Asbestos Abatement: Don’t Leave Time & Money on the Table

Asbestos abatement has a storied (some would say infamous) U.S. history dating back to the 1960s when exposure started getting widespread attention; the 1970s with the first guidelines to reduce exposure; and then the 1980s with the first laws regulating asbestos. Although mining and manufacture of the six types of asbestos minerals was sharply curtailed in the U.S., there is still no asbestos ban in effect.

While the import of asbestos products continues to be legal and thrive, efforts to remove it from homes and buildings have been ongoing for decades. The widespread perception that asbestos use stopped is a ripple effect from the explosive growth and then contraction of the early abatement industry. Through the late 1980s, much of the attention surrounding asbestos focused on abatement, which involves encapsulating or removing asbestos from existing buildings.

Over the years, asbestos abatement has been relegated down the priority list of bolt-on business opportunities for restoration contractors, largely because of the training required, licensing bureaucracy, and additional insurance. Uneven regulatory enforcement during the ‘00s and ‘10s, and more recently deferred renovation projects, plus labor and supply challenges during the pandemic have caused the abatement industry to arguably remain flat or even temporarily contract.


In short, the answer is absolutely.

With more than 10,000 deaths linked to asbestos each year, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) facing criticism and lawsuits linked to flawed policymaking and assessments, a renewed momentum for abatement could be around the corner. Environmental policy enthusiasts believe asbestos regulations could be more strictly enforced by 2026, if not sooner, because of toxic substance regulation obligations that the EPA may delay but must inevitably enforce. More immediately, the Biden Administration’s recently signed bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation will fund long-delayed improvement and repair projects nationwide.

What do old bridges, lead pipes, water treatment plants, and updated transit have to do with asbestos? Many aging structures in the U.S. are from the golden age of asbestos when it was used seemingly everywhere and in everything. Now, in the course of improvements, we are going to disturb it, which requires safe handling by professionals and abatement.


Many assume that asbestos stopped being used in the ‘70s or ‘80s and that it has already been fully cleaned up; however, that is not the case. An unscientific consensus is that asbestos abatement (along with lead paint) is on the low end at about $3 billion to $4 billion, and on the high end around $10 billion to $11 billion.

It’s estimated on the optimistic side that 30% of legacy asbestos has been addressed, whereas the pessimistic estimate is that we’ve abated less than 10%, meaning there’s a massive legacy left to clean up. During renovation and rehabilitation projects, you are likely to run into ACM (asbestos-containing material) and when you do, work will likely be halted until you can get a licensed remediation contractor to address the issue, if you don’t have one on staff or on your speed dial.

Conversely, more and more companies with origins in abatement have now progressed to have an AMRT ready to deploy. No need to subcontract restoration mold or soot removal to the local franchise or independent. For that matter, general contractors are doing the same. When changes in weather lead to few precipitation-free days, it is hard to keep those one-plus-five or 5-over-2 stick-built podium clones dry. General contractors can justify a mold squad, and that rapid reaction crew can be cross-trained and credentialed for the asbestos and lead in their reno and heritage or historic projects.

In short, if you don’t have a solid plan in place to either sell abatement services or to address them in the moment, you could be leaving money and time on the table.


Within asbestos abatement, there are opportunities for your business, and to simply do what is right for a structure and its occupants. Here are three ways for you to maximize your opportunities and stay ahead of a potential future surge in asbestos abatement projects:

1. Obtain the proper licenses and training
To capitalize on the opportunities the asbestos abatement market represents, contractors must first and foremost have the proper credentials.

According to the EPA, training for asbestos professionals is required under the EPA Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan (MAP) which the EPA issued under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA). Under MAP, the five required training disciplines include: worker, contractor/supervisor, inspector, management planner, and project designer.

There are licenses for abatement in every state for the workers, supervisors, and companies. Some states have reciprocity with others, but mutual acceptance of credentials is limited and regional. Training and licensing exams are provided by licensed abatement training schools. These are often the best place to start not only for education and credentials, but also for your business plan. Training providers often have their fingers on the pulse of new workers and those getting refresher training. In short, excellent sources for business planning as well as networking. What is step one? Every state publishes lists or maintains a database, or both, of all these licensed companies, and it is public information found on the Internet. Lead abatement licenses are different and follow the asbestos model of being required nationally yet administered by each state. Don’t forget that mold remediation and/ or assessment licenses of various forms are required in nine states, plus Washington, D.C.

2. Educate your customers
With approximately 70% of legacy asbestos still posing risk and a need for remedy, it pays to be proactive in the way you sell your abatement services. Be different in how you approach the problem. When properly educated on the zero threat of asbestos that can’t be inhaled , and demystified abatement techniques, homeowners and facility managers often welcome the opportunity to mitigate the risk. Through customer education, you could be uncovering new opportunities and revenue streams for your business. Ignoring whether ACM is present is a dangerous course. It’s best to address head-on to assure the MIP (Materially Interested Parties) that you are the expert that can access the resources to get the job done.

3. Have a plan in place for when you come across asbestos on a job
Whether you choose to insource or outsource, the faster your contingency plans roll, the chances of situation control improve. It’s best to have a licensed team member serve as an on-call specialist and accredited supervisor or have a companion company that shares your urgency. Understanding alternative abatement products and processes is integral, as well as having a plan in place to address asbestos when you inevitably find it. By doing so, you can avoid lost time, money, and resources.

4. Know your options
There are many cases when a complete removal of ACM is unnecessary. There are encapsulation products on the market today that are considered legal abatement, as valid as removing the asbestos. Encapsulation with accepted materials is deemed permanently safe federally and, in every state, and is more cost effective plus it takes less time.


The delayed projects and deferred maintenance since the pandemic greatly impacted construction and the abatement cycle. There is a backlog of work to be done, and for many owners (public and private), full- scale removal and replacement of materials containing asbestos are out of reach either financially or in terms of the time a given facility will be out of service (and not contributing revenue). Asbestos encapsulation is an excellent solution which can save time, money, and can effectively extend the performance life of structures.


Abatement is defined as making a property permanently safe, either asbestos-free or asbestos-safe, by respectively removing the hazard, or by enclosing it with mechanically attached rigid barriers (such as drywall), or by encapsulation with specially formulated coatings. To ensure maximum acceptance of encapsulation, abatement professionals select from those coatings deemed acceptable by Battelle Laboratories, which tests for impact strength, flexibility, minimal flame spread/smoke development, and penetration. The Battelle testing, as commissioned by the EPA, yielded 37 encapsulants deemed acceptable and available for asbestos abatement, helping to justify the value of encapsulation.

The research for the EPA also clarified the tools in the encapsulation toolbox with some encapsulants best suited for penetrating friable “cotton candy” types of ACM and others best suited for building a thick layer of encapsulant – known as “bridging.” In time, the most cost-effective and popular encapsulants would prove to be the multiuse products due to their versatility.

SerpiFlex is one example of a versatile encapsulant. It comes as a concentrated water-based acrylic product and works by encapsulating ACM in a wide range of forms. It is easy for contractors to use in various ways for abatement—as an airless spray, bridging mix, or as a ground sealer mix for crawl spaces. Contractors in the abatement industry can also use the product at full strength for dense cementitious fireproofing, acoustical plasters/sound attenuation finishes, and popcorn/texture ceilings.

Structural or environmental circumstances may require higher impact encapsulants, or encapsulants that can withstand severe conditions, outdoor exposures, and high temperatures. SerpiMastic is an example of an exceptionally durable and weather resistant product. Applying the product as a spray or using a trowel creates a chemical-resistant protective coating that provides high-impact protection for asbestos, cement asbestos board (such as Transite), galbestos, and insulation on TSI (Thermal Systems Insulation, e.g., lagging-canvas wrap on boilers and pipes). Serpimastic and Serpiflex achieved classification by Underwriter’s Laboratories, and Serpimastic met and surpassed the requirements of the London Underground performance tests that far exceed the requirement of any government.

The key is finding the right solution for each unique situation, utilizing products that have a proven track record and meet or exceed EPA requirements. Asbestos is encountered in so many different forms and in essentially every type of building, making it critical to know which products are available and understand the benefits that each product provides.


There are factors that are pointing to an accelerated need for asbestos abatement by trained and licensed professional contractors and assessors in the coming years. At the U.S. federal and state levels there is the potential for increased regulatory enforcement. Nearer term, the continued interest from homeowners and building owners in renovation and preservation, combined with the society wide emphasis on indoor air quality, will drive demand possibly at 4-plus% YOY growth. These growth forecasts precede factors such as the anticipated impact of the infrastructure legislation, and a backlog of projects that were deferred during the pandemic.

Many contractors have already developed abatement programs within their service offerings, but there will be need for more qualified individuals to carry out the task properly and service the demand. Diversifying your business offerings with a suite of services can create new leads for asbestos abatement projects and additional restoration jobs. It is hard to contest the argument that it is better to provide, in-source or outsource, the comprehensive set of solutions, rather than to continually subcontract and be affected and directed by the agendas of others.

Cole Stanton

Cole Stanton is the Director of Education & AED Specification at ICP Building Solutions Group. For 24 years prior, he served in sales leadership and technical development roles for the Fiberlock brand: products for remediation of asbestos, lead paint, mold, biohazard, surface hygiene, and smoke/fire restoration. Cole’s DST resources encompass not only the environmental and restoration products, but also coatings and chemicals for building envelope, natural stone, floor systems, air/vapor barriers, architectural design, and recreational surfaces. He serves industry as a member, subject-matter-expert, and standards contributor to IICRC, IAQA, NIST, and ASTM. You can reach Cole at and

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