How to Tell the Difference between Cellulose and Asbestos Insulation

Are you buying or selling your home? Have you noticed higher heat bills than average? If so, it is time to get an insulation inspection from SoDaK Insulation and Restoration.

Do you know your insulation may contain asbestos, which needs special handling? Do you know how to tell the difference between cellulose and asbestos insulation by sight?

The difference between asbestos and cellulose is hard to tell, specifically by looking. The Asbestos Institute recommends a professional when there is an excess of ten square feet of asbestos. The risk of exposure and contamination is exceptionally high for you and those who come into contact with it.

sign warning of dangers of asbestos insulation

Asbestos: What is it?

Asbestos is a mineral found in nature. It is heat and corrosion-resistant. Builders commonly used asbestos as insulation in many homes and businesses, including in floor tiles and other building materials from 1950 to the 1980s.

In the 1980s, asbestos was discontinued as insulation because of cancer-causing dangers.

Vermiculite insulation, which may contain asbestos, is believed by environmental experts to be in millions of homes. A licensed abatement company is required to rid your place of vermiculite with asbestos.

Many dwellings have asbestos, but it only becomes a problem when there is damage of some kind, and the particles then become airborne. The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, lists medical conditions called asbestosis and mesothelioma resulting from breathing in asbestos fibers. These conditions affect the lungs and can reduce lung function that often advances to disability and death.

What is Cellulose Insulation?

Various materials, including cardboard, hemp, straw, newspaper, and many other materials, make up cellulose insulation. Contractors use the paper-based cellulose mix and treat it with boric acid to give it fire resistant properties.

There are two types of cellulose insulation: dry cellulose, also known as loose-fill insulation, and wet cellulose.

Dry cellulose is blown through wall holes and used to fill wall cavities around pipe and wiring. Wet spray cellulose differs as it generally is used as an application to newly built walls. Wet cellulose is derived by added water to the spray, which gives a better seal for preventing heat loss.

Cellulose insulation, made from recycled materials, is considered eco-friendly and a fire retardant. Perfect for going green and earning LEED!

worker showing the difference between cellulose and asbestos insulation

How to Tell the Difference between Cellulose and Asbestos Insulation

Telling the difference between asbestos and cellulose is best left to a professional. Experts in the field highly recommend homeowners do not handle asbestos themselves.

It is tough to determine if your insulation contains asbestos. It is something you do not want to be touching and contaminating around your house. SoDaK Insulation and Restoration will recommend the best removal of any damaged asbestos areas and a safe insulation program for your home or business.

Besides traditional insulation, asbestos could be in the following places: cement, plaster, specific brands of batt insulation, electrical panels, and wrap insulation, such as on pipes.

Again, undamaged asbestos is generally not a cause for concern. It is a problem when the asbestos fibers transport through the air. Breathing in these fibers is a significant health risk.

As part of an insulation inspection, you should also evaluate for mold and mildew. Both can affect the insulation and its effectiveness.

Wear and tear on your house and bats and vermin are the leading causes of damaged insulation. A professional assessment is needed to determine the scope of asbestos exposure.

worker installing new insulation on a roof

Asbestos Guidelines for the Homeowner

The EPA (the United States Environmental Protection Agency) has the following guidelines posted if you think you have asbestos in your house.

  • Leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials untouched.
  • Limit access, especially by children, to any areas with damaged material that may contain asbestos.
  • Take every safety measure to avoid harming places with asbestos-containing material.
  • Have the removal of asbestos and repairs done by people trained and qualified to do such work.
  • Do not sweep up or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
  • Do not sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials.
  • Do not use sanding or scrub brushes on power strippers to remove wax from flooring that may contain asbestos. 
  • Never track asbestos material on your shoes or clothing through any building. If you must walk through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area or a large area, call an asbestos professional.

Insulation Basics

Why is insulation important? As it sounds, insulation is a barrier to trap heat—the same concept as putting on blankets or jackets to keep your body warmth from escaping. Adding more layers and repairing holes keeps you warmer, just as with your home’s insulation.

Heat naturally will go to colder spaces, and that process is called heat transfer. Insulation decreases the transfer.

The insulation holds air in place. The soft material secures little pockets of air. Heat is more stable in insulation as it is not mixing around looking for the colder air, thus keeping the heat in place.  

Before You Buy or Sell

A professional inspection of your insulation is a must before purchasing or selling a property. No one wants to be surprised with an issue, such as the presence of bat guano or asbestos. SoDaK Insulation and Restoration will apprise the situation and develop an action plan to suit all interested parties.

High Utility Bills

Does your air conditioner seem not to keep the house as cold as it used to or your heat bills off from the past? If so, time to check your insulation. 

SoDaK Insulation and Restoration will come to your home or business, inspect your insulation levels, and restore areas that need attention by removing old insulation and installing new. You don’t want to find yourself in a potentially dangerous asbestos situation.

Professionals for the Job

Telling the difference between asbestos-containing insulation and cellulose insulation is difficult. The safest and best option is to have a trained professional inspect and remedy the situation. Call SoDaK Insulation and Restoration today to get your house healthy!

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