Asbestos was widely used in building materials before its hazardous effects on health were discovered. Many older homes still contain asbestos, and it’s crucial to remove it to protect the health of the occupants, in many situations. One question homeowners often ask is whether their home insurance covers asbestos removal.
In most cases, standard home insurance policies do not include coverage for asbestos removal. Asbestos-related health problems are associated with long-term exposure, and insurance companies typically view this as a known issue requiring proper maintenance rather than a sudden, unforeseeable event. Thus, it’s generally considered the homeowner’s responsibility to bear the cost of asbestos removal.
However, there might be some exceptions to this rule. In some cases, insurance might cover the cost if the asbestos removal is linked to an insurable event, like a fire or flood, that necessitates the work being done.
Asbestos in Homes
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once commonly used in building materials due to its resistance to fire and heat. We will discuss the materials containing asbestos, the era of construction when asbestos was most commonly used, and the health risks associated with asbestos exposure.
Materials Containing Asbestos
Asbestos was used in a variety of building materials and household items, including:
- Insulation in walls and attics
- Floor tiles, particularly vinyl floor tiles
- Ceiling tiles
- Pipes and cement
- Roofing shingles
- HVAC duct insulation
- Joint compound and window caulking
- Door gaskets for furnaces and appliances
- Artificial ashes and embers for gas-fired fireplaces
- Linoleum and other flooring materials
These materials were widely used in homes and other properties due to their durability and fire-resistant properties.
The most common situation where asbestos removal is covered by an insurer, is when Artex ceilings or flooring materials are affected by an incident such as an escape of water.
Asbestos Era Construction
Asbestos was most commonly used in construction between the 1930s and 1980s, especially in older homes and properties. In this time, asbestos-containing materials were widely used where electricity was increasingly being used for heating and lighting. It was common to find homes with asbestos-containing materials in walls, flooring, and ceiling tiles. Many appliances and other building components also contained asbestos, such as furnace gaskets and steam pipes.
However, as the health risks associated with asbestos became more apparent, regulations were put in place to limit its use in new construction. Buildings built or renovated after the 1980s are less likely to contain asbestos materials.
Asbestos fibres, when disturbed, can become airborne and potentially be inhaled or ingested. Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to serious health complications, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Due to these risks, asbestos abatement should only be performed by professionals who are trained and certified in handling and disposing of asbestos-containing materials. Homeowners should not attempt to remove asbestos-containing materials on their own.
Understanding Home Insurance
When it comes to home insurance, it is important for us to know what is covered under our policies and what is not. In this section, we will discuss covered risks and exclusions related to home insurance in the context of asbestos removal.
Home insurance typically covers various risks that could damage our homes. Some of the common covered risks include:
- Fire and smoke
- Vandalism and theft
- Falling objects
- Escape Of Water (from internal plumbing)
It is important to remember that each insurance company offers different coverage options, so it is essential to read through your policy documents and consult with your insurance provider to understand what specific risks are covered.
There are certain scenarios and situations where our home insurance will not provide coverage. These are known as exclusions. Some common exclusions found in standard home insurance policies are:
- Earth movements (such as earthquakes, landslides, and sinkholes)
- Intentional acts of damage
- Wear and tear due to ageing
- Insects, rodents, and pets damage
- Nuclear events
Asbestos removal, if not required to necessitate the repairs after an insured event, is not a list peril, and therefore, not covered by your insurance policy.
Asbestos Removal and Home Insurance
In general, most standard home insurance policies do not cover the full cost of asbestos removal. This is because insurance companies typically consider asbestos removal as a maintenance issue, which falls under the homeowner’s responsibility. If the asbestos is in good condition and undisturbed, it may not pose an immediate risk. However, if the asbestos materials are damaged and the fibres become airborne, they can be harmful to health.
In certain situations, such as when the asbestos is disturbed during a fire or other covered risk, some insurers may partially cover the cost of removal. It is essential to check the specifics of your home insurance policy and consult with your insurer to understand the extent of the coverage for asbestos removal.
It is also essential that you take advice from both claims professional and asbestos specialist, once testing determines the presence of asbestos.
Pollution and Contamination
Professional asbestos removal can be a costly endeavour, considering the specialised equipment and expertise required in handling and disposing of the hazardous material. The removal cost typically includes the professional’s fees, equipment, labour, and any necessary permits and disposal fees.
To summarise, while standard home insurance policies may not cover the full cost of asbestos removal, some policies may offer partial coverage under specific circumstances. It is crucial for homeowners to thoroughly review their insurance policies and consult with their insurers to understand the extent of the coverage for asbestos removal and any associated costs.
Asbestos Remediation Process
Encapsulation vs. Removal
When dealing with asbestos containing materials (ACM) in our homes, we have two primary options: encapsulation and removal. Encapsulation involves sealing it with a special coating to prevent the release of asbestos fibres. This method is often preferred due to its lower cost and reduced risk of contamination during the process. Encapsulation may not be suitable for all situations, as it requires the ACM to be in a stable condition and not at risk of further damage.
On the other hand, removal is the complete extraction of asbestos from our homes. This process is more complex and comes with increased asbestos removal costs. During removal, professionals use specialised tools and strict safety measures to prevent contamination and to ensure the complete elimination of ACM’s. While removal may be more expensive, it provides a permanent solution and is recommended when the asbestos is damaged or at risk of damage.
In many situations it is essential for substantial works to be overseen by a Chartered Surveyor.
Hiring a Professional
It is essential to hire trained and certified professionals for the asbestos remediation process. The handling of ACM requires specific knowledge and expertise due to its resistance to heat and potential for contamination. Attempting to remove or encapsulate asbestos without proper training can put not only our health but also the health of those around us at risk.
When selecting a professional, it is important to:
- Verify their qualifications and certifications in asbestos remediation.
- Request references from past clients
- Obtain a detailed, written quote for the project
By entrusting this crucial task to skilled professionals, we can ensure a successful asbestos remediation that safeguards our homes and our health.
When Home Insurance May Cover Asbestos Removal
If a fire occurs in your home and it results in tearing out walls or ceilings that contain asbestos, your insurance policy could potentially cover the cost of asbestos removal. Similarly, if a tree falls onto your property and damages the roof, causing asbestos exposure, the removal could be covered as well.
On the other hand, if you discover asbestos during a renovation project that was initiated by you, insurance will not cover the removal, as it is not a consequence of an insured peril. Furthermore, if undisturbed asbestos is discovered during a pollution coverage claim, the removal will generally not be covered. Pollution coverage usually only applies to sudden and accidental events, such as a fuel leak.
It is crucial to seek professional assistance for asbestos removal, as exposure to the material can lead to severe health problems, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, and various lung diseases. By taking the necessary steps in checking for and removing asbestos, we can prevent potential health hazards and costly future repairs.
Preventing Exposure to Asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was widely used as a construction material in the past due to its heat and fire resistance, strength, and insulation properties. However, when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, the fibres can become airborne and pose significant health risks, as the inhalation of these tiny fibres can lead to serious lung diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma. In this section, we will discuss how to prevent exposure to asbestos in your home.
Asbestos Testing and Maintenance
The key to minimising the risk of asbestos exposure is to keep the material undisturbed. If you suspect that your home contains asbestos in areas such as attics, ceilings, ducts, boilers, fireplaces, or around wood-burning stoves, it is crucial to have a professional inspection and asbestos testing conducted. This will not only assess the possible presence of asbestos but also determine its condition and whether it requires maintenance or removal.
If the asbestos-containing materials are in good condition and remain undisturbed, they generally do not pose a health risk. However, routine maintenance is essential to keep these materials intact and reduce potential risks. This can include regularly checking for signs of wear and damage, sealing or encapsulating the material to prevent fibre release, and adhering to safety guidelines during any renovation or construction activities.
DIY Safety Precautions
For homeowners who prefer to carry out DIY projects, it is crucial to take appropriate safety measures when working with or around asbestos-containing materials. Below are some precautions to consider:
- If you are uncertain whether a material contains asbestos, treat it as if it does, or seek expert advice before commencing work.
- Avoid using power tools, high-pressure equipment, and abrasive cutting or sanding methods on asbestos-containing materials, as these can disturb fibres and make them airborne.
- Wear protective clothing, including a mask with a P3 filter, disposable coveralls, gloves, and safety goggles to minimise the risk of fibre inhalation and contamination.
- Carefully clean the work area afterwards, using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, followed by a wet wipe to remove residual dust.
By taking these precautions and maintaining potential asbestos-containing materials in undisturbed conditions, you can effectively reduce the risk of asbestos exposure and protect your family from potential health hazards. Home insurance may or may not cover asbestos removal; it is always advisable to consult your policy documents and seek professional advice when dealing with asbestos.
ClaimRite are loss assessors based in South Wales. If you need help with your claim, it is always best to seek professional assistance. Whilst we are experts in the insurance industry, we are also experts within the building industry and make sure all related damage is accounted for when scheduling the loss. Contact us for FREE advice today.
Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, organisations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated.