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The short answer is, buying a house with vermiculite insulation is NOT recommended without going through proper testing process.

  • Vermiculite insulation can be harmful when proper precautions are not followed.
  • Always wear protective gears (respirators with P100 filters, disposable gloves, coveralls, and boots) around vermiculite insulation, don’t take chances!
  • Removing vermiculite can be expensive and lengthy process.
  • You need to show proof of purchase and proof of expense for vermiculite insulation removal to claim reimbursement.

Vermiculite is a yellow-brown mineral that is naturally occurring, formed after the weathering of mineral biotite. It has an excellent resemblance to mica. It expands when heated under high degrees creating air pockets. Thus, it was highly recommended for insulation in attics and walls until 1970s. It doesn’t burn when subjected to such high temperatures.

Vermiculite, in its pure state, has no health hazards; however, some recent findings have discovered that some vermiculite contains asbestos, which is dangerous when inhaled.

The asbestos particles inhaled to the lungs have been attributed to causing diseases like asbestosis and lung cancer in severe cases. This poses a significant risk to the workers, especially those who have had long-time contact with it.

  • Vermiculite insulation is great for heat insulation. It holds in heat during winter, warming up the house and releases heat during summer, therefore regulating the room temperature
  • Non flammable
  • As a mineral, vermiculite insulation is very light, making it easy to use.
  • Has excellent moisture retention
  • Asbestos can be easily compressed
  • It is inexpensive
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Durable
  • Vermiculite insulation contains about 1% asbestos, which has significant health risks
what is vermiculite insulation

Vermiculite originates from the Latin name vermiculare, which means ‘breed worms’ because of its expanding nature. Vermiculite was first mined in the United States of America( USA) as Zonolite in 1920 at Libby, Montana.

However, the mining came to an end in 1990 following claims of asbestos contaminants found in the Vermiculite. By this time, over 35 Million houses had already been installed with vermiculite, which most probably contained asbestos. Up to this date, most people in the area have been adversely affected by asbestos-related diseases.

Fiberglass, also known as glass fiber, is a plastic material that is reinforced with glass fibers. The materials are either flattened or woven into a fiber. It may be combined with resin to make it strong and durable. It is mostly used to enhance thermal resistance in walls and attics.

Fiberglass was first introduced to the market in 1938 and has since remained the number one insulation option for both commercial and residential buildings. It is manufactured in two types, the pre-cut batts and rolls and the loose fill.

Batt and roll have an R-value between R8-R40, while the loose-fill is flexible and can meet any R-value.

You may wonder what R-value is?

An R-value is the heat-resistance ability of insulating material. This means the higher the R-value, the greater the heat-resistance ability and a lower R-value indicate a lower heat-resistance capacity.

Vermiculite InsulationFiberglass Insulation

vermiculite insulation in attic

Vermiculite Insulation in attic
Fiberglass Attic Insulation Boards
Vermiculite insulation is not used today in construction.Fiberglass insulation has remained the popular insulation material for commercial and residential construction.
Vermiculite is a mineral that is naturally occurring.Fiberglass is human-made.
Effects may take years to manifest after inhaling the asbestos.For fiberglass insulation, irritation occurs immediately after getting in Vermiculite insulation, once inhaled, the effects may take years to manifest.contact.
Workers who regularly contact vermiculite insulation are at a higher risk of lung and breathing problems.Workers who regularly contact fiberglass insulation are not considered at a higher risk of breathing and lung problems, particularly if they wear proper safety gear .
Recent research found that some vermiculite insulation contains asbestos fibers, causing problems if inhaled.Research has shown fiberglass to be a no risk to end users.
Vermiculite is more heat resistant compared to fiberglass, making it great for great for thermal insulation.Fibreglass is a poor conductor of heat compared to vermiculite insulation. Thus, it is considered best for electrical insulation.

After the ban of vermiculite insulation due to asbestos contamination, fiberglass is considered the second-best option, with has much resemblance to vermiculite. Fiberglass is sometimes referred to as ‘man-made-asbestos’.

  • Both vermiculite and fiberglass Insulation has high heat resistance, which is excellent for insulation.
  • Both vermiculite and fiberglass Insulation has fire resistant properties.
  • Both vermiculite and fiberglass insulation can be health hazard if not handled properly.
  • Both vermiculite and fiberglass insulation is safe when undisturbed.

Vermiculite insulation contains 1% of asbestos. Asbestos is not dangerous when undisturbed.

On the contrast, asbestos fiber has various health risks when exposed to it either for a very long time or frequently in high concentration. The asbestos fiber is inhaled into the lungs and affects the lining of the lungs. This may cause diseases such as asbestosis or lung cancer in extreme cases.

Asbestosis is a lung disease that forms tissue-like substances in the lungs, making it difficult for one to breathe. It usually develops after several years of exposure to asbestos fiber.

Lung cancer is caused after long-term exposure to asbestos fiber for approximately 20-30 years, but this could vary to 1-12 months, depending on exposure duration. It may take several years before the symptoms start to show, in its advanced stages.

Mesothelioma is fatal cancer that forms in the lungs. It is mostly experienced by workers or families who have asbestos workers.

If you have already bought a house with vermiculite installation, worry not; you are still very safe if you follow the following preventive measures. Prevention is better than cure.

  • Keep the vermiculite insulation as it is.
  • Try avoid storing things in the attic.
  • Prohibit children from playing or accessing the attic.
  • Do not try to uninstall the vermiculite yourself instead, hire a professional to do it.
  • Always consult a professional if you plan on doing renovations that will affect any vermiculite installed area.
  • Keep your eyes out for cracks in the ceiling to prevent the asbestos from leaking.
  • Caulk light fixtures in the entrance to the attic to prevent them from falling.
  • Do not be quick to remove vermiculite insulation since this could cause more harm than good.

Vermiculite insulation does not pose significant health risks if left undisturbed. Great caution should be exercised if you consider removing the vermiculite insulation.

  • Hire a professional vermiculite remover.
  • The contractor should explain step by step procedures to be taken while removing the insulation.
  • Before the removal, in an instead occupied workplace, the label ‘ASBESTOS REMOVAL’ to alert others.
  • Access should be restricted only to those removing the asbestos.
  • Use a polythene cover to separate the area, and preferably set a framing to support it.
  • Move all portable items.
  • Seal-tight items that cannot be moved with a polythene cover.
  • Any exhaust should be directed outside through a dual-filter system.
  • Watch out for air not to escape through the pippins.
  • Conduct an air check to monitor the background levels of contamination.
  • Ensure no flow of contaminated air; a Negative zero pressure zone is ideal.
  • Follow a wet removal process. This involves thoroughly soaking the insulation with water, scooping and then disposing of off using a double bin.
  • During the abatement, always monitor the air. If any increase of contamination outside the enclosure, the process should be halted until all is fixed.
  • Everyone should have on full-body disposable protective gears (respirators with P100 filters, disposable gloves, coveralls, and boots).
  • An air check should also be done after completing the abatement, making a comparison with the previous air levels. An increase indicates that the area should be re-cleaned.
  • Carefully dispose of all the asbestos in double air-tight polythene bags with printed asbestos warning labels.
  • It is not advisable to break off materials into smaller pieces unless done in a negative air pressure zone.
  • All waste must be transported by a licensed and approved well-enclosed vehicle.
  • All barriers are to be discarded as asbestos-contaminated materials.
  • Polythene covering, protective clothing should also be disposed of as asbestos.
  • All surfaces should be dusted or vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum.
  • The area should be left under negative pressure until the glue dries off.
  • Signs can be removed after the site has been tested for any asbestos fiber and proven to be within the acceptable limit.
  • No eating/ drinking/ smoking inside the removal area.
  • They should go through decontamination before eating.
  • Never remove protective clothing while in the removal area.
  • The eating area is separate from the removal area.
should I buy a house with vermiculite insulation

Whether you work, live, or have been exposed to asbestos, which leaves you suffering long term ailments, it is both terrifying and expensive to cater. And honestly, not everyone has the money to cater for the damage they did not foresee.

Therefore each individual, whether exposed or affected, has a right to receive reimbursement in the form of an asbestos trust fund.

However, this is easier said than done.

Let’s take an example of a homeowner who recently purchased a house and discovers some toxins in the house if it was not stipulated during the purchase agreement by the real estate agent, then the homeowner has every right to seek a claim.

How do you go about vermiculite/asbestos reimbursement claim?

For instance, the homeowner used above, the homeowner will have every right to seek a claim. This could either be payment of medical expenses or pain and suffering expenses.

Suppose the homeowner discovers that some portion of the house has been affected by mold due to asbestos. In that case, he can claim compensation for the total amount paid for the house.

According to the Asbestos Compensation Act of 2000, all asbestos claimants are eligible for this fund; however, there are specific criteria to ensure the eligibility of such persons. For medical eligibility, the claimants should have an asbestos-related illness such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.

In 2014, a Zonolite Attic insulation trust fund was launched by W.R Grace to reimburse all victims of vermiculite insulation.
In this fund, claimants are reimbursed up to 55% of the removal and insulation cost spent.

Assuming you spend $4000 for vermiculite removal and $2000 for re-insulation, according to the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust fund, you are eligible to receive up to $3300 worth of reimbursement.

Assuming you spend $4000 for vermiculite removal and $2000 for re-insulation, according to the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust Fund, you are eligible to receive up to $3300 worth of reimbursement.

Final Verdict

When choosing to buy a house, besides considering the price and location among many other factors one would look for, personal safety is also essential to observe.

Therefore, the answer to, should I buy a house with vermiculite insulation? Is NO. With the above-stated concerns of vermiculite insulation, this house should be avoided. Better safe than sorry!

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