Help! Asbestos Pipe Insulation


I’ve lived in current house my entire life and never really took notice of the insulation in our basement. A week or so ago I asked my father, who’s workshop is in the basement, what kind of insulation was around our pipes. He said he thinks its asbestos, but that so long as its in good shape that it’s worse to try and encapsulate / remove it than just leaving it alone. I took look at all the pipes, and found some areas that don’t look too good (see attached photos). Should I be worried about these areas? Nothing touches these pipes, laundry is done in the basement and my fathers shop is in an area that is away from them. Should I look into having it removed or simply leave it be? What’s done is done, but I would like to avoid anymore bad exposure in the future.

Thanks for the help.


Asbestos does not have to be removed unless it’s falling off or it’s in a friable condition. The only item of concern I see wrong on your heat pipes is at the elbow portions. I tell all my clients to hire a professional plumber to encapsulate these type of pipes in Plaster of paris (The same material used for making a cast for a broken member).

That’ll make them look nice and neat and there will be no concerns with friable asbestos fibers floating around your basement.

Thank you! I was really worried that these were in terrible shape. I’ll look into having a plumber over to encapsulate the elbow spots.

Another quick question; is this something that I could do? The areas are very small, I would purchase a Tyvek suit or a mask and wrap very slowly and carefully after wetting down the plaster of paris. Let me know what you think, trying to save a few bucks if possible.

Thank you.

I lived in a house for over 50 years with asbestos on the water pipes, AND asbestos heating ducts. Am still alive and no health concerns from asbestos, the smoking will kill me, not the asbestos.

As long as you do not disturb asbestos, there is no health concern, just the scare tactics. Best bet: Leave it alone!!

Asbestos in most states must be removed and disposed of (if that is your choice) by a haz mat asbestos certified company.

This is probably NOT a project that should done by the novice. You MAY cause more problems than you solve.

I would be very concerned as to the asbestos that fell off the piping. If it is all over the floor, then sorry but your basement and potentially whole house has been contaminated. This is not a DIY job. Stick to the professionals for this. I removed asbestos for 10 years, its nothing to fool with. Asbestos is the second worse carcinogen known to man. Thats a fact.

I don’t know where the missing pieces are; certainly not on the floor (at least not now). I don’t know how long they have been in this shape, as I only just recently took an interest. I’m going to look into having the elbow pieces wrapped up.

Good post/good information! Before you delv into a DYI solution, consider all the law suites concerning asbestos, from WW II ship building illinesses, sidding, insulation. Leave it to the professionals!!!

Question??? If asbestos is the second worse, then what is the first? and should we be concerned about it, for our own health reasons, or as an inspector?

Your pictures show that the insulation needs to be encapsulated, at least. In Ohio you can’t even sell the house until this is properly repaired by a licensed contractor. The buyers HI can’t miss this. Sorry to be one of the bearers of bad news, but this needs to be treated by a professional. If you disturb it at all it becomes airborn and a hazard to everyone living in the house. Bite the bullet.

Thank you for all the responses guys. I won’t be touching this stuff myself, it scares me enough as it is. Thankfully the only real traffic in this area is for laundry, so nothing would really be disturbing any of the insulation.

I’ll contact a plumber ASAP to have it encapsulated.

Good choice John. Good Luck.

???If you have lived there all your life, why are you now so concerned as to the asbestos???

I never noticed the condition of the pipes (or knew that they were insulated with asbestos). As I mentioned, I spend very little time in the basement; laundry only. Part of my fathers shop is located in the basement, but is in a sectioned off area away from the piping.

Overall it’s in good conidtion, and considering very little time is spent in these areas (no one disturbs the pipes anyway) I’m not super worried about the air quality; but would like to have this taken care of for peace of mind and for when I list the house for sale.

In viewing these pictures a couple of concerns arise in my mind.

Firstly this asbestos is jagged on the edges at the pipe elbow and could easily have been or been disturbed and become friable If one square inch of the material is friable (and this won’t be able to be seen in these photo’s), that is enough. Also, the insulation that is going into the crawlspace (I suppose) which also has the cardboard cut out around it probably underwent some type of banging and dusturbance during “installation”.

Remember that airborne asbestos is microscopic and 1 fiber can stay airborne for (3) days.

I would say that there is a very good chance that friable asbestos in the mix here.

What about normal everday vibrations - trucks, children playing, hitting into the pipes while working or moving things over the years?

I would have the air quality tested by a licensed Asbestos abatement company. And also I would not recommend a plumber to encapsulate this pipe. You need a professional that will do it following the proper procedures knowing the danger the substance and how easily contamination can occur if the situation is not handled properly.

Best Regards

Chris Mennella

A plumber deals with asbestos on a daily basis. If anyone were to contact a Plumber to inquire about encapsulating asbestos piping, I’m sure the Plumber would have /or know a qualified professional that can properly encapsulate this stuff.

Contact a Plumber as I stated…

Must wonder if he has watched to much 60 minutes, 20/20, or this old house?
Many, many homes have asbestos, and left alone, does not pose a problem.

If you need to work on the pipes, then a problem.

Encapuslate or remove completely?

One: encapsulate will, to a degree, confine the asbestos, however if you need to work on/replace the pipes, you will still have the asbestos problem to contend with.

His being worried, concerned, the best option for his “peace of mind” is to have it completely removed by a qualified, licensed haz mat company.

Two: Being that he also will being selling the house at some point in time, he will still have to disclose that there is asbestos, that has been encapsulated, which may/may not satisfy a buyer.

Best solution for John: Bite the bullet, remove it. He will have “peace of mind” and there will be no red flags/asbestos issues when he sells!!

Whether or not a plumber comes across Asbestos on a daily basis or a weekly basis or a monthly basis (which is probably more like it) is not the issue.
There is a reason that an Asbestos abatement license is mandated by the EPA. A master plumbers is not the person to call for asbestos. If a pluber is going to give a referral he is just another middle man tht can be avoided.

Phone book, gov’t website etc.



Whether or not a plumber comes across Asbestos on a daily basis or a weekly basis or a monthly basis (which is probably more like it) is not the issue.
There is a reason that an Asbestos abatement license is mandated by the EPA. A master plumbers is not the person to call for asbestos. If a pluber is going to give a referral he is just another middle man tht can be avoided.

Phone book, gov’t website etc.



Thanks for the comments guys. Because the overall condition of the pipes is good, I’m hesitant on full removal. I’ve heard this can be worse than just leaving it alone.

I grew up in this home, it’s my parents house, so I can’t remember the condition of the pipes over the years. We’ve never had work done on the pipes and my parents don’t seem to remember ever really disturbing the stuff (it’s covered in cobwebs, not much time is spent in this area except for laundry or getting something out of storage).

With the photos I’ve attached, do you think the air quality is poor? I’ve read that the levels of household asbestos are typically low and aren’t usually associated with asbestosis, etc. I’m going to have someone examine the pipes and get some recommendations.

John - A couple of things - check with, but I learned a couple of things from that site:

  1. First, (controversial) evidence suggests that the type of asbestos that predominates in most homes - chrysotile - generally is NOT associated with cancer, which is caused by OTHER types of asbestos. So have a lab tell you what you have.
  2. EPA studies of homes that contained friable asbestos found that levels in the air were not significatnly higher than outdoor levels and only about 1/100th the level permitted in asbestos factories.
  3. Nevertheless, EPA ordered a phase-out of asbestos in 1989. They have NEVER though ordered or recommended widespread removal of installed products containing asbestos, at least as of 2006.

I did an inspection for a lung surgeon who told me that asbestos is not that dangerous to non-smokers. I cannot confirm or refute what he said…

According to Popular Mechanics (November 1986, and quoted on EPA pamphlets) removal can be done as follows:

  1. Purchase and use safety clothing and a respirator with a Type-H filter. Do NOT use a paper filter.
  2. Spray soapy water over the asbestos.
  3. Wrap it in plastic kitchen wrap.
  4. Finally wrap it with a good-quality duct tape approved by U.L.
  5. Paint the tape with acrylic-latex paint.
  6. Dispose of safety clothes.

Popular Mechanics has been criticized for publishing these recommendations (probably by professional asbestos removal companies…). Makes it sound like you can do it yourself.