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Vermiculite Insulation

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[#1] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 5:08:53 PM
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A recent test by a lab of vermiculite insulation in an attic that i inspected showed no asbestos contenet at all. This is only the second time I know of that vermiculite has been tested from a house I inspected. The other one tested negative also. Of course what you read about vermiculite on the internet pretty much says that older vermiculite will contain asbestos.

Does anyone else have experience with test results of this stuff?

Neal Lewis
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[#2] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 5:22:24 PM
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I've tested it half a dozen times. Never found any asbestos.

The EPA site indicates it's almost a sure thing to contain asbestos. So, there's a disconnect somewhere.

It's another instance where EPA is rigorously exercising their mandate.


Kurt in Chicago

"If I smell it, it goes in the report".............Phillip Smith...2012


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Vermiculite Insulation
[#3] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 5:36:58 PM
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This is a great issue for HI's to punt on. Maybe the best. Advise your client that vermiculite could contain asbestos and point them to the EPA website for the latest information. Boom, done.

I have no idea how much of it actually contains asbestos. I'd expect some regional differences given the number of mines, though.

Truth is, there's probably so little hard data to go on that there's no way you could make any kind of a meaningful generalization about it.

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Vermiculite Insulation
[#4] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 6:35:10 PM
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I don't know if this is really how they do it but I have been told the lab here counts 100 fibers in a sample. If one of those fibers is an asbestos needle, that is 1%. A typical result from the lab here is "less than 1%", which is probably the CYA standard response.

I've been asked if I will take samples and my response is "No, it is better to have a trained lab person do that".

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Vermiculite Insulation
[#5] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 6:46:23 PM
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I'm with Jim; I pretty much just point it out and send them to the EPA website, and tell them to call me with questions.

I've had a few folks totally freak out about it and walk from deals....most folks don't care.


Kurt in Chicago

"If I smell it, it goes in the report".............Phillip Smith...2012


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Vermiculite Insulation
[#6] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 6:50:16 PM
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What am I missing here? The EPA says don't bother testing vermiculite for asbestos. So why are you testing?

If a sample here and there shows no asbestos, does that mean a sample over there won't have asbestos? I'd do what the EPA recommends. Don't mess with it. If you have to mess with it, don't bother testing it. Assume it has asbestos.


Mike Lamb
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[#7] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 7:15:59 PM
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You're not missing anything. The EPA has changed their position on this stuff about 5 times in as many years.

Go read what it says now......http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pu...erm.html

If you read it carefully for actual meaning, there's several phrases where they contradict themselves in subtle ways. Well, maybe not contradict, but they're not succinct or clear.

If the EPA can't figure out what simple advice is, I'm not going to stick my scrawny neck out there. At least, not in writing.


Kurt in Chicago

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[#8] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 7:20:28 PM
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I've posted references here several times that states the method of sampling is severely flawed and lab results, using current methods, are incredibly inaccurate.

How many samples were taken from how many locations? Was it over 60?

What percentage of the samples were taken from the top of the joist cavities? The Middle? The bottom?

Did you explain lab test results that show "no asbestos contenet at all" does not mean there is no asbestos in the vermiculite in that house?


Bill Kibbel, Historic & Commercial Building Inspections - Old House Resources
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[#9] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 7:40:19 PM
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I see vermiculite once, sometimes twice, a week; not in insulation but in brand new direct vent gas fireplaces. I see it at least once a month in non-direct-vent fireplaces equipped with gas log sets and with a pile of exposed vermiculite in the hearth where every breeze coming down the stack probably sends fibers into the house.

Homeowners have to open those direct vent fireplaces about once a year to clean the sulfur off the glass or the glass will eventually become etched and they'll never get it clean. I tell 'em there's vermiculite in the firebox, tell 'em to assume it has asbestos and to be careful and open the front of those things very slowly so as not to disturb it when they clean the glass. The exposed stuff? I tell 'em to assume it contains asbestos and have the seller get it removed by a pro before closing.

Haven't had any pushback from builders and nobody has run away screaming yet.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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[#10] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 7:55:31 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Bill Kibbel

I've posted references here several times that states the method of sampling is severely flawed and lab results, using current methods, are incredibly inaccurate.

How many samples were taken from how many locations? Was it over 60?

What percentage of the samples were taken from the top of the joist cavities? The Middle? The bottom?

Did you explain lab test results that show "no asbestos contenet at all" does not mean there is no asbestos in the vermiculite in that house?


Maybe I wasn't clear......

I could give a rats ass about the stuff. Some of my customers care, ergo, the survival instinct tells me I must act like I care.

I ran tests years ago when the story first came out, long before you or anyone else had anything to say about it. Folks want samples to know "for sure", they get samples to know "for sure", and I distance myself from the silliness.

I am aware of lawsuits taking place about vermiculite asbestos because some folks are irrational. I don't waste time trying to be rational with irrational people. They want tests, I point them to a tester.

If they EPA can't be clear, I'm damn well certain I'm not going to make a stand and upstage the EPA with my own ideas.

Anyone else wants to, they have my blessing.



Kurt in Chicago

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[#11] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 8:37:58 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by kurt

You're not missing anything. The EPA has changed their position on this stuff about 5 times in as many years.

Go read what it says now......http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pu...erm.html

If you read it carefully for actual meaning, there's several phrases where they contradict themselves in subtle ways. Well, maybe not contradict, but they're not succinct or clear.

If the EPA can't figure out what simple advice is, I'm not going to stick my scrawny neck out there. At least, not in writing.




I did read it carefully for actual meaning. How the hell else am I supposed to read it?

Try wading through the crap or subtle contradictions and get to the bottom line. The EPA has it in bold.

What should I do if I have vermiculite insulation?

YOU SHOULD ASSUME THE VERMICULITE CONTAINS ASBESTOS AND DO NOT DISTURB IT!

What simple advice are you looking for?

Mike Lamb
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[#12] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 8:52:26 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Neal Lewis

Does anyone else have experience with test results of this stuff?


One customer took three separate samples from his attic and brought them in for testing. Two were negative, one was positive. He didn't give any more detail than that.

When I asked him what he planned to do about it, he said that he was just going to leave it alone.

When I asked him why he bothered to have it tested he said, "Because I wanted to know."

About as good a reason to do anything in this life, I guess.


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[#13] Posted: 02/13/2012 - 9:51:01 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by hausdok

I see vermiculite once, sometimes twice, a week; not in insulation but in brand new direct vent gas fireplaces. I see it at least once a month in non-direct-vent fireplaces equipped with gas log sets and with a pile of exposed vermiculite in the hearth where every breeze coming down the stack probably sends fibers into the house.

Homeowners have to open those direct vent fireplaces about once a year to clean the sulfur off the glass or the glass will eventually become etched and they'll never get it clean. I tell 'em there's vermiculite in the firebox, tell 'em to assume it has asbestos and to be careful and open the front of those things very slowly so as not to disturb it when they clean the glass. The exposed stuff? I tell 'em to assume it contains asbestos and have the seller get it removed by a pro before closing.

Haven't had any pushback from builders and nobody has run away screaming yet.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike
You're advising that on units less than 20 years old? Vermiculite mined/distributed after 1990 does NOT contain asbestos.

Bill Kibbel, Historic & Commercial Building Inspections - Old House Resources
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[#14] Posted: 02/14/2012 - 12:24:57 AM
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Seriously, Bill?

Have you any idea what a big deal the Seattle P.I. made of Vermiculite around here? I believe they won a friggin' Pulitzer over it. No way, with the screwball way the government can't seem to make up its mind about Vermiculite am I going to not recommend folks step lightly around the stuff. I'd rather be safe than sorry.

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Mike

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[#15] Posted: 02/14/2012 - 01:31:41 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by Mike Lamb



What should I do if I have vermiculite insulation?

YOU SHOULD ASSUME THE VERMICULITE CONTAINS ASBESTOS AND DO NOT DISTURB IT!

What simple advice are you looking for?



Parse that emboldened sentence through the marginal to non understanding of the average customer. What do you get?

Then, place the customer in a setting where they're talking to the average contractor about anything, i.e., put the "second guy in" phenomenon in motion. What do you get?

Nothing simple.

Then, add the hysteria inducing reporting of something like Seattle PI. What do you get?

Hint............it ain't simple.

Shoot, read the EPA statement as a client would read it.....in one sentence, it tells people there's something the world thinks is hazardous sitting in their LR, and for God's sake, DON'T TOUCH IT!

For those that think the EPA statement is clear or useful, I bless your trust in government information.

On the job, if anyone acts curious or concerned, I tell them the only way to know is to test it, and back away slowly.

I leave hero stuff about asbestos to folks that want to be heroes.


Kurt in Chicago

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[#16] Posted: 02/14/2012 - 05:53:55 AM
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You want to see how succinct the EPA really is, go read the lead paint rule. Not the pretty consumer brochure or the contractors guide book, the law as it appears in the Federal Register. The culmination of a decade of work and it reads like the ramblings one would expect in a teenage girl's diary.

My professional opinion, my clients get links in the report to the EPA site. My personal opinion, the EPA is a waste of money.

Tom

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[#17] Posted: 02/14/2012 - 4:05:56 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by hausdok

I tell 'em there's vermiculite in the firebox, tell 'em to assume it has asbestos and to be careful and open the front of those things very slowly so as not to disturb it when they clean the glass. The exposed stuff? I tell 'em to assume it contains asbestos and have the seller get it removed by a pro before closing.

Mike


Sounds like an inspector that would a comment like that would assist in the mass hysteria regarding vermiculite. Anytime ones makes a statement like that to a typical, uneducated owner they would certainly make a big deal out of it for no reason.

If someone tells someone to get it removed would surely start another "black" mold argument with the seller, buyer and the asbestos abatement contractor.

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[#18] Posted: 02/14/2012 - 4:37:11 PM
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Just curious how you would inform your client of insulation that "may" contain asbestos. What about a client that is planning on updating the home with say, can lighting? What happen's to that vermiculite then? It's the naive and uneducated buyer that need's more hand holding from us(inspector's).

Are you a home inspector? Couldn't tell by your profile.

v/r

Rob Jones
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[#19] Posted: 02/14/2012 - 10:12:44 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by blindrid

Quote: Originally posted by hausdok

I tell 'em there's vermiculite in the firebox, tell 'em to assume it has asbestos and to be careful and open the front of those things very slowly so as not to disturb it when they clean the glass. The exposed stuff? I tell 'em to assume it contains asbestos and have the seller get it removed by a pro before closing.

Mike


Sounds like an inspector that would a comment like that would assist in the mass hysteria regarding vermiculite. Anytime ones makes a statement like that to a typical, uneducated owner they would certainly make a big deal out of it for no reason.

If someone tells someone to get it removed would surely start another "black" mold argument with the seller, buyer and the asbestos abatement contractor.
Oh Yeah?

Guess I screwed up, 'cuz I haven't scared anyone off a home yet by tellling 'em not to disturb this stuff. Let's see, in two more months I'll have been doing this 16 yeras. How the hell would you know what kind of inspector I am?

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Mike

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[#20] Posted: 03/02/2012 - 09:26:48 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by hausdok

Quote: Originally posted by blindrid

Quote: Originally posted by hausdok

I tell 'em there's vermiculite in the firebox, tell 'em to assume it has asbestos and to be careful and open the front of those things very slowly so as not to disturb it when they clean the glass. The exposed stuff? I tell 'em to assume it contains asbestos and have the seller get it removed by a pro before closing.

Mike


Sounds like an inspector that would a comment like that would assist in the mass hysteria regarding vermiculite. Anytime ones makes a statement like that to a typical, uneducated owner they would certainly make a big deal out of it for no reason.

If someone tells someone to get it removed would surely start another "black" mold argument with the seller, buyer and the asbestos abatement contractor.
Oh Yeah?

Guess I screwed up, 'cuz I haven't scared anyone off a home yet by tellling 'em not to disturb this stuff. Let's see, in two more months I'll have been doing this 16 yeras. How the hell would you know what kind of inspector I am?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike


Good morning:

I have trained hundreds of contractors / energy analysts / auditors throughout the country and my point has always been to make sure any comments in any reports cannot be interpreted in such a manner not to overstate health hazards and base that information on legitimate testing. When one makes a comment of "assuming that it contains asbestos" is irresponsible and when it may CYA it is not accurate and could only cause a hysteria on part of an uneducated potential homeowner.

I guess I'm old school enough to remember the many "cry wolf" reports of various building materials and consider statements that "may contain" or "possibly" does not provide anyone with valid, worthwhile information just shows a possible lack of knowledge.

Anyway, have a great day all.

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[#21] Posted: 03/02/2012 - 11:06:38 AM
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Semantics. I suppose I could parse both comments and come down on either side. I rather like Mike O's comment as it relates to asbestos in vermiculite in a gas log application.

To assume the inspector's comment may be an indication of ignorance, is to invite argument. The typical inspector does not do well in simple arguments with their client.

Les
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[#22] Posted: 03/02/2012 - 11:09:01 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by blindrid

Quote: Originally posted by hausdok

Quote: Originally posted by blindrid

Quote: Originally posted by hausdok

I tell 'em there's vermiculite in the firebox, tell 'em to assume it has asbestos and to be careful and open the front of those things very slowly so as not to disturb it when they clean the glass. The exposed stuff? I tell 'em to assume it contains asbestos and have the seller get it removed by a pro before closing.

Mike
Sounds like an inspector that would a comment like that would assist in the mass hysteria regarding vermiculite. Anytime ones makes a statement like that to a typical, uneducated owner they would certainly make a big deal out of it for no reason.

If someone tells someone to get it removed would surely start another "black" mold argument with the seller, buyer and the asbestos abatement contractor.
Oh Yeah?

Guess I screwed up, 'cuz I haven't scared anyone off a home yet by tellling 'em not to disturb this stuff. Let's see, in two more months I'll have been doing this 16 yeras. How the hell would you know what kind of inspector I am?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike
Good morning:

I have trained hundreds of contractors / energy analysts / auditors throughout the country and my point has always been to make sure any comments in any reports cannot be interpreted in such a manner not to overstate health hazards and base that information on legitimate testing. When one makes a comment of "assuming that it contains asbestos" is irresponsible and when it may CYA it is not accurate and could only cause a hysteria on part of an uneducated potential homeowner.

I guess I'm old school enough to remember the many "cry wolf" reports of various building materials and consider statements that "may contain" or "possibly" does not provide anyone with valid, worthwhile information just shows a possible lack of knowledge.

Anyway, have a great day all.
Well Old School, I'd say you have a problem with reading comprehension. Nowhere above did I say that it "may contain" or "possibly" I said I tell my clients to assume that it does and treat it accordingly. If I see a snake I don't recognize, I'm going to assume that it's poisonous until I know better. I'm not going to panic; I'm just not going to screw around with it. That's what I tell people to do.

We could go on like this forever. I could take your comments to mean that your a suckup/soft peddling type of inspector who is afraid of losing future referrals by using language that's "not friendly to the house." Since you want to beef up your bona fides by purporting to have trained "hundreds" of energy auditors, blah, blah, blah, I could also take that to mean that you're one of the numbnuts that's taught so many inspectors to write weak, passive language type reports who have done this profession so much harm. However, since you don't know me, have never worked with me, have never accompanied me on an inspection and couldn't possibly know whether I'm irresponsible or not, nor I you, that would be a wrong assumption on my part.

We'll just have to agree to disagree and leave it at that.

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Mike

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[#23] Posted: 03/03/2012 - 5:13:30 PM
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based upon the sample tested.
the lack of asbestos present is limited to the amount and area of insulation tested. It should not be construed to be representative of the totality of insulation present and installed thru all the attic and inaccessible wall void areas.

peter moss
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[#24] Posted: 03/03/2012 - 9:01:26 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by pete moss

based upon the sample tested.
the lack of asbestos present is limited to the amount and area of insulation tested. It should not be construed to be representative of the totality of insulation present and installed thru all the attic and inaccessible wall void areas.
What's the point of posting that? Are you just illustrating that testing vermiculite for asbestos is completely worthless, like I've posted here before?

Bill Kibbel, Historic & Commercial Building Inspections - Old House Resources
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[#25] Posted: 03/04/2012 - 07:50:29 AM
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It's an excellent snippet of InspectorSpeak.


Kurt in Chicago

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[#26] Posted: 03/04/2012 - 12:19:03 PM
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I have had vermiculite in my first home when I bought it, never understanding fully what it meant because I wanted the house so much. The testing is unreliable at best. I believe that you can manipulate the results you want to achieve from how many, where or what depth they are taken from.

Although it is easy to say to leave it alone, when renovating, it is at the fire stops when you open walls amongst other places. It's not like you can avoid it forever if you just don't go in the attic.

What it relates to is how other people perceive it. It could affect the resale value of your home which I do inform people verbally although that tidbit doesn't make it in the inspection.

Removal is expensive. It deters others from buying the home, irregardless of asbestos contents.

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur..." Red Adair

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