Dear Barry,

We are currently buying an old home and were told by our home inspector that the tile siding probably contains asbestos. Neither the sellers nor their agent have provided any documentation to verify this, and the property is being sold “as is.” What kind of liability will we have if we decide to resell the house in the future? Would we merely have to disclose the presence of asbestos, or would we have to replace the siding? –Alan

Dear Alan,

The tile siding is most likely a material called “transite,” commonly used on building exteriors from the 1940s through the mid-1950s. Transite is a cement product that is reinforced with asbestos fibers. As a finish material for exterior walls, its most common forms are tile shingles and lap siding. Since the asbestos fibers in transite are embedded in a solid medium, they are not readily released into the air. Therefore, transite is not regarded as a significant health hazard. The only way to release asbestos fibers from transite siding is to severely disturb the material, as would occur if the material were cut or abraded with a power saw or sander.

The only requirement for sellers of homes with asbestos siding is to disclose the presence of the material. There is no requirement for removal or any other type of remediation. However, if the exterior of the building is remodeled or renovated, removal of the material might then be required, and this would require the services of a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. Such services, by the way, can be very expensive.

Another consideration with asbestos siding is future marketability of the property. When you eventually resell the home, some buyers may be unwilling to purchase a building with asbestos siding or may expect a price reduction reflecting the cost of eventual asbestos removal.

Dear Barry,

Our home was built in the early 1970s, and many of the aluminum wire connections have become loose. An article I read warned of fire hazards with aluminum wiring and mentioned a way of upgrading the connections with copper ends. I’m pretty handy and would like to make these repairs but need some direction. Can you please advise me on the correct procedures for making aluminum wires safer? –Mike

Dear Mike,

What you read about the hazards and possible upgrades of aluminum wiring is correct. The connections tend to become loose over time, and this looseness can cause overheating of the wires and fires within the walls. Fortunately, there is a way to retrofit the wire ends for improved fire safety. However, my primary advice on making aluminum wires safer is to delegate all related repairs to licensed electricians, rather than attempting to make these improvements yourself. Not only are electricians more knowledgeable and experienced at this kind of work, but also your liability as a property owner will be significantly decreased if a qualified professional does the work.

The repair method in question involves the installation of copper ends, commonly known as “pigtails,” at outlets, lights, switches, and circuit breakers. However, it is essential that the attachments to the aluminum wires be done with hardware specifically rated for connecting copper to aluminum. Consult a few local electricians to find someone who is familiar with this process.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

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