How to Tell If You Have Asbestos

Updated February 21, 2017

Asbestos was primarily used as an additive for building insulation materials in the early 1900s to the early 1960s. It's primary use was for HVAC system insulation, slate siding and roofing, floor tile, and hot water system supply insulation. Asbestos has been blamed as the cause for mesothelioma, a cancer that is directly caused from long-term asbestos exposure. Asbestos was originally used for its fire-retardant capacity and it's long life expectancy. If you have a home built before 1965, you may have asbestos materials present.

Inspect all the hot water lines in your home that are visible. These are the lines attached to the hot water heater. If they are insulated with a white cloth wrap material, this material may contain asbestos. Take pictures with a camera if present.

Leave white cloth wrap material alone if exists on the pipes. If the material is falling apart, you will need to call an asbestos mitigation contractor to remove the damaged wrapping. You can find available asbestos removal contractors online (see Resources).

Contact the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to see if your state offers financial help for funding asbestos cleanup and removal.

Inspect the heating supply ducts for white, cloth-like material. This is usually found at junctions to help hold the ductwork together. If there is this kind of material covering portions or all of the ductwork, do not touch it, but take a picture of the material with your camera.

Call your heating and cooling specialist to inspect the material as there are modern materials used that can resemble asbestos wrap. If the heating and cooling specialist believes that further testing is necessary, call a mitigation and testing specialist.

Contact the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to see if your state offers financial help for funding asbestos cleanup and removal.

Inspect the basement floor of your house. If thin square tiles exist that are less than 12 inches by 12 inches, these are often asbestos tile, and should be removed by a qualified contractor who has had formal EPA training for proper removal. There is no need for testing as removal of this product can be done without extreme-measure mitigation.

Asbestos siding is hard and brittle. Asbestos siding usually has a slight wave to the bottom of the tile pieces. This type of siding is not hazardous unless it is falling apart, in which case it should be replaced by a qualified siding installation contractor who has had formal EPA training.

Asbestos roofing shingles are usually diamond shaped. These roofing tiles mimic real slate and have a slightly granular surface. If the asbestos roofing shingles are in good shape, it is best to leave them alone. If replacement is necessary to protect the integrity of the house, a roofing contractor, who has had formal EPA training with the safety measures of proper asbestos slate roofing removal, should be hired to make all subsequent repairs.


According to the EPAs website on asbestos, you should not attempt to remove asbestos yourself. Identifying possible asbestos materials and calling professionals who deal with these products on a regular basis is the only way to safely and legally remove and dispose of products containing asbestos.


Never remove asbestos yourself as you can track it through your home, actually creating a larger problem than may already exist.

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About the Author

Adam Yeomans has been writing professionally since 2010, with his work appearing on websites such as eHow. He works in the construction industry as a builder and as an energy efficiency consultant.