Home Inspectors Rarely Address Asbestos

An article in the San Jose Mercury News points out the fact that home inspectors hired to review homes for new buyers rarely pay attention to the presence of asbestos.

“Asbestos is generally regarded as “outside the scope” of a home inspection and is typically not mentioned by most home inspectors,” says columnist Barry Stone.

“For home inspectors, the issue is one of legal liability. If any material is disclosed as a potential source of asbestos, the inspector may be held liable for other possible asbestos materials that were not mentioned in the inspection report,” he adds. “For this reason, the home inspection industry has excluded asbestos as a consideration during home inspections.”

Many common building materials, he points out, may contain asbestos, especially in older homes. These include sheet vinyl flooring, asphalt and vinyl floor tiles, adhesive mastics, acoustic ceiling texture, heat duct insulation, asphalt composition roofing materials, plaster, stucco, drywall, joint compound and more.

Stone points out that most of these materials present no health hazard unless they are worn or damaged. However, some argue that inspectors should simply “point out” these potential hazards so that the homeowner can keep an eye on the hazardous material and catch any problems if they arise.

In addition, notification of where asbestos may be present could stop do-it-yourselfers from tearing out floors, ceilings, or walls where asbestos might be present. Instead, they would understand that it is necessary to hire abatement professionals to remove and dispose of the material.

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