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I want to refinish my basement walls, as they look really bad. I tore down some wood paneling that was starting to warp, and behind that was some styrofoam insulation. Behind styrofoam is 3 mil plastic. Behind that is the concrete which is crumbling to the touch, about 1/8" to 1/4" into the concrete around the frost line. It looks like someone at some point in time put a waterproofing coat on it and this caused the moisture to deteriorate the concrete.

My question is, should I be worried about releasing asbestos in the air from any of the concrete/waterproofing that was done? I've tested linoleum tile, old adhesives, and everything so far has been negative. I'm wondering if all of this crumbling is going to be hazardous.

The house was built in the 1920's. I can provide pictures if necessary.

  • Asbestos can be anywhere so always be weary (it seems like you are), but a one time exposure is not going to hurt you. I would be way more worried about your crumbling foundation! – Zach Mierzejewski Nov 18 '15 at 0:44
  • If you're concerned about asbestos, have it tested. My money would be on a negative result, but you never know. (More importantly, have you thought about drainage from the outside? Dealing with water from the outside is how you'll make your basement dry for the long haul.) – Aloysius Defenestrate Nov 18 '15 at 5:18
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Based on your description, your basement walls likely have no asbestos in them. But that's the least of your worries; a crumbling foundation is a major problem! This is not a DIY job unless you are have professional experience with structural engineering, foundation repair, and concrete pouring. Call in a pro. And make sure this doesn't happen again by improving the drainage outside of the basement. There are many ways to do this, from improving the grading to installing drain tile to building a subterranean roof. It all depends on the conditions at the site.

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Asbestos was mostly used to insulate pipes, not walls.

Asbestos is very easy to recognize if you look at pictures on the internet. It is like bundles of very fine, hair-like fibers that look they are made of glass. They crinkle. If they bend smoothly they are not asbestos. Asbestos fibers crinkle. If you see a plasters (or fabric) with fine, clear bundles of incredibly thin fibers coming out of it and the fibers crinkle to the touch--that's asbestos.

  • There are other kinds of asbestos though - such as asbestos-vermiculite. – Dai Jul 19 '16 at 12:38

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