Insulation in your crawl space is essential to keeping your home warm during the winter and cold during the summer. Properly installed materials reduce temperature fluctuations, keep moisture and pollutants at bay, and improve the overall energy efficiency of your home. However, some old homes with crawl spaces might run into the issue of the presence of asbestos in their pipe insulation. It’s crucial to detect the presence of asbestos in your piping because of all the health risks related to this type of toxic material.

In this blog post, Crawlspace ER will discuss the dangers of finding asbestos in pipe insulation in your crawl space. Because of their great heat retention properties, cardboard made out of asbestos paper was used in old buildings primarily constructed in the 20th century and poses a severe health risk. We’ll talk about the applications of asbestos in pipe insulation, the risks of exposure, and safer insulation alternatives for your crawl space.

Read ahead to learn more.

 The Dangers of Asbetos in Pipe Insulation in Crawl Spaces<br />

Applications of Asbestos Insulation in Building Materials

Asbestos is now an illegal building material. However, because it was so widely used in 20th-century construction, it can still be found in old buildings and homes in Charleston and other cities throughout the USA. Their heat-resistant properties made asbestos an essential material in pipe work in the late 1800s.

This material was popularized from the 1930s to the late 1970s—it was cheap, easy to install, and held excellent insulation properties. However, it was banned from us in the 1980s because of its health risks.

Asbestos in pipe insulation was used in high-pressure steel pipes and air-cell insulation. Steel pipes usually contain about 10% asbestos, while air-cell insulation contains 100% asbestos paper and fibers and wraps countless steel pipes in residential and commercial buildings.

It’s hard to imagine a world where such a harmful substance was popularized. However, before we knew better and had stricter building codes, asbestos in pipe insulation was applied to many industries and facilities. Asbestos was widely used in power plants, refineries, chemical plants, and factories because it carried hot liquids or gases, and this material helped regulate temperature.

However, it was also used in residential buildings for the same reasons. Asbestos was great for keeping hot water pipes and boilers from burning, and it was even used for buildings that needed HVAC insulation for heating and air conditioning. In short, asbestos in pipes was used in:

  • Industrial facilities like power plants that needed to carry scolding hot materials through their pipes
  • Old HVAC systems like boilers and air conditioning
  • Residential buildings with hot water pipes, at-home boilers, and heating systems

Today, you can still find asbestos traces in old buildings and residential properties constructed before regulations were implemented. Sometimes, we even encounter asbestos during renovations or demolition of older foundations. It can also be found underground in old utility systems. The efforts to mitigate asbestos in buildings globally continue to this day.

Old HVAC systems like boilers and air conditioning<br />
The Risks of Asbestos Exposure<br />

The Risks of Asbestos Exposure

The widespread health risks of asbestos exposure are talked about incessantly. Like any other toxic, hazardous material that can be breathed in, asbestos particles in piping insulation can cause lung disease. Fibers are released into the air when this type of asbestos covering deteriorates. Homeowners face the dangers of breathing asbestos fibers and particles that can harm their health.

The risks of asbestos exposure from piping materials include health hazards associated with lung disease and cancer, primarily:

  • Asbestosis, or the scarring of the lung tissue
  • Mesothelioma, or an aggressive form of cancer in the lungs
  • Other lung diseases like bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and fibrosis
  • Throat, ovarian, kidney, and gastrointestinal cancer
  • Worsening symptoms of asthma and underlying lung conditions

Asbestos in Pipe Insulation

Older homes and buildings are the primary culprits of asbestos in pipe insulation. When piping and the insulation around it deteriorates, it breaks apart. In the case of asbestos, this cardboard-like material decays and releases fibers into the air. What does this mean? It means that homeowners with insulated crawl spaces that haven’t been inspected for asbestos run the risk of inhaling this toxic substance.

Common signs of deteriorating asbestos pipe insulation include visible damage and discoloration. Cracks, chips, abrasions, or breaks on the surface of the surrounding material may indicate that your piping insulation is breaking apart. If it appears yellowish, brownish, or stained, your piping insulation was exposed to moisture and broke apart.

Other signs include:

  • Powdery or dusty substance on or around the pipe insulation (asbestos fiber release)
  • Frayed, torn, or loose insulation wrapping
  • Soggy insulation from water damage
  • A musty or moldy odor emanating from the pipe insulation
Asbestos in Pipe Insulation
crawl space encapsulation and insulation<br />

Safe Crawl Space Insulation Alternatives

Because of regulations and building codes at a local and federal level, asbestos is no longer a building material commonly used. Advancements in insulation have made reliable and safer materials available to crawl space contractors. This way, a company like Crawlspace ER can rely on safer ways to insulate the space underneath your home.

Other alternatives include mineral wool insulation, EPS, and XPS insulation.

Crawlspace ER has extensive crawl space insulation installation and asbestos removal experience in Charleston. If you’re looking for a new material or want to test your crawl space for asbestos, we are the company to call.


Crawl space insulation is an essential part of moisture control and thermal protection. These materials have come a long way since the popularization of asbestos in pipe insulation. Though using asbestos fibers in any construction materials is now prohibited, we can still identify traces of this toxic substance in old homes, especially those built between 1930 and 1970.

Homeowners exposed to asbestos are at risk of severe health consequences, primarily lung disease and cancer. Identifying the presence of asbestos in crawl spaces and homes is crucial before it affects your overall health. Other alternatives like fiberglass and spray foam insulation are much better and safer materials for crawl spaces.

Call Crawlspace ER today and book an appointment for asbestos testing or crawl space insulation installation in Charleston, SC.

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