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The Inspector's Journal

Anyone need a vermiculite pic?


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This past July I did a 1949 house with three attics and all three were insulated with vermiculite. You can see my look of wide-eyed wonder upon discovering it.

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Actually, I wasn't filled with wide-eyed wonder. I snapped that at the end of the worst day I'd had in 11 years of inspecting. I was at the point of exhaustion and I was wondering if I looked as bad as I felt.

That was my second inspection of the day on one of the hottest days of the year. It was a small, but difficult to inspect older house. It was like an oven inside because it had been shut up tight. There were two crawlspaces, both humid and hot as blazes. The larger one had 65 years worth of junk accumulation to go over and around. The smaller one was a dirt floored tunnel so narrow and low that I couldn't turn around in it. If I had passed out, I'd have been S-O-O-L because the buyers stayed in the kitchen, which was the only room with an air conditioner.

At one point, the daughter (dad was buying the house for her) went out to a convenience store and brought back cold drinks for everyone - everyone but me that is. She never even asked me if I wanted anything. Normally, i would have declined, but I had emptied my gallon jug of ice water hours before and was drinking warm tap water. I can't understand how someone could be so thoughtless and uncaring.

Your vermiculite picture brought back a flood of repressed memories from that crappy day. I feel much better getting it off my chest! Thanks 'Dr.' Rob! [;)]

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This was the most vermiculite I have ever seen. I guess normally it is covered with something else by now.

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How would you report on that? I understand that "some" vermiculite can can contain asbestos but a large majority rarely contains more than trace amounts.

I tell them that testing is wasted money. It's impossible to say if this part of the attic has asbestos vermiculite and this side does not. If they want it removed, assume it has asbestos and treat it accordingly per EPA otherwise don't mess with it.

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I explained to them that it might or might not have asbestos. I told them that what I normally see is newer insulation installed on top of the vermiculite and that is OK to do. I also explain why they shouldn't store anything in the attic, how they should use caution if cutting into the ceiling(to install can lights for example). Then I attach a link for them to read up on it a bit more. I don't sweat the vermiculite. I had a previous client test the stuff in her attic and it was clear, no asbestos.

Here is the actual report wording;

"Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that has the unusual property of expanding into worm-like accordion shaped pieces when heated. The expanded vermiculite is a light-weight, fire-resistant, absorbent, and odorless material. These properties allow vermiculite to be used to make numerous products, including attic insulation.

EPA and ATSDR strongly recommend that homeowners make every effort not to disturb vermiculite insulation in their attics. If you must go into the attic follow these basic rules;

1.Make every effort to stay on the floored part of your attic and to not disturb the insulation.

2. If you must perform activities that may disturb the attic insulation such as moving boxes (or other materials), do so as gently as possible to minimize the disturbance.

3. Leave the attic immediately after the disturbance.

4. If you need work done in your attic such as the installation of cable or utility lines, hire trained and certified professionals who can safely do the work.

5. It is possible that vermiculite attic insulation can sift through cracks in the ceiling, around light fixtures, or around ceiling fans. You can prevent this by sealing the cracks and holes that insulation could pass through.

6. Common dust masks are not effective against asbestos fibers.

For more information please visit; http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/insula ... WhatShould.

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