If you live in a single family home, or in a multifamily residence of less than 5 units, it is legal for the home inspector to collect asbestos samples in most states. And the home inspector may be the cheapest option. Why? There are several reasons. An EPA accredited or (in states which require licensing) state licensed asbestos inspector has a training requirement of a comprehensive EPA/state approved 3 day asbestos inspection course and an annual refresher, costing time and money. The accredited inspector may spend more on OSHA asbestos compliance requirements, such as medical monitoring for asbestos disease, personal protective equipment, and related administrative programs.
When does it make sense to use the home inspector? If you have certain areas that you are concerned about, such as a floor tile, a home inspector is a reasonable choice to conduct your asbestos sampling. The home inspector can collect the asbestos sample and obtain the laboratory analysis.
If there is a need for more complex information in a home inspection, then the accredited inspector is worth it. If you are doing a comprehensive survey of the property, choosing an accredited asbestos inspector is the best choice. Do you have another party relying on the survey results? Than this is especially important. The additional training and superior professional credentials and professional liability insurance coverage for asbestos projects lend credibility to the inspection results and protection for all involved in the event of errors.
If the inspection is for a contractor then it is even more important to use an accredited inspector. There are several reasons. One, the accredited inspector is more likely than a house inspector to know and use industry recognized sampling protocols to do asbestos sampling. Such as number and distribution of samples. Proper protocol assures that materials are identified with assurance of legally defensible results. This is very important to guard against false negatives resulting from failure to find all the asbestos containing materials because an inadequate number of samples were collected.
Two, accredited inspectors have a comprehensive knowledge about where asbestos is. There are obvious candidates, such as floor tile, surfacing materials, and joint compound. But many other materials such as caulks, mastics, and protective coatings may contain asbestos. If the plan is to remove major asbestos containing systems, adding minor applications can be accomplished at low additional costs. The value of the property increases if it is asbestos free.
Third, selecting an analysis method is not always a routine decision. An accredited inspector knows when the standard method, polarized light microscopy, has reached the limit of reliability. They will then select another, more accurate (and expensive) method.
Finally, an accredited inspector is also more likely to have an industrial quality HEPA vacuum to clean up any contamination generated by the sampling process, which will be especially important when sampling friable materials. We don’t want the sampling process to contaminate the house!
Of course, any home inspector can obtain and maintain the professional asbestos inspector training. This would increase their capacity to perform asbestos sampling in all but the more complex and high profile situations. But if you choose a home inspector, screening for the considerations above will help you obtain the best service possible.