How to protect yourself and your family while renovating your home in Victoria, BC
With nearly 40 years in the home renovation business, we’ve seen many new products come and go. Few have been as controversial as asbestos, a product that was once a lifesaver, but in many cases turned out to be a significant hazard. So what can you do if you have asbestos or other hazardous materials in your life?
Do homes in Victoria have asbestos?
Asbestos was — and is — quite common throughout Canada and the US, so it’s pretty likely that you have lived or stayed in a house with asbestos in it somewhere. It’s commonly found in vermiculite insulation, popcorn ceilings, drywall and drywall compound, heating ducts, window putty, flooring tiles, and more. The big issue with asbestos is when it’s disturbed, which causes the harmful fibres to be released to the air, possibly contaminating the surfaces in your home and creating the risk of being inhaled by you and your family. If it’s been in place for years, it’s not an immediate concern, but keep in mind that you will need to disclose any known asbestos when you’re selling a home, and there are rumours of imminent changes in the insurance world that may require disclosure as well.
If you’re going to renovate or demolish your home, you need to plan for the safe and effective removal of your asbestos. Even if it’s as simple as replacing some floor tiles or updating your heating system — the white tape around ducting typically has a high concentration of asbestos — it’s best to assume that asbestos is present. It’s far more affordable to have the experts test and remove instead of risking it and contaminating your home.
How do I find out if my home has asbestos?
If your house was built before 1990, assume that you probably have some asbestos materials in your home. Before you start your next project, contact a qualified environmental consultant to have them do a hazardous material assessment, confirming where and what you have for asbestos and other materials.
“The number one call we get,” explained Summer Green, co-owner of Victoria-based Removall Remediation Services, “is from a homeowner who has had a friend or family member come over to ‘help’ with a job, only to discover that the materials they were removing are asbestos-containing. And while it’s great that they called, much of the damage has already been done. The fibres may spread throughout the home, and could require extensive cleaning to prevent possible exposure.”
Is asbestos the only hazard to be worried about?
While asbestos is a high-profile concern, there are other potential hazards in homes in Greater Victoria, such as lead paint and crystalline silica, which may be present in homes built since 1990. Choosing a crew that is aware of and experienced with safe handling of hazardous materials will prevent unnecessary risk for your renovation project.
Asbestos exposure is the number one killer of workers in B.C. and was the contributing factor in 47 work-related deaths in 2018, or about 36 per cent of all work-related deaths in the year. – WorkSafeBC
How do you choose a professional team to remove your hazardous materials?
Like many things in life, you will find that the price of hazardous materials abatement can vary substantially. When you are ready to make your selection, price shouldn’t be the only factor. The costs of disposal of hazardous materials, testing, PPE, and insurance have increased substantially over the past decade. “If you receive a quote that is substantially lower than the rest,” explained Summer, “you should question the business to ensure they are equipped and prepared to safely remove your hazardous materials.”
Choose a contractor with a track record of positive service, ideally with many years of service to your community. At MAC Renovations, we’ve built strong relationships with local contractors who have proven they have the skills, service, and experience to deliver the calibre of performance our customers in Victoria expect from us.
Do I really need a professional to remove the hazardous materials?
The short answer is – yes.
The long answer is – definitely yes. WorkSafeBC regulations state that a hazardous materials inspection for any worksite is required, and many municipalities will not issue a building permit without proof that the inspection was completed.
If you, or the crew you choose to complete your abatement, don’t complete a hazardous materials assessment, you may be issued a stop-work order, creating an expensive pause or a permanent loss for your project.
Here are some examples of when a stop-work order may be issued (via WorkSafeBC):
- The employer allowed workers to disturb asbestos-containing materials without necessary precautions to protect workers.
- Asbestos-containing materials identified in the hazardous-materials were not safely removed.
- An inspection for hazardous materials had not been conducted before demolition or renovation work began.
It’s not just WorkSafeBC that might issue a stop order – municipal enforcement has the ability to stop or pause a project if they suspect that procedures aren’t being correctly adhered to.
The Importance of Paperwork
Once the assessment of the hazardous materials has been completed, and any hazardous materials have been safely removed, you will be issued a clearance certificate. The clearance letter documents that abatement of the hazardous materials was conducted in accordance with regulatory requirements, such as the Worker’s Compensation Act, the WorkSafe Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, and the BC Ministry of Environment regulations. This abatement contractors’ checklist outlines what is required in the written confirmation letter.
Dealing with Asbestos
Asbestos is a fact of life for many of the homes in Victoria, but with the right crew following the proper procedures, it can be taken care of effectively, efficiently, and safely. If you are considering a renovation, remodel, or demolition in Victoria, set yourself up for success by choosing a trusted professional.
At MAC Renovations, we test for hazardous materials as part of our pre-construction process, so we can develop an informed strategy to protect you and your family, as well as our crew. This investment in everyone’s safety is an essential part of a home renovation in Victoria and just one of the many reasons we’ve earned a reputation as a contractor you can trust. We do it right from the start.
Contact us to find out how we can make your home safer and better.