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Anyone afraid of asbestos when cutting holes in walls?

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Jun 09, 2013, 12:02 AM
Anyone afraid of asbestos when cutting holes in walls?
I have an older home (1958) and want to get Central AC soon. Aside from the obvious asbestos wrapped ducting that we will get professionally abated, I'm worried about cutting holes in the walls for installing vents, etc. I have read that some old Sheetrock could contain asbestos. Does anyone worry about this? Should I be? I'm afraid to get it tested. If its positive, it would have to be disclosed when we sell. Should I worry? Not worry? Thanks in advance.
Jun 09, 2013, 10:42 AM
I remodel for a living and am not too concerned about asbestos in plaster or drywall - just use a mask if you are raising some dust. Asbestos in most solids like wall material and especially hard flooring is very stable. Any fibers are contained within the material plus the amount of asbestos there is minimal. Breaking or cutting with hand tools does very little to release any asbestos fibers and is fairly safe.

OTOH, the asbestos insulation wrap - around pipes or ductwork is deadly. Just look at it with a demolition thought in your mind and it turns to dust. That's the asbestos that you have to be careful with.

Jun 09, 2013, 12:41 PM
Thanks Jaybee. Would you tape off the area and wear an asbestos rated mask? I've read too much about it and am concerned, so much so that I'm afraid to proceed, despite desperately needing AC. I probably sound like a nutcase. We have other areas of the house that we had cut holes in before and I was never concerned until recently. Do any of your customers test the wall material?
Jun 09, 2013, 02:02 PM
I'm concerned indeed about asbestos myself. I have run across some small areas of asbestos paper and old vinyl-asbestos tile.

removed 'em wet, bagged it, washed and then bagged my mask and the slop in another bag, out it went in the trash.

when working with insulated steam pipes and boilers in the hospital, we always had material tested before modifying or painting. the only place we had positives was the old south wing built in the late 40s, and that was a "no touch" area, even though it was encapsulated.

we had a few piles of crumbling hot insulation in the tunnels and plant at a college I worked at in the 80s, and they were well-signed and controlled by plastic. encountered them once, saw the plant staff had done all the required notice stuff, and stayed away.

when it becomes airborne (friable) it is nasty, but you find out about that 20-40 years later. so it's a good thing to be wary.

sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Jun 09, 2013, 04:36 PM
Better to be too cautious rather than not.

Again, the asbestos (if any) contained in the hard stuff is very stable. Face mask, gloves and a sprayer bottle to mist down any dust will cover you in most cases.