roof framing exposed. Mine doesn't, but they sent the blanket cancellation anyway. Correcting them got me a renewal, but next year it'll be something else.
    – Chris O
    Jul 19, 2023 at 18:26
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    ...although with their main concern for CA insureds being fire loss, I don't see how canceling for fire-retardant siding makes sense. :)
    – Chris O
    Jul 19, 2023 at 18:28
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    I used to have asbestos-cement siding on a house. On a broken tile like that it would look like grey powder in the middle; like cement. If you drilled into it it would turn to a find sand. It looked nothing like wood except for the fake texture of the surface. It was very smooth and painted very well unlike your picture that looks like it has the natural pits and valleys of wood.
    – Brad
    Jul 20, 2023 at 13:02

4 Answers 4

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Just as we here in internet land cannot tell without a lab report, neither can the Insurance company.

Ask them for the lab report that verifies that your home has asbestos siding.

When they cannot produce it advise them that you are reporting them to your State Insurance Commission for canceling you without due cause.

The whole thing may go away. Or they will find another reason to cancel you because that is what Insurance companies are doing now. But if they are being a PITA to you you might as well return the favor.

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    Especially if you post on social media...
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 19, 2023 at 17:49
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    I do find it amazing how fast companies bend over backward to help after you get one of the media's consumer watchdogs after them.
    – crip659
    Jul 19, 2023 at 17:52
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    @crip659 Yes, it seems the modern day corporate modus operandi is to screw people over and only consider doing the right thing if someone raises a big enough stink. Sad. Perhaps I'm biased because I just watched this: youtube.com/watch?v=i3Lv2j7y_Bw Jul 20, 2023 at 10:43
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    TBH, I'd consider changing insurance companies after an act like this anyway. Get them to reinstate you then cancel it of your own accord.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 20, 2023 at 13:55
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    @FreeMan: Might go the opposite way. This insurance company is going to have difficulty denying any claims on this property after they've been caught red-handed falsifying material facts (obviously keep the evidence). I mean, they've shown they are willing to try, but any court is going to give the homeowner full credibility and the company none after seeing that the insurance company already attempted fraud.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jul 20, 2023 at 18:54
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A lot of asbestos siding was textured to look like wood. Newer mineral siding looks exactly like asbestos (and so, like wood) siding but contains no asbestos. And may still be called "asbestos siding" by some people when the distinction is not important.

For your insurance company to make that call from the street is ridiculous.

The sample in your hand looks like wood to me, but that's not worth much more than the walk-by assessment done by the insurer.

Does it behave like wood? Does it splinter? Do small fibers of it become soft? Does it absorb water and expand like wood? I would say "does it smell like wood", but if it's asbestos you don't want to be sniffing it.

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    For what it is worth, it burns like wood (no I did not light the entire house on fire).
    – mitchkman
    Jul 19, 2023 at 18:04
  • I did a fast google search a few days ago about asbestos bans. It seems the US still allows/has not ban it, so as a building material , insurance seems off to cancel. Health insurance is a different matter.
    – crip659
    Jul 19, 2023 at 18:04
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    Now that I looked at it closer, I remember helping a friend side his house with stuff that looked just like that. It was concrete based, similar to Hardy board. Absolutely no asbestos. HOWEVER!!!! it looked just like the siding on other homes in the neighborhood that supposedly did have asbestos in them. Those homes were built in the 30s and 40s.
    – RMDman
    Jul 19, 2023 at 20:58
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    @mitchkman I'm no expert at all, but I thought the point of using asbestos was to act as a flame retardant. So if it burns like wood, it seems like the asbestos content may be low or nil. But, as I said, I'm no expert at all. Jul 20, 2023 at 10:46
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    @mitchkman Then it’s probably not pure asbestos (asbestos melts before it ‘burns’, but you have to get it really hot (as in thousands of degrees Celsius hot) to have that happen). It might still have some asbestos content though, so you should still get it properly tested. Jul 20, 2023 at 14:46
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Take down a COMPLETE shingle and see what's stamped on or taped to the back of it, if anything. Manufactured boards often have branding labels on them, so you can reorder more of the same pattern. Look up whatever you find.

If you think it is wood, then do a simple burn test on a SMALL, unpainted chunk of it. Use a lighter and if it doesn't start making coals or ignite after 15 seconds, it's in question. DO NOT INHALE. Lots of other chemicals and crap in there.

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I agree with others who have said that the insurance company should know for certain that your siding is asbestos before cancelling your policy. That being said, there's actually a very good reason why insurance companies don't like asbestos siding. When asbestos was declared a hazardous material, the cost of removal and disposal of asbestos siding skyrocketed. So, the cost of a claim on an asbestos sided home is disproportionately higher than a similar type claim on a home with other types of siding.
Most insurance companies won't insure a home if they know it has asbestos siding.

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