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Question DetailsAsked on 3/7/2014

How to tell if there's vermiculite insulation in the attic?

Is it such a bad thing after all? What if it needs to be moved to do other work up there?

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4 Answers


You visually inspect the attic floor/between the wood joists that hold up the ceiling below. There are plenty of pictures of what it looks like if you do a Gooogle search- looks like tiny quartz rocks. Do some homework....

The problem and potential health issue is that Vermiculite may contain asbestos. It is assumed the vermiculite contains asbestos and if disturbed can release asbestos fibers in the air which you cannot see. You cannot move it/touch it unlesss you know what you are doing and are wearing protective clothing and special mask.. The only way to be certain is to have a sample lab tested.

Disturbing/moving vermiculite can cause fibers to get into the living area-once it is in your some reading on asbestos realated lung issues and death....

Removal and disposal can only be done by EPA licensed remediation professionals.

Answered 6 years ago by hosey


Here is a google search phrase that will take you to articles on the subject of asbestos in vermiculite insulation - vermiculite insulation risks

Generally, in the US, vermiculite manufctured before about 1990 MAY have asbestos in it -may not, and the asbestos it has may or may not be the hazardous type - and the simple box store kits do NOT distinguish between the hazardous short and fine fiber asbestos varieties and the non-hazardous larger diameter and long-fiber minerals - that takes a detailed microscope inspection by a certified asbestos lab.

IF you have the dangerous form of asbestos in your vermiculite insulation, then that can affect the cost of other maintenance work, particularly because a vast majority of electricians and plumbers are not certified for work in asbestos continaing materials, so it can affect having other work done up there.

The presence of asbestos in an attic (assuming you are talking unoccupied, unused) is not in and of itself a significant hazard to residents of the house, as long as it is not disturbed or tracked into the house, and as long as there is no air drawn from the attic for ventilation or such. Despite the hype by the EPA and environmentalists, the reports the EPA has issued have never drawn any link between household asbestos in unoccupied attics and any health hazards in the living space - it is only if you start disutrbing the insulation and tracking it into the house that there is any chance of risk, and even that is minimal because it takes long-term exposure to result in lung damage.

If you need to get work done up there and you find from testing that there is regulated asbestos containing materials (ACM), then your best bet is probably either an asbestos remediation company (if significant work needs to be done) to remove it, or having an asbestos remediation contractor work with the plumber or electrician or roofer on making it safe for their work in a limited area.

If you were thinking insulation, I personally would recommend just having it removed, as it is impossible to encapsulate it per regulations and still have it perform correctly as an insulator without also having the encapsulation act as a vapor barrier, which is a bad thing. You are allowed to temporarily dampen the surface ofthe insulation with a spray and then lay additional insulation over it without removing it - the problem is, once you know you have ACM that has to be disclosed in your resale of the property, which at best will severly limit the number of potential buyers due to the hype about asbestos.

I have not been involved in vermiculite removal, but have been involved in both batt and blown-in basically pure asbestos insulation removal in attics and similar spaces. Current cost for remediation would typically be in the $3000-6000 range for a simple 1-2 day removal and verify contract with an ACM removal contractor in a typical accessible attic with exposed ACM - as much as double that or more if a low ceiling requiring crawling, or if flooring or stub walls have to be removed or opened up to provide access. This works out to about $4-10/SF typically. More in a few states with unbelievable ACM regulations, like NY and MA for two. Those costs would typically include sealing air openings from below after it is removed, and installing new insulation as well.

Have the sample taken and the test done by an independent lab before thinking remediation or removal - not sampled and tested by a contractor, because guess what - in most cases it will come back contaminated ! This will likely require you contact a local test lab or environmental health consultant to take the sample and prepare a letter report after the results are in, because contractors are highly unlikely to believe a test result you provide yourself. And be sure they are reporting Regulated Asbestos, not all types regardless of whether they are regulated or not.

Beware of both extremely low (likely not legal) and very high (inexperienced or living off the hype) bids - you may have to get a half dozen bids or more to get enough to tell what is realistic. Do a bit of research up front regarding laws in your state and town about ACM removal. If you do not feel confident doing this yourself, an engineering form doing environmental health consulting can handle the sampling and sepcifications for work and post-work inspection for you for probably in the ballpark of $1000.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


It is bad and you do need to address it prior to working with it.

Can you post up a picture?

Answered 6 years ago by Guest123


BTW - there are at least 5 forms of vermiculte insulation used over the years - can range from cement color to brassy to gold to slightly bluish to almost white -

1) shredded vermiculite - looks like little flakes of mica, typically brown/golden

2) expanded vermiculate - same as most kitty litter, can be clumps or rock chunk like, from grayish white to tan to brownish to golden

3) expanded and clumped vermiculite - looks like popcorn or popcorn ceiling coating, colors as above

4) "threaded" or "blown" asbestos and vermiculite - looks like christmas angel hair, from white to bluish to silver

5) "bonded" vermiculite - cement coated clumps of mica, gray

Google this search phrase - vermiculite insulation images - and cruise through a couple pages of the pictures to see if you see yours.

Basically speaking, if your loose insulation does not look like gray shredded newspaper, yellow shredded wood fibers (like cellulose packing material), fiberglass, styrene foam beads, or foil confetti, it is likely vermiculite.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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