Asbestos is deadly to humans. Once widely used due to its durability and resistance to fire, asbestos is now generally banned. Current laws (federal, state, and local) now require inspections before renovation and demolition projects. Any existing asbestos must be dealt with (usually by removal) to prevent human exposure.
The size of the project governs the scope of the required inspection. For a simple renovation, the inspection will likely be limited to just the affected area and may take only a few hours. For a major renovation or demolition, the inspection will be much broader and may take several days.
Asbestos inspections are carried out by certified asbestos inspectors, usually from industrial hygiene consulting firms. For a proper inspection, the inspector requires access to every room and space within the scope of the project.
During the inspection, the inspector examines the building area visually, inventories suspect material, and extracts samples (usually about one square inch in size) for laboratory analysis. The inspector takes enough samples to ensure that any asbestos is revealed. Sample areas may require repair after the inspection.
Because asbestos appears in hundreds of different building materials, the inspector will examine (and take samples from) floor and ceiling tiles, roofing material, insulation, plaster and drywall, glazing, joint compounds, and fireproofing materials.
Following the asbestos inspection, the inspector presents a report. The report includes visual impressions as well as the laboratory analysis of the samples taken. The report also contains recommendations for removing asbestos-containing material. In some instances, it may be possible to leave the material alone subject to appropriate management.