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Reporting Asbestos


StevenT
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Should I not report...

"There is exposed Asbestos in the basement. It should be removed and disposed of properly or encapsulated by a professional Asbestos remediator".

I want to include...

"Asbestos is a great product as far as fire resistance but it can be harmful if it gets in your lungs. If you don't disturb it, it's ok".

But I feel a bit apprehensive about putting "it's ok" in writing. I started out with "...it's safe", but changed it.

I've been told "never to say the "A" word", and to give a real "inspector speak" remark... since we are not "qualified" to determine what is and isn't asbestos.

Due to it's appearence, along with the age of the building, I believe it is asbestos. I feel I should call it as I see it.

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Any opinions?

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Call it as you see it.

What possible reason could there be for not calling it the "A word?" Because you're not a licensed asbestos guy? That's not logical. Using that logic, you shouldn't call out anything about the exterior, the roof, the framing, the foundation, the crawlspace, the attic, the insulation, the HVAC, the plumbing, the interior, the electrical, etc, because you aren't one of those specialists.

Tell the client that you believe that the insulation that you are seeing most probably contains asbestos fiber and recommend that they confirm that through testing. It costs about $35 - $40 around here to get a sample of that stuff tested. Tell them that if it turns out to be asbestos to consult an asbestos abatement specialist about which options - removal or encapsulation - will work best in this circumstance and what that's going to cost them to accomplish. Once you've done that, step away.

If it turns out not to be asbestos and someone squawks, point out to them that that they could have avoided the whole issue by being proactive and having had it tested and a report handy before the inspection. I might even offer to pay the $35 test fee, since it would have been my report that prompted it, but that's as far as I would have gone and I certainly wouldn't have felt guilty about having called it out.

I think that telling folks that it's okay as long as you don't get it in your lungs is pretty pointless. It's already in your lungs, and their lungs, and my lungs, and Jim's lungs, and Kurt's lungs, and you kid's lungs, and will be in your grandkids lungs, and.... It's in the air all around you and has been for decades.

I just identify it as an asbestos containing material and then I leave it up to them to confirm it and get an asbestos abatement guy to tell them what to do about it. Once they're armed with the asbestos guys' assessment, they can do whatever they want.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I do call it as I see it, that's the TIJ in me... that's the me in me. I find myself deciding, "is it"? or "isn't it"? on many occaisions.

I was having a problem about saying it's ok, and I'm getting that you wouldn't say that either. I also notice you say "probably contains asbestos". Do you think I should back off one notch?

On Staten Island, the last time I had an abatement done was about five years ago. It was $250 just for the guy to show up.

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Call it what it is. You, me, the TIJ crew, and anyone w/an operational brain knows it's asbestos.

Don't listen to the dolts teaching @ the HI schools that insist on HI's being barely functional morons that can't know something that even my daughter knew was asbestos when she was <10 years old.

It's got open end caps. It's shredded in a couple locations I can see. Both these conditions are flagged by the EPA as hazardous.

Tell you're client what it is in no uncertain terms, and tell them to have an asbestos abatement contractor check it out and tell them what it will cost to remove or encapsulate it.

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Just for the record, my recent training institute suggested that we write it up as follows;

I recognized what appears to be asbestos like material as insulation on pipes in the_____. I recommend that a qualified asbestos abatement contractor be contacted to further investigate and determine an appropriate coarse of action.

Does a response like this sound ok?

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Sonofswamp

With that statement then I must assume that you call out mold with out any question. I am not an asbestos expert and will never claim to be, that being said I will never positively call out :asbestos", I will always state "what appears to be Asbestos". We have some other insulation that looks very similar to the asbestos and most of the time you can tell the difference but I will never call it out as asbestos. I was in the Plb & HVAC trade for over 27 years and have come across more "what appears to be asbestos" and I all ways informed the client to have it properly tested for verification.

I do not know what instructors that you have had in the past but most all of the ones that I have knew the business better than most HI's I have ever meet. (no I am not an instructor)

Remember Hi's are generalist and not specialist in all aspects of the home, so don't try an be by calling things out you do not know for sure.

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Where did "appears to be" come from? Hausdok did you ever use that phrase in your law enforcement career? I have done inspections for several officers of the law and we have joked about this having to call things like cocaine "a white powdery substance that appears to be cocaine" . So its not just HI's who do it.

I use to use the phrase all of the time because I thought that was how you were suppose to do things but I only use it sparingly now only when I am unsure and its use tells the story better.

I can't remember if W.J. or Jim K. advocate its complete elimination in our report writing?

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Brian Kelly

Sonofswamp

With that statement then I must assume that you call out mold with out any question. I am not an asbestos expert and will never claim to be, that being said I will never positively call out :asbestos", I will always state "what appears to be Asbestos". We have some other insulation that looks very similar to the asbestos and most of the time you can tell the difference but I will never call it out as asbestos. I was in the Plb & HVAC trade for over 27 years and have come across more "what appears to be asbestos" and I all ways informed the client to have it properly tested for verification.

I do not know what instructors that you have had in the past but most all of the ones that I have knew the business better than most HI's I have ever meet. (no I am not an instructor)

Remember Hi's are generalist and not specialist in all aspects of the home, so don't try an be by calling things out you do not know for sure.

If one cannot spell, write, or even come close to being able to communicate in writing, I can understand why one might be uncomfortable in making statements of fact.

Please, for the love of our dear Lord, and for any new HI's out there that are reading this, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. He has been in the the business for 27 years, and he still doesn't know what asbestos looks like.

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Hi,

Yes, I actually put up a response this morning that expounded a little bit on that; but then I deleted it without posting it, because I've been down this road before and I, frankly, get tired of arguing about it.

"Appears to be" is weaselspeak. Every police recruit, everywhere, is taught to use it in virtually every circumstance where the cop hasn't personally witnessed something himself - sometimes even when he/she has witnessed it. It's a way for the cop to say something when he's not absolutely certain, even make accusations, and still be able to back down and save face later on if he or she is wrong.

Chris' example is a good one; another is: Greenish-brown vegetable matter containing twigs and seeds that "appears to be marijuana."

Sure, Brian, they are TRAINED, but they don't use the words "appears to be" because their training tells them it's marijuana, they use the words "appears to be" to avoid embarrassment and repercussions if they are wrong and to give them an out later on. You'll find police documents rife with "appears to be," "alleged," and "claims to be"; those will be in everything from witness statements to police reports to evidence vouchers.

A gold bracelet was never vouchered as "A 6-inch long 14k gold bracelet" it was always vouchered as: "One (1) bracelet, heavy yellow metal that "appears to be" gold, 6 inches in length, marked 14K on the clasp, taken from location ___ at the crime scene (See accompanying sketch), sealed in an evidence container and marked as evidence on the seal, Item#_/1220hrs/080810/moh.

This one is actually easy to justify; if it's not real gold, one doesn't want to be accused of swapping out a real 14K bracelet for a fake one.

However, home inspection is different. We're hired on the presumption that we are the experts. We're not thought of as the cop - we're thought of as the CSI; the go-to guys for information about a house. If we plan to punt an issue to another specialist, we're expected to know darn well what we're talking about and why we punt it, lest we hear later on that we're idiots. If you look at an electrical panel and aren't sure about an issue, or only have a vague idea about an issue, and then you punt it to an electrician, you can look pretty darned silly later on when the electrical guy says, "This is perfectly alright and here's why; that home inspector should have known that. Where the hell do those guys get their training anyway?"

If I see what's in that photograph, my experience and training tells me that the likelihood of it containing asbestos is 100% and that's what I'd say as I told the clients to confirm it with lab testing and then follow the advice of the asbestos guy. I'm the family doctor, he's the brain surgeon. Just because he's the expert-expert doesn't mean I can just send any old thing I'm not sure about to him. I'm expected to know what I'm talking about before I waste his time.

If you aren't sure, don't use "appears to be," that's just too weak. When I'm not 100% sure but I've convinced myself that I'm right, I say that something "most probably" is whatever I think. For instance, looking at a popcorn ceiling, I might say, "that material "most probably does contain asbestos." That's because I want the client to know that I'm convinced that it does, so they won't allow themselves to be swayed by a realtor who's just kicked into damage control mode and is trying to convince them that I've overstated the issue.

"Appears to be" leaves open the possibility that you aren't sure of yourself and many sellers, trades and realtors will exploit that weakness. "Most probably is" and "most probably does" doesn't leave much doubt in the listener's mind that you think it is or does whatever you say. In this business you have to be assertive and there mustn't be any misinterpretation of what you're saying. Leave room for misinterpretation and you sow doubts about your credibility..

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Exactly.

Officers have an entirely different situation than HI's.

As far as "credentials for asbestos", I know what you're trying to communicate, but good Gawd, how dense must we insist on being?

It's asbestos.

We get paid for being experts. If one wants to remain mired in a barely functioning moron role, that's one's private business.

If, OTOH, one wants this thing that we do to be respected as a profession, and have expert status awarded us because we are correct & forthright in our assertions of reality, then we must step over those that attempt to hold us down as non-entities, move to higher ground, and establish new boundaries.

This is timely stuff. I was just in a local congressman's house yesterday. There was material piled up directly in front of an improperly installed air handler intake in the attic that I said was asbestos. The "credentialed" contractor indicated I was not able to make that call, and no one should do anything about this material that he didn't think was important. I indicated I was competent to make the call, and pushed back.

Lab results came in this morning. Asbestos.

Who is the professional?

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For what it is worth, I always report what I think is asbestos like this. I found what looks like asbestos on the air duct, the only way to tell if it is asbestos is to have it tested by a laboratory.

And for mold I say this; "I found mold on the floor joist in the crawlspace." It might not be pretty or fancy but this has worked well the past ten or so years.

I know what they both look like, what is the worst thing that could happen if it is not mold or asbestos?

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Originally posted by Scottpat

I know what they both look like, what is the worst thing that could happen if it is not mold or asbestos?

True enough.

Now, I can imagine someone not being able to know if something is a rare mineral, or not know the age of a certain piece of equipment, but not knowing what mold or asbestos pipe lagging looks like?

Folks that take the tack of "can't know" permanently doom themselves to a horrible existence, IMHO.

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Originally posted by kurt

Good gawd, just call it asbestos. Everyone knows it's asbestos. There is no one that is going to dispute it's asbestos.

Kurt, I guess you found the one person who won't confirm it's asbestos.

I know you guys are critical for the betterment of this thing we do, but I'm glad I'm not in the crosshairs!(Most of it well deserved, of course.)

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Originally posted by Brian Kelly

Sonofswamp

With that statement then I must assume that you call out mold with out any question. I am not an asbestos expert and will never claim to be, that being said I will never positively call out :asbestos", I will always state "what appears to be Asbestos". We have some other insulation that looks very similar to the asbestos and most of the time you can tell the difference but I will never call it out as asbestos. I was in the Plb & HVAC trade for over 27 years and have come across more "what appears to be asbestos" and I all ways informed the client to have it properly tested for verification.

I do not know what instructors that you have had in the past but most all of the ones that I have knew the business better than most HI's I have ever meet. (no I am not an instructor)

Remember Hi's are generalist and not specialist in all aspects of the home, so don't try an be by calling things out you do not know for sure.

The intent of this above post makes sense to me.

For those that dis agree, please try and read this again and take it as a whole for what it was intended to mean. You are all smart enough to know exactly what the intent was. You dont have to like it or agree with it but you know damn well you understand it. To dis-agree is perfectly fine and we need to get used to it as it makes for good debate which is educational for everyone.

Chopping up a post and commenting on it line for line blows everything out of context. It is a waste of time and serves no purpose to this group here. Just read the friggin piece as a whole and if you dis-agree, respond as a whole. It to friggin easy to abuse the method of communication on these message boards. Its also easy to point out that abuse. Danm............I get so sick of all this quote quote quote quote crap. You have all the time in the world to respond. Take some time to think, then cough up a decent contribution to the group. Its easy but you all know that anyway.[;)]

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I enjoy getting chopped up by a Hausdok, Jim Katen or W.J. I learn more and am glad they do it that way. As far as I am concerned I count my self extremely lucky if I can get any of the old farts to comment on one of my posts. I don't mean to leave out Kurt M., Les, Brian, Chad, ScottPat or Jim M. If I see any of them answering a post I would be sure to listen to what they said no matter the method or manner. Without their help I would still be just a dumb ass. I am still a dumb ass compared to these great brethren but because of their help I am both less dumb and less of an ass.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Brian Kelly

Sonofswamp

With that statement then I must assume that you call out mold with out any question. I am not an asbestos expert and will never claim to be, that being said I will never positively call out :asbestos", I will always state "what appears to be Asbestos". We have some other insulation that looks very similar to the asbestos and most of the time you can tell the difference but I will never call it out as asbestos.

That would make sense if you really weren't sure if a substance were asbestos, or mold for that matter. However, in this particular case, the stuff on the pipes is asbestos. There's no doubt. When something is that obvious, why not simply serve your customer's best interest and tell him straight up that there's asbestos on the pipes?

I was in the Plb & HVAC trade for over 27 years and have come across more "what appears to be asbestos" and I all ways informed the client to have it properly tested for verification.

I think that's sound advice for lots of materials where there's doubt. In this case, there's no doubt. I just tell them the truth; it feels good. I like it and my customers like it.

I do not know what instructors that you have had in the past but most all of the ones that I have knew the business better than most HI's I have ever meet. (no I am not an instructor)

How do you know, because they told you? In my personal experience, the really good instructors don't seem to last long at the schools. It seems like the home inspection schools don't want to teach prospective home inspectors how to be effective communicators. They want to teach them how to fill in the check boxes and recite dusty platitudes such as "home inspectors are generalists."

Remember Hi's are generalist and not specialist in all aspects of the home, so don't try an be by calling things out you do not know for sure.

So what do you recommend we do when we do know something for sure? If, for instance, we knew without any doubt that a particular piece of pipe insulation contained friable asbestos, would it not be a disservice to our customers to conceal this certainty?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Well I guess I'll confess. If I saw the stuff in the photo I would have to tell my client I was pretty sure it was asbestos, but I wouldn't tell them it was asbestos. I've seen pipes like that exactly once in six years, and I don't know if there are other non-asbestos materials that look very similar. Kurt's entirely comfortable saying it is asbestos, as is Jim, and I'm sure others are too; I'm not. I don't have enough experience with it.

What could happen if I said it was asbestos and it turned out not to be? I imagine I could be sued, under the right (or rather the wrong) circumstances, if my unfounded "factual" statement financially harmed someone (like a seller). Or I could just look like an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about.

I figure my job is to find these things, make the client aware of them, and steer them in the right direction. Whether I say it is asbestos, looks like asbestos, or even that it appears to be asbestos, the end affect is the same; red flag here boss!

And "weasel words".....? There are no weasel words, only weasely people who use words for weasely purposes. There is no difference in meaning between "appears to be" and "something that looks like". None at all.

I still think the most important thing is to be completely honest with the client. If you know something for sure, say so. If you don't know it for sure, don't pretend you do, just tell then what you think and what they should do about it. I want my report language to accurately reflect what parts are opinion and what parts are fact.

And finally ladies and gentlemen, an up-and-coming HI with 1, 3, or 5 years experience simply cannot go out and throw his weight around like a 20, 25, or 30 year man. If he tries that I think he's likely to get his butt in a very bad crack somewhere.

All my opinion, worth what was paid for it.

Brian G.

Working On My 6th Year [:-alien]

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Actually my statement does have a flaw that nobody mentioned specifically. I said "I recognized what appears to be...." Is'nt that an oxymoron? It should be "I saw what appears to be...." There is a difference. To recognize something suggests that you know what it is.

Thanks for for not chopping me into little pieces Walter. You are good at doing that when you want to. You are a very good writer and I will continue to read your posts. I will say that you are far more appealing to me when you are being positive and constructive in your messages. I am sure others think the same too. Be carefull when you describe others as people can identify that as you describing yourself. Stay on the high road man. Your work looks much much better up there.

Kudos to Brian with another slam dunk post[;)]

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Read Katen's post again; he's nicer than I am.

If you know something, tell your customer what you know.

If you can honestly answer a question, answer it honestly.

As far as my backhanding the offender, well, I get tired of the same old tired ass stupidity of guys that have "been in the business 27 years" not knowing their ass from asbestos.

There might be good, intelligent, forward thinking folks looking for useful information in here (I know there are.)

If someone stands up in class blathering discombobulated nonsense, is the teacher supposed to politely listen, thank the student for their contribution, and then let class out for recess?

It's a sad fact that anyone can call themselves a home inspector, and find plenty of folks to refer them business. It hurts all of us in more ways than most folks understand.

I've got a strange idea that this is a professional job, and if someone, at this point in the 21st century, doesn't know w/absolute certainty that the material on the pipes in the photo is asbestos, they have no right doing the job.

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