Asbestos - Personal Protection During an Inspection

Hello Everyone,

I’m wondering what are the best practices for protecting ourselves from asbestos exposure during an inspection. Below are the precautions that I currently use:

  • P100 Full Face Mask worn before entering any attic or crawlspace
  • P100 filters replaced once a month
  • Full Tyvek suit with hood worn before entering any attic or crawlspace (and thown away every time the home was built in 1978 or before)
  • Use of latex gloves for attic and crawlspace
  • Rinse off flashlight and camera after inspecting attic or crawlspace in pre-1978 home
  • Disposable drop cloth used for homes pre-1978
  • I don’t enter any attic with visible vermiculite per Nachi guidelines
  • I charge more for pre-1978 homes because of the extra costs and danger

Are there any other precautions that I should be taking to protect myself, family and occupants of the home? My mother passed away from mesothelioma because of exposure to asbestos, so I want to limit my exposure as much as possible.

I’m also concerned about fibers in the air in basements coming from disintegrating 9 inch square tiles, exposed asbestos tape, etc. How do we limit our exposure to things like that without wearing a full face mask and scaring the heck out of the potential home owner?

Are there any resources online for best practices for home inspectors working around asbestos?

Thanks for your help.

Charles Lewis

I’d say you take more precautions than about 99% of home inspectors and I can understand your concern given that you lost a family member to exposure.

A few comments.
There are differences between encapsulated asbestos such as you’d find in the old floor tiles and friable asbestos that you might find on a boiler pipe. The friable type can go airborne very easy if disturbed.

The asbestos in the floor tiles is really not a concern unless really deteriorated.
And the amount of asbestos in that or old hardboard siding is pretty small anyway.

I live in an old city and do 100 year old homes all the time.
I rarely encounter asbestos, most of the asbestos on boiler pipes has been removed. Sure there are some 9"x9" tiles around sometimes.

Sometimes I see something that might be asbestos at a flue to chimney connection. I inform the client that it might contain asbestos, that we can test it to determine if it is or not. Or they can just not disturb it and monitor to make sure it isn’t degrading.

Have you gone to the EPA website to see their recommendations?
They have a lot of valuable info.

I agree with Tom but are you saying old homes are a danger? So my house is over 110 years old, am I in danger? Did you know they still make things with asbestos. Just sayin.

I take the precaution of not disturbing suspected ACM

It would seem, you are just missing putting the house under negative pressure with a HEPA filter. In all seriousness, if you aren’t disturbing it, you probably don’t have to go full suit. Definitely the half face and gloves. But there is probably more going on outside in the air on any given day than what you are exposing yourself to. I wouldn’t be charging more for these homes. Specially, when it is a 1940’s home that some 92 year old lady is just moving out of because she can’t live by herself any longer. Happens to me seemingly 2 times a month. The realtors would look at you, and the fact that the inhabitants have been there all of this time and wonder what you are thinking. Plus, you will cause hysteria with your customers and wind them up. Protect yourself, inform them and move on. But be low key about it and non alarmist about things. You don’t want to get slotted by realtors that you will wind people up over things. I understand your apprehension due to you own experiences. But you have to balance that a bit. Always easier said then done.

Thank you all for your comments. In terms of disturbing the materials – I’m pretty thorough in the crawlspace and am moving around quite a bit. If there are asbestos fibers on the vapor barrier from crumbling asbestos tape on duct work, for example, crawling over them surely would be disturbing them and re-releasing them into the air.

In terms of charging more for the services – we’re currently turning away twice the number of clients than we can handle right now. No one has scoffed at the additional fee for older homes yet, but I imagine that it may encourage those wanting to spend less to go to other inspectors (which is okay by me). A lot of the established businesses in the area also charge more for old homes. Older homes are more dangerous to thoroughly inspect and take often times have many more defects (meaning longer to inspect). I may revisit the pricing and such when I bring on some other inspectors in the near future.

In any case, thanks again!


Very interesting…


Yes, we are a nonprofit 501©(3) organization (the first home inspection company in the U.S. that is a nonprofit as far as I can tell). I started up the nonprofit after my mother was diagnosed with mesothelioma because of exposure to asbestos with the idea of helping other families avoid the same problems. We give home inspections for the general public but then also donate services to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, domestic violence shelters, low income housing programs, etc. I was able to leverage my construction experience (along with a master’s in nonprofit management) to help make this new organization that is growing quite rapidly and filling a big need in our community. Find out more about our efforts on our website at

Take care,