How to Identify Asbestos

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 by Ben Kershner

Asbestos tape that is crumbling can be dangerous.Asbestos is a mineral that is mined from the ground.  Its unique fibrous structure makes it a fantastic fireproof insulator.  For years, asbestos insulation has been used in various materials that need to be fire-resistant, such as fire-fighter jackets and furnace liners.  Unfortunately, if the microscopic fibers get into your lungs, they can cause all sorts of health related problems.

If need be, you are able to go online and learn how to fix asbestos problems yourself.  YouTube has lots of instructional videos.  Your next step though should be to turn off the computer, pick up the phone, and call a professional remediation team.  What sort of DIY savings is worth giving your kids mesothelioma? With that said, here’s where you might find asbestos in your home.

A gravity fed furnace is lined with asbestosLet’s start at the bottom:  you may have asbestos tiles on your basement floor.  Asbestos tiles are usually 7” squares.  If they are in good shape, great – you have a fireproof floor!  If they are crumbling, you should probably have the situation professionally addressed.

Asbestos pipe wrap looks corrugated

This photo shows corrugated asbestos duct insulationWorking our way up through the basement, we might find a real antique: a gravity fed furnace with a large asbestos dome and asbestos gasketing on the door.  Much more common, however, is asbestos wrap on pipes and tape on ducts.  The pipe-wrap will be white and corrugated like cardboard.  Asbestos duct-sealing tape will look like thick white cloth tape wrapped around the seams.  Often, a sheet of asbestos was attached to the ceiling above a boiler or furnace.  If it’s in good shape, don’t touch it.  If it’s “friable” and looks as if the fibers could become airborne, then it’s a problem.

When asbestos wrap is in rough shape, it can release its fibers into the air


Transite is a form of asbestos-containing cement

Your furnace flue pipe may go up the outside of your house in a traditional brick chimney, but often it goes up the center of the house through a wall cavity.  If your flue-pipe looks like it’s made out of cement, it’s probably “Transite,” or a similar asbestos-infused concrete. 

Mineral siding can contain asbestos.

On the outside of your home, a mineral siding may also contain asbestos.


In your attic, you may find vermiculite insulation, which is not SUPPOSED to contain asbestos.  Vermiculite is also a mineral mined from the ground.  It looks a lot like gravel in your attic.  The most successful vermiculite mine in the world was located in the town of Libby, Montana, where it was later discovered that the mine was contaminated with asbestos.  If your attic contains “Zonolite” brand vermiculite asbestos, you may be eligible for money to help with remediation though the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust. ( might be contaminated with asbestos

Asbestos is not something that should cause you to panic.  There are specific health hazards that you should be aware of, and appropriately concerned about.  Hopefully, this will get your education started in the right direction.  Be safe, and stay healthy.

About the author

Ben Kershner

Ben Kershner is a home energy advisor at True Energy Solutions, and is a regular contributor to our website. He lives with his wife and family in Greece, NY.

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