Many home-improvement projects call for drilling or cutting in the attic or walls and through the insulation. However, not all insulation is safe to mess with, and drilling into the wrong type can majorly affect your health.
We all know about asbestos, but vermiculite can also be a problem as it was known to be contaminated with asbestos. The rule of thumb and recommended practice is to leave vermiculite alone if you have it in your house. So, what happens if it is accidentally disturbed?
If vermiculite has been disturbed, the air should be vacated immediately. Seal the room and wait for the dust to settle. The cause must be addressed to ensure it does not happen again. If the disturbance continues, a professional must be called in to either encapsulate it or remove it.
Leave the Area Immediately
If you believe you have disturbed your vermiculite insulation, the best action would be to leave the area immediately.
While not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos, a significant percentage of the vermiculite found in US homes may be contaminated with asbestos.
This means that disturbing vermiculite may release asbestos into the environment and air.
To protect yourself, you should not interact with your insulation unprotected, especially if you are unsure if it contains asbestos.
Seal the Area
Asbestos fibers are extremely small, ranging from 0.1-10 micrometers in length. Being so small, they are not even visible to the human eye.
Asbestos is described as friable, which means that if you touch it, it will flake off and become airborne.
The fibers are so tiny that they can slip through cracks and gaps into other rooms. Because of this, it is crucial to seal the area containing the vermiculite.
Sealing the area not only means sealing the hatch to the attic, however. The fibers can slip into the vents or even between cracks in the ceiling between the attic and the floor below it. In addition, the fibers can slip through any windows you have in the attic.
Allow It to Settle
After sealing off the room, you will need to give the dust and fibers time to settle. Typically, this can take anywhere from 48 to 72 hours after being disturbed.
However, this is only the case if nothing causes the fibers to become airborne again, such as a slight breeze or other disturbance.
Address Whatever Caused the Disturbance
Insulation containing asbestos can begin to release fibers for a multitude of reasons. Therefore, it is important to find the root cause for what is creating a disturbance in your insulation so that you can fix the issue.
If you were intentionally disturbing it, either through drilling or some other contact, then you can solve the problem by leaving the insulation be.
Insulation can become damaged in other ways, however, and these ways require more attention to prevent the problem from growing.
For instance, water damage can cause asbestos to release fibers into the air. In this case, it is important to seal off the room and call a professional.
Call in a Professional
If you have loose asbestos fibers floating around and damage to your insulation, you will need to call in a professional to help repair the room.
Depending on how bad the damage is and the source of the disturbance, they will likely either encapsulate it or remove it entirely.
If the disturbance was caused by somebody manually irritating the insulation or if the insulation only has a small portion damaged, a professional would most likely choose to encapsulate it.
By covering the damaged portion with a special type of paint or other material, you then do not need to go through the hassle of entirely replacing your insulation.
On the other hand, if there is a much greater disturbance or a disturbance that is likely to happen again, then a professional may remove it entirely. This is to prevent any future damage from occurring to the vermiculite and releasing more asbestos fibers into the home.
Can and/or Should You Remove It Yourself?
If you are planning to replace your vermiculite insulation and you want to save money, then it is possible to remove it yourself.
However, it is under no circumstances recommended to do so, and you should instead hire a professional.
If you decide to do it yourself, it is extremely important to do it correctly and follow all of the safety precautions, as asbestos is hazardous to inhale and be exposed to.
For starters, you will need to block off any vents to prevent fibers from flowing between rooms. In addition, you will need to wear goggles, a respirator, and a disposable, fiber-resistant suit.
When you leave the room, it is important to have a decontamination station set up so that you can immediately remove and dispose of your safety equipment, as it is contaminated with fibers. This is to prevent you from contaminating other rooms in your home.
When you are done removing the vermiculite, you will then need to make sure that you clean the room properly to prevent any stray fibers from staying in the house.