Considering that most people list their homes as their biggest investments, it’s no wonder they sink money into home improvement projects.
According to one source, spending on home renovation efforts climbed from $328 billion in 2019 to $472 billion last year. The tally could come in at $485 billion in 2023.
While some homeowners roll up their sleeves, head to the local home improvement shop, and tackle home remodeling projects, others hire contractors.
Whether you’re a DIYer or prefer to bring in the professionals is up to you, but there are times when the latter is best. Depending on the age of your home, for example, the materials might contain asbestos. And improperly handling such materials can cause severe health complications. Doing it yourself and subjecting yourself to significant harm may cost you more in the end.
Continue reading to learn about what asbestos is, what the health implications are if exposed to it, and what home improvement projects should be left to contractors to avoid possible exposure.
Asbestos: What Is It?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It’s also a carcinogen, meaning that it can lead to cancers such as mesothelioma.
Until the authorities banned using asbestos in home improvement products, it was used to manufacture attic insulation, floor tiles, roof shingles, cement products, and more. So, it’s possible that your home, if it’s many decades old, has some materials with asbestos.
The good news is that you’re likely okay if you don’t interfere with products that might have asbestos. It’s only when these materials are damaged or unsettled that fibers can become airborne and get into your lungs. The symptoms won’t be immediate — it could take decades between exposure to symptoms of mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer.
Asbestos: What Are the Health Implications?
You might never have heard of mesothelioma before. It’s a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos — and it’s rare yet aggressive.
While it can take decades for symptoms to materialize, the disease usually occurs in the lining of the abdomen or lungs. Symptoms of mesothelioma include but aren’t limited to, chest pain, shortness of breath, fluid buildup around the lungs, irregular heartbeat, and abdominal pain.
Treatment options can help increase quality of life, but the life expectancy after diagnosis is short. In fact, someone diagnosed with mesothelioma usually has a life expectancy of around one and a half years. Considering the risks associated with asbestos exposure, it’s best to avoid doing anything that can increase those risks.
Asbestos: What Home Renovation Should You Leave to the Experts?
While there are renovation projects you can do without working about asbestos exposure, other jobs present more risks than they’re worth. Here are some projects to consider hiring the pros:
Roofing: Many homeowners hire roofing companies to handle roofing projects, and that’s the right choice for most people. If your roofing system is decades old, don’t ignore possible asbestos risks. The U.S. banned asbestos products in 1989. So, if your roofing system is old enough, it might have asbestos in the materials. A roofing contractor can do the job safely.
Tiles: Do you want to replace old floor or ceiling tiles? If there’s an asbestos risk, hire a professional. Breaking up old tiles that contain asbestos will release the fibers into the air.
Insulation: Insulation in your attic or behind the walls also deserves special attention. It was previously made using asbestos, which is non-combustible and fire-resistant. If there’s any risk that your insulation has asbestos, hire a contractor experienced at handling such projects.
As you can see, asbestos isn’t something to take lightly. Exposure to it can lead to severe health consequences like mesothelioma — a diagnosis with a dire prognosis. Your best bet is to reduce the odds of exposure. That might mean hiring a contractor rather than remodeling on your own.