Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

Dear Barry:  I hope you don’t mind another asbestos question. As a general contractor, I was bidding on the remodel of an old home. The ceilings had acoustic texture, sometimes known as “popcorn,” so I included the costs of testing and possible asbestos removal in my bid. The homeowners complained that two other contractors had also bid on the job and that neither contractor had mentioned asbestos. Because my bid included the additional costs, I did not get the job. What do you think of this?  Bob

Dear Bob:  Contractors who did not consider the possibility of asbestos in their bids may not realize that they are exposing themselves to financial liability and potential lawsuits.

Most of the acoustic ceilings installed from the 1950’s through the 1970’s contain asbestos. If the texture material is intact, it is not regarded as a significant health hazard. When removal or demolition takes place, the law requires that the material be tested and that handling, removal, and disposal be done by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor.

The homeowners who received your bid were informed by you of a potential problem, but chose to overlook it, supposedly for financial reasons. In so doing, they made a serious misjudgment, exposing themselves and others to a possible health hazard.

In a similar situation, several years ago, a remodeling contractor removed acoustic ceiling texture from a home without advising the owner of possible asbestos. Fabrics throughout the house, including carpets, drapes, upholstery, and clothing, were later found to be contaminated with asbestos fibers. All of these had to be sent to a toxic waste site, and the contractor was held to be financially liable for the losses.

The homeowners in your recent situation were not prudent in their decision. Hopefully, they will not come to regret that choice.