I’m a project manager for DBS Remodel, a residential remodeling company based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. A few months ago, in the midst of remodeling a kitchen, we came across what we believed to be vermiculite insulation above the room’s plaster ceiling. Upon discovery, we quickly sealed up the ceiling with tape and plastic and notified the homeowners. Our clients had chosen to remain in their late-1950s Cape-style home during the remodel, so we felt a sense of urgency when reaching out to asbestos abatement companies to confirm our find.

Kevin Mathisen of Lucas Environmental Services out of Kingston, N.Y., made a jobsite visit and verified that the light granular insulation was vermiculite. He noted that while it may or may not contain asbestos, a substantial amount of vermiculite that had been sold throughout the U.S. under the trade name “Zonolite” contained varying amounts of asbestos. As a result, New York state regulations assume vermiculite to be an asbestos-containing material.

Size matters. Our client’s kitchen was 150 square feet and Mathisen explained that New York state defines any work under 160 square feet as a “small” abatement project (square footage is used to estimate asbestos-tainted materials like floor tile or vermiculite, while linear footage is used for materials like pipe insulation). For abatement projects, square footage is one of various regulatory thresholds that impact the scope of the asbestos mitigation work. Even “small” projects require the rigors of a licensed abatement contractor setting up a containment area, removing the asbestos, and demobilizing the work area. In addition, baseline air testing, visual inspection of the containment, visual inspection of the completed removal area, and collection of final air samples must be conducted by a third-party air monitoring firm to avoid conflict of interest.

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