Advice about Asbestos

Parent Q&A

Recommendation for popcorn ceiling removal (w/ Asbestos) Dec 6, 2016 (2 responses below)
Asbestos in heating duct of 1967 home Oct 26, 2016 (4 responses below)
  • I recently tested my popcorn ceilings and the sample came back positive for asbestos.  Does anyone have any recommendations for companies who are certified or licensed in this type of removal / remediation?  I was only really able to find one such company in the area and I would love to find a few so I can get more than one quote.

    Google "asbestos abatement contractors", there are several in the area. Check out Bluewater Environmental, Restec Contractors, P.W. Stephens to name a few. 

    We had our asbestos popcorn ceiling remediated by Synergy (they did the testing as well).  They were extremely fast and responsive (we worked with Robert Huddlestone and he was great). We had another company bid as well and they were almost twice the cost - we aren't sure why. Our removal was nearly the entire house (about 1200 sq feet). Very professional job.

  • Asbestos in heating duct of 1967 home

    (4 replies)

    Hello! We are in the process of having a 1967 Danville home (we are just in contract with) inspected. The pre inspection reports noted "possible asbestos in the heating ducts" and recommended testing to verify.  My question is, how do we go about doing this, and does anyone have any contacts for asbestos/environmental testing and remediation? Would a normal contractor be able to do this or is an asbestos ducting specialist of some sort needed? It seems to me this quite common in old homes and not a huge deal? However I definitely feel it is necessary to get it replaced prior to move in. Please share your advise!

    We had our home tested for asbestos (popcorn ceiling covering, gravel-looking stuff in attic crawl space, lining of old fuse box cupboard). It's easy and affordable for peace of mind and for planning remedial action if necessary. We used Synergy environmental and they were fabulous - extremely fast and responsive. You can pay more for an official report to have on file. In our case, our ceiling coverings did have asbestos so we contracted with them to remediate the material.  You have to contract with someone who knows what they are doing and will dispose of the hazardous material appropriately (and protect their workers!).  Our attic material turned out to be simply old roofing gravel (yay).

    On your timeline - the biggest thing to think about is whether you will disturb the material yourselves (make it "friable" or airborne). If the ducts are under the house, it's possible that you could have it remediated while you are living there with low risk. In our case, every ceiling was covered with it and we are remodeling, so we had it taken care of before we moved in: they lined the inside of the house with two layers of thick plastic, created a negative airflow, sprayed warm water all over the ceiling material, scraped it away, then tested the air quality at the end.  No way we could have been there for that. The remediation was an extra expense, but now we can work on the house without worrying about that stuff (plus it was ugly).

    We had deteriorated duct work with exposed asbestos insulation.  I work in the environmental consulting field and a colleague with asbestos expertise referred me to http://www.synergy-enterprises.org/asbestos.htm for our residential abatement.  The duct work and boots (where the registers connect to) were a given that we wanted removed, but we also had the walls of our furnace closet tested (it looked like sprayed on white texture).  The test came back positive for asbestos and we had it all abated by synergy prior to moving into our house (it was the first thing we had done due to the health concern).  You can request for them to test first before you proceed with an asbestos abatement.  With the age of your house, if there is any linoleum that dates back to the time it was built, it may also contain asbestos.  The same goes for "popcorn ceilings".  In any case, please use an accredited contractor - asbestos removal is not something you want done by someone not certified. https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/protect-your-family#professionals

    After the abatement, you will need to contract with an HVAC contractor to install new boots and duct work.  The benefit of this is that you will likely end up with more adequately sized ducts with better insulation.  I believe there are various rebates for improved ducting.

    Good luck!

    When I had new flooring installed, I had to have the old flooring tested for asbestos. I used Asbestos TEM Labs in Berkeley  (http://www.asbestostemlabs.com/). I don't know anything about the specifics of duct testing, but they should be able to help.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



New furnace/asbestos abatement

Sept 2008

We are looking to replace a very old furnace and also have some asbestos abatement work done. Any advice or recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks! sarah H


Try Marius Construction-510-828-6551. This is a real specialty and Marius is licensed for it. He has done remarkable work on my 1910 Craftsman. I keep hiring him over and over for different jobs because he is amazing with older homes. I had 2 huge 1950 era Atlas heaters and tons of asbestos ductwork that needed to go. Read his reviews on this and other sites and you will be very encouraged. Susan


I had American Air Conditioning put in my AC and was very impressed with their work. They were very reasonably priced and the work was done quickly and neatly. The installer was there on time, was polite, and answered all my questions. I found the company easy to work with and would highly recommend them. We also had to have asbestos removed and he advised and helped with that. His name is Anthony and the company is American Air Conditioning Company 510-417-2955 925-705-3800 Elizabeth


To abate or not to abate? Asbestos In ducts

April 2007

An inspector recently pointed out asbestos linings around our heating ducts and WITHIN our floor registers. The asbestos lining that is visible in the registers appears to be in pretty good condition, but it is hard to see it all. It is hard to tell if the ducts are in good shape, since they are covered with the asbestos lining as well as an additional layer of newer, non-asbestos lining. I know the asbestos isn't a problem if it isn't airborn. My concern is that if there is a leak in one of the ducts or damage that isn't visible in one of the registers, our heating system will blow asbestos throughout the house. So, why don't we get it abated? In researching that, it seems quite possible to create MORE of a hazard unless the company captures all of the dust it creates, which, with various factors including human error, seems very difficult to guarantee. Anyone else been in this situation? What did you do? confused homeowner


I did have a similar experience with the asbestos question. The advice I was given was that if the asbestos was intact, it could do more damage to the environment to try to remove it than it would to have a painter seal it over with paint. That is what I did. We hired a painter for about $200 to cover all the asbestos surrounding the ducts in the attic with paint and I think that has worked out.


Contact Peter Landry at Synergy Electric in San Leandro or Hayward. My general contractor husband has used him a lot and says, ''He's a great guy.'' He can give you an estimate and explain the process of removing the asbestos. burr


We went through this same debate, got estimates from a few abatement companies, and ultimately thus far have decided to do nothing for now. I was also concerned that ''abating'' might cause more harm than good, and since much of it wasn't accessible, it just seemed like an unsolvable problem. We decided to switch to plug-in electric heaters and just not use the furnace, and while it's not a real solution, I at least feel like I'm not blowing asbestos into the house every time I use the furnace. I am also curious what other people have done. m


Landlord wants to ''encapsulate'' asbestos

Nov 2006

The house we are renting has an old heating system with several exposed air ducts that are wrapped in materials containing over 50% asbestos (we had it tested). Our landlord wants to ''encapsulate'' the ducts because it's cheaper than removing and replacing the ducts. I have heard that encapsulation is not a safe solution because the asbestos fibers are so fine that they penetrate the encapsulation materials and can still get into the air flow. Can anyone recommend an expert I can consult with on this topic? Thank you Concerned tenant


We had asbestos flooring removed quickly and efficiently by Synergy (www.synergycompanies.org). They came for the evaluation the day after I called and scheduled the removal for two days later. I was impressed and relieved by their prompt assistance! shelly


Asbestos insulation on heating ducts and Asbestos removal - I recommend you just get it taken care. It is friable; it is hazardous, but minimally so in the residential settings. The best solution is not to paint or encapsulate but have a heating company bid on replacing with new flex ducting (then the insides of the ducts will be new and clean-smelling!) ...they in turn should have a certified asbestos removal company they like to work with.

To make a long story short, we lived with old ducts and banged our heads on the asbestos covering when we worked in the basement for 17 years. The musty smell from the ducts bothered me so much we barely turned our heater on at all and I got inflamed eyes as well for months. Once I got a bid for cleaning the ducts that was $3,000 so that discouraged me. We hired Harry Clark Plumbing/Heating in oakland to do the new job a few weeks ago and they had us use Synergy Companies for the asbestos removal. We had only a few duct lines - total cost for both synchronized jobs - around $2,700. The work only took 2 days total and they found lots to be improved on -there we gaps around the old pipes, the old connections for the venting flue was not up to code, etc. Now my house gets warm much quicker and my eyes are happy. Wish I had done it sooner. You can check the big furnace companies like Atlas, HC, etc.in the yellow pages. All probably reputatable if they have stayed in business awhile. The bad news: this is their busy time of year. Place a call by late Spring to get a bid and get on their work schedule. Judy


Asbestos testing and removal

Nov 2006

Hi I am looking for a referral for someone to see if we have asbestos insulation, and if so to remove it safely, or to contain it safely. Thanks for referrals.


For Asbestos abatement and the question above about asbestos advice, I recommend Synergy. They have worked on my house twice - once when I moved in and had some small encapsulation work done, and more recently when I finally had all the asbestos covered ductwork removed. They are extremely professional, absolute topic experts and in both cases the price of their work came in exactly as quoted Rose


We had asbestos flooring removed quickly and efficiently by Synergy (www.synergycompanies.org). They came for the evaluation the day after I called and scheduled the removal for two days later. I was impressed and relieved by their prompt assistance! Shelly


Asbestos tape throughout the ductwork

August 2005

We purchased our house in 2002. A couple of days ago we had our HVAC system inspected for the first time since we moved in, and found out there is asbestos tape all throughout the ductwork under the house. We never would have bought our house had we known there was this problem - we have an infant and a toddler. When we purchased our home, in the disclosure checklist, the box relating to the presence of ''Asbestos'' was ticked ''no.'' The detection of asbestos was beyond the scope of our home inspectors. We contacted our real estate agent and got a copy of our closing file. As we looked through all of the documents, we found out that the original homeowner (who sold the house to the people we purchased it from) ticked ''unknown'' regarding the presence of asbestos in HIS disclosure document 5 years ago during that sale. We also saw a DIFFERENT home inspection, again conducted during the purchase prior to ours, that indicated there was in fact asbestos present. So, I think we have established that the people we purchased the house from knew there was asbestos and then lied about it on the disclosure. My childhood friend's mom died of asbestos exposure, from Mesothelioma and they don't know how she ever got exposed. I am so scared and angry about everything that I cannot even begin to think about what to do about the situation. What about my kids' health? What about my health? Do we need to have the house checked? The asbestos removed/abated? What about the costs? Do I need to find a good lawyer regarding the homeowner & real estate agent lying to us about the presence of asbestos? What would you do???? Want to have a healthy home


Hi- I totally understand your frustration. Here is my understanding of asbestos, (and I'm not a scientist or anything, just concerned parent like you.) Asbestos generally poses no problem until removed or tampered with. When we bought our home and renovated it, asbestos was everywhere- asbestos shingles, around wiring and plumbing, and in the old heater. We did not have children at the time, but we researched our options and had all the different types of asbestos tested. (I can't remember where, but the lab was somewhere in Emeryville or Berkeley near Scharffenberger Chocolates.) There are friable and non-friable types of asbestos. Supposedly the non-friable types are fine to remove by yourself, but we didn't want to take any chances. As far as the former owner not disclosing the information, contact your real estate agent or if they can't help you, their broker. You may want to know what your options are. But for me, I would get rid of the asbestos and take a vacation while it's being done. Michelle


Heating ducts have asbestos

July 2004

Hello, We have an older house and our heating ducts have asbestos. We maintain the furnace and have had the ducts blown out etc. and are told as long as we keep everything patched and cleaned, etc. we should be okay. But I am a little paranoid having children in the house with asbestos, let alone my husband and myself. Is this rediculously expesnive to do? (We are limited in funds). Has anyone else out there been through this, and if so who did you use for removal? Is it worth doing, or am I just being paranoid? Thanks. Lisa


If the asbestos surrounding your pipes is intact, you are MUCH better off not doing anything other than wrapping them with some material. Asbestos removal should not be done in this case, since it is the loose asbestos which is a health risk. By removing intact asbestos, you will be creating a much greater risk than what you have. If you do decide to have it removed, you will need to get a contractor who has been trained and certified in asbestos removal and cleanup, and it won't be cheap. Anonymous


Pipes in basement wrapped in asbestos

Feb 2004

I have some pipes in my basement that are wrapped in asbestos. I'd like to have the asbestos removed by a reliable licensed contractor. Any recommendations? Dennis


We just had quotes to have asbestos removed from our 1925 furnace. We were told that 95% of the asbestos removal in the Bay Area was made by Synergy. Peter came to our house and gave us a very reasonable estimate. Synergy was also recommended by all 3 heating system people who came to give us quotes. good luck


Is there asbestos in our popcorn ceiling?

Jan 2004

I want to find out if there is asbestos in the ''acoustic'' popcorn-style ceilings of ours before we move forward with our plans for a remodel. We have young children and if it's a risk, I'd rather put off the remodel. I also want to make sure we don't have asbestos in our vents, which was the case before we bought the house and before it was ''professionally cleaned.'' Does anyone have recommendations for people who can do this? Am I better off sending a piece of the popcorn to a lab? Should I trust the professionals we used 1.5 yrs ago to do another check of our vents? Any help is appreciated. Taking baby steps


in response to a question regarding asbestos and abatement, i would recommend using Synergy. Sal is the owner and they were wonderful in checking out our 1924 home. They performed the check for free, then gave an estimate for removal which was very reasonable. They were referred to us by our realtor and we were very happy with the service. Everyone seems to know them. When we had the furnace replaced, the first thing the guy said was, ''Looks like Sal has been here.'' Their number is (510) 429-9600


When my husband and I bought our last house, it had the popcorn ceiling and some really old linoleum. We had it all tested by a company called Asbestos TEM. I don't recall the phone number, but they are located in Berkeley, near Gilman and 7th. I think that we paid around $40 for each item tested. happycamper


Asbestos Insulation on Heating Ducts

Sept 2003

We have to replace our 40 year old furnace. Tom from Walter Mork (who is fabulous) pointed out that the heating ducts are surrounded by Asbestos taping. He checked inside the house and looked in all the ''registers'' for evidence of asbestos INSIDE the ducts. To the naked eye, asbestos did not appear to be present. He took digital photos leaning into the register and placing the camera deeper into the duct. He called later to say that indeed, upon closer inspection of these photographs,he has found what looks to be asbestos dust inside one of the registers.

He said that a company called Synergy something generally does the removal. It will cost around 8K to remove and replace b/c the house is long.

Do you know of a company that can test for asbestos presense within the ducts? What are you thoughts about asbestos taped ducts? What about just sealing off that register? A few of the ducts are in areas that humans visit with some frequency especially those in our storage area in the basement. Can you recommend Synergy for duct removal or other companies? Aaaargh. help. thanks Justine


We also have ductwork under our 1966 home that is wrapped with asbestos insulation. When we replaced our furnace this summer, we sought opinions from several heating contractors, as well as from Synergy, regarding what to do with the asbestos. The general consensus was, as long as the insulation stays intact and on the outside of the ducts, it is not going to harm your family. Problems may happen if the ducts leak, and if the wrapping gets wet or starts to deteriorate in some way. Then, we were told, the fibers could get loose, get into the ducts, and blow into the house. Instead of having Synergy remove the asbestos, we chose to go a less expensive route, which was to have the ducts sealed with a process called ''Aeroseal.'' In this process, a rubberized material is sent via high pressure blower into your ducts (which have been temporarily sealed at the vents), and adheres to any leaks/holes. Sounded a bit farfetched when I first heard of it, but I looked into it and found that the technology was developed at LBL, and is endorsed by the DoE, etc. There are a few East Bay companies who use the Aeroseal process. We used Dependable Heating and were happy with them. The duct sealing for our 1600 square foot home was $650. I would recommend it as an alternative to asbestos removal if you don't have a huge problem and/or just don't want to spend the money on the removal. Cheri


Synergy did the work in our home and their work has since been ''approved'' by our kitchen contractor and the structural engineers he has brought in to work on the foundation. They were efficient, quiet, pleasant to work with and CLEAN! Good luck- chris


We hired Synergy for removal of our old asbestos lined heating duct system when we replaced our furnace. They were everything you would want in a company dealing with disposal of hazardous waste-- thorough, timely, and careful. They will seal off the work area (especially the registers that open up into the house) and dispose of everything that they remove. Good luck and I'm sure you'll feel better once you know it is out of your house. LUISA


Dec 2001

Can anyone recommend an HVAC company that specializes in removing old ductwork that has asbestos insulation, and putting in new ducts? I want to be sure that the new ducts are properly sealed and tested for airtightness, and I understand that not many HVAC companies are careful about this. -- Mark


We went through this with our fixer since 1995 and found that Asbestos abatement companies do only asbestos removal and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) firms will only do new installations. If you have ducts with asbestos, the HVAC firms will work with them, but won't replace them. Make sure you look at the total cost of the new system as it was just as expensive to insulate over the existing asbestos ductwork as it was to remove them and replace with new ducts when we did our work.

We used PW Stephens in Hayward, 510-887-6577, and also had a quote from one other firm. The reason we went with PW was they have been around and were recommended by every heating company we spoke with. They weren't the cheapest but not too much more then the other bid we had.

For replacing the ductwork and the heater, we went with Atlas Heating, and were very happy with our decision. We have since done an addition and they also were able to add the heating vents for this without major changes to the original system. I'm not sure what you're referring to with testing ducts for airtightness, but the system has to be properly installed to function properly and any established and licensed HVAC company should be installing airtight ductwork. -Ed