Brownstone Boys: Danger! Asbestos Remediation

Asbestos was found in the roof of our house and mudroom

Editor’s note: Welcome to the 23rd installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary about renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at www.thebrownstoneboys.com.

One of the steps in many renovations is testing and removing the dreadful asbestos. Asbestos is a natural mineral that has been mined and used for centuries because of its durability in buildings. Because of its carcinogenic nature it is now banned in most applications. While contractors and builders no longer use materials containing asbestos it is often found in older buildings. The cost of removing it can range from a small inconvenience to a major expense. We just recently went through the process of eradicating some from our place and we got a lot of questions so we thought we would fill you in on our process.

brownstone boys

Required signs and permits for removal of asbestos

Asbestos was used in a lot of construction materials from the 1930s through the 1970s. Even though our place was built well before that time period, there is no doubt some work was done during these decades so it was bound to be found somewhere. One place you can bet on finding is in the roofing material. The roof had to be redone at some point when asbestos was used. Typically the new roofing is just layered on top of the existing. So even if the roof was redone after asbestos was used the asbestos layer is under there. If you’re not going to touch it, it’s fine to stay right where it is, but if any of the work requires it to be disturbed it’s quite the process and will be expensive.

brownstone boys

We were already planning on removing this mudroom, where asbestos was found

Before the initial paperwork is filed with the DOB a licensed asbestos inspector needs to take samples and test anywhere demo work is being done. Since any renovation is going to include some plaster demo, that is a place you really don’t want to find it. Fortunately for us it was only found in the roofing layers.

There are three places where we’re doing demo and needed an asbestos remediator to remove the roofing material: the mudroom extension on the back of the building, a few square feet of the roof where we need to enlarge a skylight, and a small hole for the plumbing ventilation pipe. It took hours of setup and about 30 minutes to actually remove the affected area. It costs us $5,000 for work that really would have been a small and quick part of the larger project.

brownstone boys

The removal of the mudroom roof affected the interior of the house

We were fortunate we found it only in the roof since we aren’t doing a lot of work that requires demo there. There is definitely potential to derail a renovation project if it’s found in more substantial places.

We safely and legally removed the asbestos containing materials that we are demolishing for our project. We‘re fortunate it wasn’t found in other places, but we also know there is a chance we’ll need to go through the costly process again if we want to completely redo our roof one day. So the caution tape may go back up one day!

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