Starting a renovation project? Test for asbestos before demolition.

Asbestos Testing

According to most readings of the NESHAPS asbestos rules, there is no end date for asbestos testing depending on the time of construction. That means that ANY renovation project involving demolition should have an asbestos survey done to determine whether further asbestos testing is needed.

Asbestos has only been completely banned in certain building materials, and asbestos has been found in materials from buildings built in the 21st century. Depending on the type of building, asbestos inspection and asbestos testing may be required for demolition or renovation activities regardless of the original construction date.

Property owners and general contractors need to be in the compliance with the Cal/OSHA Asbestos construction standard This essentially means that you must assume all suspect materials contain asbestos – unless proven otherwise. It’s critical to hire an asbestos consultant to perform an asbestos assessment and determine whether there is any asbestos.

General Contractor Clause Regarding Asbestos

Because asbestos abatement and removal may significantly increase the cost of demolition on a project, contractors and builders often include a clause in their contract such as:

“Any new conditions, such as asbestos discovered mid-project, triggers a “claim” or “extra” negotiation between the contractor and the owner.”

Reading between the lines, this equates to a “Change Order,” and possibly considerable extra expense that comes as a surprise mid-way through your construction project. The best way to protect a building owner from this potential added expense (and asbestos exposure) is to perform an asbestos survey in advance of construction.

California contractors are advised, “if you discover asbestos in the middle of a project, stop work in the area immediately!

Asbestos Survey Basics

Because asbestos material testing requires a physical sample it is, by definition, destructive sampling. It may be prudent to sample only those materials to be impacted by an upcoming remodel, or only materials that have been already been damaged.  The safest course is to avoid disturbing the suspected asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos air sampling does not definitively tell whether there is asbestos in building materials.  Only sampling the material itself and analysis by an accredited laboratory can provide that answer.  Air sampling is useful if there is a concern about suspended asbestos in the air or a suspicion that asbestos work was performed.   Asbestos air testing should always be performed after any known removal of asbestos materials and before re-occupancy.

Healthy Building Science provides asbestos air sampling services in suspected trouble spots, during abatement, and for asbestos clearance after abatement. Initial air testing helps identify if there is indeed asbestos in the ambient air. Air sampling during demolition or abatement is a common cost-saving and risk reduction strategy. Air testing is often provided at the end of asbestos abatement projects, as part of a final inspection (clearance) of the abatement.

Air & Bulk Testing for Asbestos may include:

  • Asbestos- Phase Contrast Microscopy (PCM) NIOSH 7400
  • Asbestos- Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) AHERA, Yamate II, or NIOSH 7402
  • Asbestos- Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM)

Your industrial hygienist will determine which asbestos testing method is permissible for your specific project. Depending on building type, anticipated construction work, type and condition of building materials, etc.,  our asbestos expert will determine what to test, where to test, and what sort of asbestos lab analysis is required.

Common Asbestos Containing Materials

Asbestos may be in any composite materials. Here is an abbreviated, incomplete list of materials with asbestos:

  • asbestos-containing flooring and mastic
  • asbestos-containing roofing materials
  • asbestos-containing vermiculite
  • paint that contains asbestos
  • asbestos in plaster and wall systems
  • asbestos in transite siding and similar materials
  • asbestos in window caulk, glazing compound, wiring, and other similar materials

Requirements for Asbestos Consultant

In California any asbestos consultant must hold one of the following certificates:

  • Asbestos Building Inspector
  • Asbestos Contractor/Supervisor
  • Asbestos Project Designer
  • Asbestos Management Planner
  • Asbestos Site Surveillance Technicians


picture of asbestos warning label - asbestos inspection bay area

California Asbestos Regulations

There are several regulatory agencies overseeing the safe identification of asbestos hazards, asbestos abatement, demolition and transportation of hazardous waste. Each of these actions is regulated by a different agency with unique regulatory requirements, and often regulations overlap.

NESHAP Practice Standards consider an “asbestos-containing material” (ACM) anything with greater than 1% asbestos content. CAL/OSHA Practice Standards apply to any material with a concentration greater 0.1% and with a surface area of 100 square feet (>100 sf) or more. The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) defines an ACM as any material greater than 100 sf. containing asbestos.

100 Square Foot Loophole for Asbestos

The 100 square foot asbestos loophole has been widely misunderstood and overused adding confusion to building owners, occupants, and contractors. According to the CSLB, “no one may do abatement or other asbestos-related work of 100 square feet or more without special certification/license and DOSH registration. Furthermore, even in cases where there are less than 100 square feet of asbestos to be removed, DOSH training and reporting is still required.”

Why was Asbestos Used in Building Materials?

Asbestos was first used in the United States, in the early 1900s mainly on steam pipes for thermal insulation and fireproofing, but was not used extensively until the 1940s. Asbestos was primarily used for fireproofing, insulation, soundproofing and decorative applications. Asbestos fibers are unique and their unique properties have made them desirable in many different building materials. Today, there are over 3000 building products that contain asbestos.

What makes Asbestos so dangerous?

It was well-known thousands of years ago that those who worked in the asbestos mines suffered from “sickness of the lungs” and died at an early age. Asbestos has been classified as a human carcinogen by the EPA because research has proven it to be the cause of several debilitating diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and gastrointestinal cancer to name a few. Disease typically manifests between 10 to 40 years after initial exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos Survey Sample Projects:

  • San Jose asbestos monitoring for a school nearby construction
  • San Francisco asbestos testing for affordable housing multi-family buildings
  • Oakland commercial asbestos survey
  • Sunnyvale monitoring of asbestos removal
  • Berkeley asbestos survey for a private home
  • San Mateo asbestos testing
  • San Rafael asbestos survey

Asbestos Testing San Francisco Bay Area

Healthy Building Science is an environmental consulting firm providing asbestos testing, asbestos survey, asbestos inspection and asbestos consulting services for multi-family buildings, offices, industrial and manufacturing workplaces, hospitals and medical facilities, and single-family homes in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and all of Northern California. Cities we service include San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Hayward, Sunnyvale, Fremont, Concord, Salinas, Santa Clara, Berkeley, Vallejo, Fairfield, Antioch, Richmond, Daly City, San Rafael, San Mateo, Vacaville, San Leandro, Livermore and Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, Napa County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Solano County and Sonoma County.

Call (415) 785-7986 or complete this form to discuss your asbestos testing project.

Suspect Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs)

Asbestos Roof Removal
  • Vapor Barriers on or behind walls, ceilings, floors, or fixtures
  • Piping and Boiler Insulation
  • Heating System Components
  • Electrical: knob and tube wiring, insulation fuse box insulation
  • Vinyl Floor Tile and underlying mastic
  • Vinyl Sheet Flooring and backing
  • Linoleum flooring
  • Leveling Compound
  • Carpet Glue
  • Grout and mortar associated with ceramic tile
  • Baseboard and associated glues
  • Wallboard/Drywall/Sheetrock with joint or taping compound
  • Wall and ceiling plasters
  • Interior wall texture
  • Acoustical Ceiling Tiles
  • Ceiling tile glue
  • Sprayed acoustical ceiling texture
  • Window putty
  • Exterior Paints and waterproofing
  • Exterior Stucco
  • Exterior Transite siding (cementitious panels)
  • Roofing components including shingles, tars, papers, felts, and mastics