Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Suspected Asbestos

I have an old gravity furnace in my house. When I bought the house, my intention was to immediately yank out the furnace and put in a new, high efficiency furnace and central air.

After being in the house for a few weeks, I had a heating guy come out to service the unit & make sure it was working properly. When I mentioned replacing it, he told me to reconsider. Turns out my old monster is fairly efficient and probably has another 80 yrs in it. He also told me the furnace was original to the house and started out as a coal furnace (there is a coal closet a few steps away). He showed me the little door where coal was shoveled in. Of course, I thought this was amazingly cool.....and I developed an appreciation for life in the 1920's that necessitated getting up at all hours to keep your furnace running.

It was converted to gas in the 1950's he guessed. Well, I was sold. The furnace was a keeper. I named him Grendil.

So, entered my next problem. When they installed the furnace and its web of venting pipes.....they coated it with what I believe to be an oh-so-efficient, yet oh-so-hazardous, asbestos insulation. Not a safety issue as long as the insulation remains in good condition.

Well, over the years I have noticed a bit of flaking on the pipes. I suspect it is the layer of paint that someone put over the insulation years ago.....but have decided it was probably best to encapsulate the asbestos at some point.

Last week I sat down and did research in earnest. Here are my options (not meant to be advice to any other homeowner, just my personal experiece. Your situation & results may vary.):

1) Remove all insulation. This is costly, doesn't add any value to the old furnace and ultimately "ups" potential exposure to asbestos as fibers become airborne during removal.

2) Paint. A few places suggested this. However, it was done at some point in my house and the paint (as paint does) is now peeling.

3) Cover with plastic or duct tape. Both unattractive alternatives.

4) Hunt down the polymere encapsulate coating that was vaguely referenced in EPA documents.

I chose option four. My first plan of attack was to call every paint & hardware store in my city. No luck. I then called the heating supply stores. Again, no luck. So, I started a mammoth internet search....

Much to my surprise and delight, I was able to locate just such a product. Tuffide (and Binder-kote). It is manufactured by TKO Waterproof Coatings. Yeah! This is the same company that creates Krack-Kote (the plaster patching material).

This will be a summer project for me :-)

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