Asbestos siding can stay, but keep it sealed

Question: We recently made a purchase offer on a 60-year old house. When we received the “Form 17” property disclosure statement from the listing agent, we discovered that the house has “asbestos siding” that had been painted. We’ve heard a lot of horror stories about asbestos. Is this siding dangerous?

C.J., Lynnwood

Answer: The mere presence of asbestos in a house does not by itself pose a health hazard for the occupants. It only becomes a problem when the asbestos fibers are released into the air, potentially causing lung disease.

Cement asbestos board was a common house siding material in the 1940s and 1950s. As long as the siding is not cracked or broken, the asbestos remains embedded in the shingles and you don’t have to worry about breathing in the fibers.

Some homeowners can’t stand the thought of having asbestos in their homes, but many building and health experts actually recommend that you not remove the asbestos materials from your home.

That’s because the potential health risks associated with removing asbestos-impregnated building materials are greater than the risks of living with them. As long as the material is not disturbed, it is perfectly safe. A fresh coat of paint is a good way to seal in the asbestos and keep it in its place.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (800-552-3565) provides information on how to safely live with asbestos in your home. You can get information from its Web site: www.psclean asbe-home-info.shtml

Someday, you’ll probably want to repair or replace the asbestos siding. That requires special safety precautions. If you hire a professional asbestos contractor, you can expect to pay about $3 or $4 per square foot for the safe removal and proper disposal of the shingles.

If you are careful, you can also do it yourself. There are minimal safety risks if you carefully follow the instructions in the asbestos removal information available from the Puget Sound Air Clean Air Agency. You can download all the required government notification forms, a list of the necessary safety equipment and stores where it can be purchased and the location of licensed asbestos disposal sites in the Puget Sound region.

To do the job yourself, you must wear a properly fitted respirator to keep the asbestos fibers out of your lungs, as well as safety goggles, gloves and disposable coveralls. Each shingle must be removed very carefully and placed softly on the ground so that it does not break. The shingles must be kept wet to prevent asbestos fibers from floating into the air. The debris must then be sealed in plastic and taken to a disposal site. There is no licensed asbestos disposal facility in Snohomish County. The closest facility for Snohomish County residents is Rabanco Recycling in Seattle.

Similar health precautions must be taken when removing any other building material containing asbestos – such as “popcorn” ceilings, old sheet vinyl flooring and furnace duct insulation.

The greatest concentration of asbestos is found in old air ducts for heating systems, especially old hot water systems.

Again, you do not have to remove this material to have a safe living environment in your home. If you cover it with paint, tape or some other type of air-tight sealant, you will not be bothered by any asbestos fibers in your air.

Mail your real estate questions to Steve Tytler, The Herald, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Fax questions to Tytler at 425-339-3435 or e-mail him at

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, a worker walks near a mural of a Boeing 777 airplane at the company's manufacturing facility in Everett, Wash., north of Seattle. Beginning in 2024, some 737 planes will be built in Everett, the company announced to workers on Monday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
With 747 out, Boeing to open new 737 Max line at Everett’s Paine Field

Since the last 747 rolled out of the factory, speculation has been rife that Boeing might move some 737 Max production to Everett.

IonQ will open a new quantum computing manufacturing and research center at 3755 Monte Villa Parkway in Bothell. (Photo courtesy of IonQ)
Quantum computing firm IonQ to open Bothell R&D center

IonQ says quantum computing systems are key to addressing climate change, energy and transportation.

Nathanael Engen, founder of Black Forest Mushrooms, sits in the lobby of Think Tank Cowork with his 9-year-old dog, Bruce Wayne, on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Growing green mushrooms in downtown Everett

The founder of Black Forest Mushrooms plans to grow gourmet mushrooms locally, reducing their carbon footprint.

Barb Lamoureux, 78, poses for a photo at her office at 1904 Wetmore Ave in Everett, Washington on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Lamoureux, who founded Lamoureux Real Estate in 2004, is retiring after 33 years. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Barb Lamoureux, ‘North Everett’s Real Estate Agent’ retires

A longtime supporter of Housing Hope, Lamoureux helped launch the Windermere Foundation Golf Tournament.

AGC Biologics in Bothell to produce new diabetes treatment

The contract drug manufacturer paired with drug developer Provention Bio to bring the new therapy to market.

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, March 11, 2019, rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The number of deaths in major air crashes around the globe fell by more than half in 2019 according to a report released Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020, by the aviation consultancy To70, revealing the worst crash for the year was an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX on March 10 that lost 157 lives. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, FILE)
US board says Boeing Max likely hit a bird before 2019 crash

U.S. accident investigators disagree with Ethiopian authorities over the cause of a 2019 Boeing 737 Max crash.

Store owner Jay Behar, 50, left, and store manager Dan Boston, 60, right, work to help unload a truck of recliners at Behar's Furniture on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. Behar's Furniture on Broadway in Everett is closing up shop after 60 years in business. The family-owned furniture store opened in 1963, when mid-century model styles were all the rage. Second-generation owner, Jay Behar says it's time to move on. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Behar’s Furniture in Everett closing after 60 years

“It’s time to move on.” The small family-owned store opened in 1963 and grew to cover an entire city block.

Katy Woods, a Licensed Coach, Branch Manager, and experienced Banker at Coastal Community Bank.
Coastal Community Bank Offers Classes for Businesses

To support local business owners and their teams, Coastal offers complimentary Money… Continue reading

Innovative Salon Products online fulfillment employees, from left, Stephanie Wallem, Bethany Fulcher, Isela Ramirez and Gretchen House, work to get orders put together on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at the company’s facility in Monroe, Washington. The company began including pay, benefits and perks to its job listings over a year ago, well ahead of the new statewide mandate to include a pay range on job postings at companies with over 15 employees. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New state law requires employers to give pay range in job postings

Washington’s new pay transparency law aims to narrow wage gaps based on race or gender — though some companies may seek loopholes.

Paddywack co-owner Shane Somerville with the 24-hour pet food pantry built by a local Girl Scout troop outside of her store on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
An out-paw-ring of support: Mill Creek pantry feeds pets, day or night

With help from local Girl Scouts, the Mill Creek pet food store Paddywack is meeting the need for pet supplies in a pinch.

Kelly Cameron is the woodworker behind Clinton-based business Turnco Wood Goods. (David Welton)
Whidbey woodworkers turn local lumber into art

In the “Slab Room” at Madrona Supply Co., customers can find hunks of wood native to the south end of Whidbey Island.

Siblings Barbara Reed and Eric Minnig, who, co-own their parent’s old business Ken’s Camera along with their brother Bryan, stand outside the Evergreen Way location Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, in Everett, Washington. After five decades in business, Ken’s will be closing its last two locations for good at the end of the year. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Print it or lose it: Ken’s Camera closes after decades caught on film

The local legend, processing film photos since 1971, will close its locations in Mount Vernon and Everett at the end of 2022.