Smart moves for a warmer home

Beware of asbestos

Many older homes have insulation that contains asbestos.

When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, tiny particles become airborne, where you can inhale them and potentially develop a nasty, life-threatening lung disease 10 to 40 years later.

Vermiculite, a popular insulation material in the 20th century, is particularly likely to contain asbestos. It looks like mica flakes and might have been poured between your ceiling joists as attic insulation.

A good contractor should be able to tell if you have potentially hazardous insulation, and an asbestos inspector should be called in to check it, says Marcelo Kohan, principal architect of Delargent Design Architecture in Merrick, N.Y.

The best way to deal with insulation that might contain asbestos is to leave it alone, but if you must remove it, you’ll need to hire an asbestos remediation company.

You can add more insulation without removing asbestos-containing insulation, but it has to be done in a way that doesn’t disturb the potentially hazardous material.

For $25 to $150, you can have an insulation sample lab-tested for harmful asbestos. A complete remediation for your home could cost $2,000 to $10,000.