What is an Asbestos Survey?

Mary McMahon

An asbestos survey is a comprehensive examination of a structure conducted to determine whether or not asbestos is present. Asbestos, a building material now recognized as hazardous, was once widely used in all types of construction projects. Asbestos surveys are designed to identify asbestos-containing materials so that they can be handled with special care during renovations and demolitions. Typically, the survey is conducted by a certified inspector.

The health risks associated with asbestos exposure mean that safety precautions are a vital measure when carrying out asbestos testing.
The health risks associated with asbestos exposure mean that safety precautions are a vital measure when carrying out asbestos testing.

As long as asbestos-containing materials are inert and undisturbed, they are usually not harmful. However, if they are ripped up in a demolition project, breached during a renovation, or poorly maintained so that they start to crumble, they can release asbestos into the air. Inhalation of asbestos can cause serious lung problems, including the development of mesothelioma, and for this reason, asbestos needs to be tightly controlled or removed. An asbestos survey is an important step in a renovation or demolition project.

Asbestos surveys are required whenever people want to make major changes to a structure built in an era when asbestos was still in use.
Asbestos surveys are required whenever people want to make major changes to a structure built in an era when asbestos was still in use.

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In some regions, asbestos surveys are required whenever people want to make major changes to a structure built in an era when asbestos was still in use, or remodeled during a period when people might have used asbestos. Surveys are usually required for both remodeling and demolition before a permit will be issued, and if asbestos is identified, specially qualified personnel will need to be hired to remove it. The exception to this rule is in an owner-occupied building where the owner is doing the renovations, in which case he or she may be able to remove asbestos-containing materials as long as the proper protocols for handling and disposal are followed.

In a location and assessment asbestos survey, the surveyor looks for anything which might contain asbestos, and identifies it. For example, he or she might spot suspect tiles or insulation materials. In a standard sampling identification and assessment asbestos survey, samples are taken of all the suspect materials and sent to a lab to determine whether or not asbestos is actually present. Both surveys involve a very thorough inspection of a structure, with a focus on the areas where work will be taking place.

Pre-demolition and major refurbishment asbestos surveys are more extensive, designed to address concerns about disturbing underlayers of floors, wall insulation, and other areas where asbestos may be present. The results of an asbestos survey included a detailed discussion of all of the areas where asbestos has been found, along with recommendations for remediation. Depending on the location of the asbestos, remediation can involve removing it, or sealing it off so that it cannot be released into the air.

Asbestos surveys are conducted prior to demolition.
Asbestos surveys are conducted prior to demolition.

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