Check For Vermiculite Insulation When Buying A Pre-1991 Home To Protect Your Family From Asbestos

26 February 2016
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Articles

Most people have a home inspection completed before closing on a house. A home inspection typically includes many checks for potential hazards. If you're buying a house that was built before 1991, there is one thing you should specifically ask your home inspector about. Ask your home inspector to look for vermiculite insulation. If there is any present in the home, you might want it removed before moving into the home.

Using Vermiculite Insulation Prior to 1991

A natural fiber, vermiculite itself isn't a danger to people. It's even used today in gardening, as a medium for storing bulbs, germinating seeds and growing plants.

Most of the vermiculite used before 1991, however, contains asbestos -- a known carcinogen. The EPA reports that asbestos was present at a vermiculite mine near Libby, Montana. Much of the vermiculite used between 1919 and 1990 -- including vermiculite used for insulation -- came from this mine and could be contaminated with the harmful mineral. The EPA says that more than 70 percent of vermiculite used in this time period was affected.

Therefore, if you're purchasing a home that was built before 1991 and it has vermiculite insulation, there is likely asbestos inside the insulation. The best way to protect your family from the asbestos is to have the insulation properly removed before you move into the home.

Identifying Vermiculite Insulation

Asbestos testing costs anywhere from $50 per sample for off-site testing to $1,200 for on-site air sampling, according to Because most vermiculite products made prior to 1991 contain asbestos, however, there's little need to pay for testing. If your home inspector finds vermiculite insulation, treat it as a contaminated substance.

It's important to specifically ask your home inspector to look for vermiculite insulation, as this check might not be included in their standard home inspection. Even if a home inspector doesn't normally look at the type of insulation in a home, they should be able to easily identify vermiculite insulation for you.

Asking the Seller to Remove Vermiculite Insulation

If your home inspector finds vermiculite insulation, you should ask the home seller to remove the insulation.

Not all sellers will be willing to pay for this service, which HomeAdvisor says can cost between $800 and $4,000. A motivated seller might be willing to pay for the removal, though, if it helps sell their home faster.

Even if a seller refuses to have the insulation removed, though, you'll still be able to use the cost of removal when negotiating the closing price of the home. The seller might agree to reduce the price you ultimately pay by a portion of the insulation removal's cost, effectively splitting the financial burden with you. If this is the agreement you arrive at, you can have the insulation taken out as soon as you close on the house.

Paying for New Insulation

Regardless of who pays for the vermiculite insulation removal, you should offer to pay for the installation of new insulation. Most sellers would have the cheapest type of insulation put in, since they'll soon not own the house. You'll likely want a higher-quality insulation.

There are several insulations that you might have installed, all of which have a different R-value. (Higher R-values indicate better insulating capabilities). has a list of different insulations with their R-values:

  • blown rock wool (2.93 R-value)
  • fiberglass batts or blankets (3.33 R-value)
  • blown cellulose (3.6 R-value)
  • urethane foam (5.3 R-value)

Each of these insulations provide better protection against outside cold and heat than vermiculite insulation, which has an R-value of 2.08. More importantly, none of these insulations contain asbestos.

If the home you have under contract was built in before 1991, make sure your home inspector looks for vermiculite insulation. Have any that they find removed and replaced with newer insulation in order to protect your family from asbestos. If you are interested in learning more, click here for more information