Asbestos

The people who originally built the house my parents ended up buying put asbestos insulation in the walls and ceiling.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Luckily, the asbestos was imbedded in plaster or other material so it didn’t get loose and into the air.

However, it led to one very big problem…

Once people understood just how dangerous asbestos was, you couldn’t make any significant changes to my parents’ house.

Oh, you could slap on a fresh coat of pain and change the faceplates on the electrical switch and sockets and even lay down new carpeting or linoleum…

But swap out the bathtub?  Knock down a wall to enlarge a room?  Even something as simple as adding shelving?

Un-unh.  Forget it.  That would require deploying a haz-mat team literally dressed in spacesuits to enter a tented out that filtered the air to keep any asbestos particles from entering the atmosphere.

asbestos-removal-2

The house was built as a starter home for a young family, or a retirement home for an older couple:  Awkward layout, two small bedrooms, huge basement area.

Without exaggeration the upstairs was not much bigger than a large trailer home, while the downstairs offered little in the way of amenities (though the furnace and the washer and dryer were down there, freeing up some room upstairs).

The house was not built with cable in mind.  Heck, it wasn’t even built with a plethora of rechargeable devices in mind, either.  Socket space that was adequate back in the day now requires power strips to offer enough plug-in space for phones, tablets, TVs, etc.  And while the original wiring could handle the load, it’s getting old and the insulation is getting brittle and sooner or later it will have to be replaced.

Just as sooner or later the plumbing will need to be replaced.

Or the various support beams will need to be treated for termites or mold or any of a thousand other problems.

And when that time comes, it’s gonna be expensive.

It’s a game of hot potato:  Sooner or later somebody is going to have to address the problem of the asbestos laced walls and ceiling.

There are three strategies one can employ:

Bite The Bullet -- hire a team, pay the money, tear out the old asbestos and replace it with modern, safer fireproofing and insulation; upgrade the plumbing and wiring; make whatever structural changes one desires because the framework and the foundation are still good enough to last.

Play Catch As Catch Can -- wait until disaster strikes, then hire a team and pay the money to tear out and replace the old asbestos only in those areas immediately affected by whatever problem has struck; somewhat cheaper in the short run, much more expensive in the long run, but less of an inconvenience to those in the house.

Apres Moi, Le Deluge -- don’t do anything until the house finally deteriorates to the point where it starts to collapse; at that point, walk away and let the neighbors and the local community take care of it; it’ll cost them money and quite possibly the framework and foundation will be too compromised to be saved so they might as well tear it down and start again; they won’t remember the house or its inhabitants too fondly.

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Why, yes, this is a post about racism in American culture.

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