WWYD? Asbestos in drywall joint compound and texturing

pudgybabyApril 30, 2012

I am wondering what you all would do in this situation?

Our house was built in 1975, a bit before the ban on using asbestos containing products in home construction. It was one of the first homes built in our subdivision and in our area. We bought in 1994 (17 years ago) and we are the 2nd owners. Our house is in a desirable area with good schools and our subdivision is one of the cheapest in the area. Our house is updated and has a very nice lot (for the area) and is located on a cul de sac. The price of our house would be on the high end for our subdivision but low for the surrounding area.

We remodeled our kitchen 2 years ago, and part of the process of pulling permits involved an asbestos inspection. To everyone's surprise, our ceiling texture, wall texture and drywall joint compound tested positive at levels that ranged from 2-4%. The asbestos inspection is new in our county - it was not required 4 years ago when we remodeled a bathroom. We had professionals remove all of the wall and ceiling drywall in the kitchen, with the proper asbestos removal permits and mitigation.

Prior to the asbestos inspection, we did a lot of remodeling and disturbing of the walls: 3 bathrooms (the drywall was removed and replaced in the tub/shower area in two of the bathrooms and behind the vanity in one), we had all windows replaced, and LOTS of wallpaper removal throughout the house. This house was a model and had wallpaper on at least one wall in all rooms. Some of it was foil and in general it was difficult to remove. There was no texture under the wallpaper. Also, the previous owners had an addition put on the back of the house.

We are thinking of selling our house. Of course we will have to disclose the asbestos. We don't think that many houses in our area would have this negative disclosure because either they don't know about it or their house doesn't have asbestos.

We are wondering if we should get air testing inside our house done (or maybe not air, but whatever they would normally test to see if any friable asbestos is present). But what if it comes back positive? Then what? Our reaction when we initially got the positive test was anger - we would rather not know, honestly, since the levels are low and we really don't feel there is any health threat (but maybe this is just denial/rationalizing...). Do you think buyers will demand additional testing? How much do you think the asbestos will lower our selling price (our house is in the 400k range)?

Any suggestions or ideas are appreciated! I'm sure that there are buyers who would not consider buying our house because of the asbestos, but we are hoping that real estate agents can help most buyers through the learning process to alleviate concerns.

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Check with your county/city building officials. Some areas are not as strick IF, the asbestos is completly sealed, others demand everything be removed. RE agents do not know codes etc and will not be able to guide a buyer thru a sale. If you do get it tested, find out from your state officials who is certified etc. Also find out if the previous owners got the permits to add a room. If not, in some counties you have to get that permit or tear it out. Most of my information comes from Los Angeles County, one of the strictest in the US.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 2:03PM
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Sorry, you are going to have to disclose the asbestos, and yes, it will be a major defect. How that is going to impact pricing is incredibly location specific. If you were in an old city, every house would have some lead paint or asbestos somewhere, right? If you are in a young town with lots of new houses, your disclosure is going to stick out like a sore thumb.

Since it sounds like a lot of the remodeling was done already, you might want to find out how much it would cost to remediate the rest. I'm sure it will be expensive, but might be worth compared to the hit you would otherwise take when you go to sell.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 3:13PM
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I have never heard of disclosure of asbestos in joint compound, however, every house in your area that was built around the same time will have asbestos in the joint compound. It is what was used at the time. I suspect it will be the norm to buyers looking in your price range and not a huge problem.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 8:54AM
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I have never heard of it either. Where are you located?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 8:25PM
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Thanks everyone for your responses.

The kitchen cost was $2688 for removal of 350 square feet of wall and ceiling drywall. That does not include replacement and texturing of the new drywall. There is NO WAY that we would have all of the drywall in our house removed and replaced. I'm guessing that would cost about $30k to $40k. Then the whole thing would have to be painted. I would rather discount our selling price by that amount than go through a huge abatement like that. Our neighbors would be quite alarmed!

We are in a suburb of Denver.

Linda and ncrealestateguy: Certainly disclosure of the asbestos is not optional, right? Perhaps your state/area does not have a law requiring asbestos testing prior to pulling permits for remodeling? Colorado has a state law with this requirement, but my GC said that it was up to the local jurisdictions (counties) as to when they implemented the requirement.

I was able to find some documents online listing the abatement projects in Colorado and sure enough, there was our house! A quick search through this documentation shows several houses in our neighborhood, so Linda seems to be right about it being in most/all of the homes of our vintage.

I'm thinking that I should contact a realtor or two that list many homes in our neighborhood to see if they have sold any homes with asbestos. My DH is reluctant to disclose this info however, and I have concerns as well.

I'm linking a GW thread from a couple of years ago with some good info. Our analysis was done with the inaccurate PLM method, so we might get it re-tested using the point count analysis, but as Linda says, it most likely has asbestos. Reading this other thread is upsetting, with people alarmed and with valid concerns.

Thanks again, everyone. Any more ideas are appreciated!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 10:01PM
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You obviously have a very bad predicament. I would have no clue what to do with that. One one hand, the right thing to do would be to disclose it, but once you do that, you're screwed and you probably won't be able to sell it. On the other hand, nobody disclosed it to you, so why should you disclose it to anyone else? Of course I know two wrongs don't make a right. But 3 lefts do - haha.

I've always heard it's much better to leave the stuff alone. Once you start messing with it is when the fibers get airborne again. Instead of going through the expense/hassle of removing it, is there a way you can cover it with additional drywall? That in itself will still be expensive, but still a lot cheaper than removing it.

The bad thing about your situation is people will STILL be leery of buying your house even after you DO fix it. Once you tell them it was there, but you repaired it - a lot of people will STILL be fearful that you missed something, or that you didn't fix it correctly.

I feel bad for you. Sorry I don't have any real answers. I wish you luck. I hope you can figure out the best way to handle this.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 12:15AM
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Do you know for a fact that your state requires disclosing this? Here, we have asbestos siding, roof tiles, and pipe insulation. Our disclosure form does not ask about asbestos.
Remember that asbestos is only harmful if it is floating throughout the air and breathed in. I hope you had your HVAC system turned off when they did the first abatement. And if not, I hope someone advised you to have all of your duct work cleaned afterwards.
Let us know what your state disclosure form asks of you.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 7:53AM
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ncrealestateguy: I didn't even know there was such a thing as a disclosure form! I googled for this form, and unfortunately, there is an entry for asbestos under environmental conditions - see link.

The more I learn here, it really seems like we would have to significantly discount our price because of this. Honestly, if I was buying our house I would insist on a discounted price.

I will disclose this when we sell. It is not worth $40k to me to not disclose. For a lot of reasons.

No worries about the HVAC when we had the kitchen drywall removed. The abatement company advised us to turn it off. Also, they had two layers of plastic enclosing the area and created negative pressure out the window window with a fan. Air quality tests were done after the removal.

Here is a link that might be useful: Colorado disclosure form

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 8:53AM
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Disclose the asebestos as sucinctly as possible. State that upon testing you used certified remodelers. Find a short report from one of the agricultural extension agencies or some other Phds, if possible, covering the asbestos in housing. This should be non-alarming as they have nothing to sell. Attach the report to your disclosure.
There are popcorn ceilings all over the country and kids knock it down with balls etc all the time. If it were that dangerous there would be a lot more media coverage and lawsuits. The people with 10 years heavy exposure on the jobs are the ones with disease. Obviously, you want to avoid breathing it, but undisturbed it poses little if any threat. It is essentially encapsulated in the texture medium.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 12:57AM
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Unless it's crumbling, neither the joint compound nor the texturing is a source of asbestos. It's just sitting there, sealed under paint. Removal is NOT required.

You will not fall over dead if you inhale a fiber of asbestos ... the typical victim not only worked in mining, production or application of asbestos for years, but was also a heavy smoker. Families of these workers are at increased risk (especially if the work was before the current safety practices went into effect). The rest of us are at very low risk (despite what all the mesothelioma lawyers want you to believe).

Tell your husband that you HAVE to answer the questions on the disclosure forms truthfully or you can be looking at legal problems.

I have a house with known asbestos around some of the pipes, probably radon because of the geology of the area, and undoubtedly lead paint ... I'm not worried.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 6:27PM
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Thanks for the new responses, marian and lazygardens. We really aren't that concerned about health affects of the asbestos, but not everyone feels that way!

lazygardens: I wasn't clear in my post above about my DH. I just meant that he wasn't comfortable telling a real estate agent about this problem because we aren't really thinking seriously about selling right now (I just want to be prepared as possible if we do decide to sell). We both know that we MUST disclose the asbestos on the disclosure form if we sell.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 8:51PM
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