Table Of Contents

When Should You Test for Asbestos?

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends testing your home for asbestos if the existing building materials are damaged or you plan on disturbing them. Situations where testing is recommended include having damaged drywall or insulation, or if you’re planning on remodeling. 

Disturbing these building materials can release asbestos fibers into the air. Generally, you can’t tell which materials contain asbestos unless they’re labeled. If the building materials are in good condition or if you’re not planning a home remodel, testing is generally not required. 
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was frequently used in construction up until the 1980s because it’s resistant to electricity, heat and corrosion. Its use declined as the harmful effects of exposure became more widely known. Asbestos-containing materials can be found in several places in homes and other buildings, including:

  • Drywall
  • Roofing felt for shingles
  • Painted popcorn or textured ceilings
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Cement board siding/undersheeting
  • Insulation in walls and around pipes

Processed asbestos breaks off into fibers that can be inhaled. Long-term exposure to asbestos may lead to inflammation and lung damage, causing several different lung (pulmonary) conditions and four types of cancer. 

Types of Asbestos Testing

If you think there may be asbestos in your home or workplace, you can buy an at-home asbestos test kit. These kits are available online or at home improvement stores, and they can generally help you save on testing costs. However, there are some safety concerns and other factors to take into consideration. 

Do-it-yourself (DIY) asbestos testing kits come with instructions for how to collect a sample and send it to a laboratory.  Each testing kit is slightly different regarding cost, testing method and data from the laboratory. Most kits cover shipping costs, but laboratory analysis may cost extra. 

When you purchase a kit, it’ll come with instructions for collecting samples and how to ship them. Some laboratories offer kits that test both air and building material samples for asbestos. Others offer the opportunity to directly mail the samples without buying a kit. 

While at-home asbestos testing may seem like an easier and cheaper option, there are some associated risks. The EPA recommends hiring a trained and accredited asbestos inspector. These professionals know where to look for asbestos and how to handle it properly, preventing you from being exposed. 

Is it Safe to Test for Asbestos?

Self-testing for asbestos at home can be dangerous if you are untrained. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission states that testing performed incorrectly is more dangerous than leaving the materials alone. 

It’s difficult to know what building materials contain asbestos unless they are labeled. As a result, you may accidentally disturb materials containing asbestos, putting yourself at risk for exposure. Disturbing these materials releases asbestos fibers into the air, which you may inhale.  

Over time, exposure to asbestos fibers may lead to the development of cancers including mesothelioma, or other asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis. You may start to notice signs of asbestos exposure after these diseases develop, such as a dry cough, chest pain or shortness of breath. 

Hiring an Abatement Professional 

If you’ve found asbestos in your home or workplace and it’s a hazard to others, you can hire an abatement company. These companies use certified asbestos contractors who are trained in preparing for and performing asbestos removal. 

When looking for an abatement company, it’s important to determine what services they provide. For example, some companies only perform asbestos removal, while others offer demolition or environmental services as well. 

Asbestos abatement regulations vary from state to state and even city to city. Some states require EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration licensing as well. Some states have high rates of asbestos exposure, which may factor into requirements for abatement companies. When researching asbestos abatement companies, verify their qualifications and make sure they meet your specific needs.  

Get a Free Mesothelioma Guide
Receive a 200-page mesothelioma guide overnight. Learn about your diagnosis, top doctors and how to pay for treatment.

How to Test for Asbestos

If your home or workplace was built during or before the 1980s, there may be asbestos in the building materials. Residential asbestos testing is one way to confirm that there’s asbestos in your home. However, using DIY tests increases your risk of exposure to asbestos. 

Here are five key safety tips you can use when performing an at-home asbestos test to limit your exposure:

  • Turn off all fans and heating or cooling systems before taking a sample to prevent asbestos fibers from getting into the air.
  • Wear disposable gloves when handling samples and dispose of them properly once you are done. Wash your hands thoroughly after testing to prevent the spread of asbestos fibers.
  • Spray the area you are taking a sample from with water or a water/detergent mixture to prevent asbestos fibers from getting into the air.
  • Cover the floor near the sample area with a plastic sheet to catch any dust or fibers, then dispose of it properly after you have collected the sample.
  • Take only a small sample and try to avoid disturbing any other materials to limit your asbestos exposure.

The test results provided can vary between laboratories. Some only state whether asbestos was detected or not. Others give a more detailed report including the percentage of asbestos in the sample. Before choosing an at-home kit, you can research what results the laboratories will send you. 

How Much Does Asbestos Testing Cost?

The costs of asbestos testing vary depending on the type of test you choose and how many samples you submit. Overall, the national average for hiring a professional asbestos inspector is around $500. At-home testing kits offer a much cheaper option, costing anywhere between $15 to $200. 

The cost of DIY asbestos testing can depend on shipping costs and laboratory analysis. Some kits include these costs when you buy them, while others add it on. The type of test also affects pricing. 

Polarized light microscopy (PLM) costs range from $20 to $100 per sample for testing insulation or drywall. On the other hand, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) detects asbestos in both air and building materials, but it is more expensive.

Common Questions About Asbestos Testing

How reliable are at-home asbestos tests?

The reliability of at-home tests depends on the quality of the sample taken. These tests are less reliable than those trained certified inspectors collect.

Is a seller or realtor required to disclose asbestos?

According to the EPA, there are no federal laws that require asbestos disclosure when selling a house. However, some states or local governments may have laws that require disclosure.

How do I get free asbestos testing?

Unfortunately, there are no programs that offer free asbestos testing. However, at-home testing kits offer a more affordable option to test your home or workplace.

What should I do if my home has asbestos?

If your home has asbestos in undamaged walls, insulation or other building materials, do not touch them. Periodically check them over for any signs of damage. If you have damaged building materials that contain asbestos, contact a certified asbestos contractor or abatement company. They’ll help you remove the asbestos and rebuild your home safely.

hands holding up fruit in the shape of a heart with stethescope resting near fruit
Find Free Recipes for Mesothelioma Patients
Cover and open page view of the mesothelioma guide from The Mesothelioma Center
The Nation's Top Mesothelioma Guide
attorney looking through court documents with a client
Get the Compensation You Deserve