DEAR BARRY: We are buying a brand-new home. When we asked about scheduling a home inspection, the builder said, "We cannot have outside inspectors through the home prior to closing due to liability reasons. You can have the home inspection done post-closing and submit all concerns on your 30-day list." This refusal makes us suspicious of their motives. What do you think we should do? –John
DEAR JOHN: Your suspicions are entirely understandable. Refusing to allow a home inspection prior to close is a major red flag. It is not the kind of thing that an honest, reputable contractor or developer would do. The liability excuse, in particular, is preposterous when you consider the number of people who routinely traverse a construction site. Honest builders allow home inspections on site as a matter of course.
The time for a home inspection is before the close, when you have some negotiating leverage with the builder. If the builder does not agree, a letter from an attorney might help him to see your point of view.
DEAR BARRY: We recently remodeled our bathroom and stripped the walls down to the framing. Then we learned from a neighbor that the drywall in our subdivision contains asbestos. When the drywall was being removed, a lot of white, powdery dust settled on everything, but we thoroughly cleaned it up. Do you think this exposure will damage the health of our family? –Van
DEAR VAN: Exposure to airborne asbestos fibers has been linked to at least two kinds of lung disease. But the levels of exposure that are likely to pose a health threat are commonly misunderstood. Fallacies about asbestos have raised fears that even slight exposure is dangerous. Although airborne asbestos should be avoided, some perspective is needed regarding actual levels. So here are some basic asbestos facts:
1. The term "asbestos" includes several types of mineral fibers that have been used in the manufacture of numerous building materials and other products because of their beneficial properties. Asbestos adds strength and resilience to many materials and is excellent as a fire retardant.
2. When the adverse health effects of asbestos exposure were recognized in the 1970s, its use was prohibited in many, but not all, products and building materials.
2. Studies that link asbestos exposure to cancer and mesothelioma involve people who were exposed to high levels of asbestos for long periods of time, usually in their work environment. Examples include workers who mined asbestos from the earth, who worked in factories where asbestos-containing materials were manufactured, or who installed asbestos products such as acoustic ceiling texture, air duct insulation, or automobile brake linings.
3. There have been no conclusive studies that link lung disease to incidental asbestos exposure, such as drywall removal. Such studies, however, would be inconclusive because the health effects of asbestos exposure can take decades to appear and because there are other sources of environmental asbestos to which all of us are exposed.
As for the possible asbestos exposure that recently occurred in your home, you should hire a professional inspector who can test the air for residual asbestos. If contamination is detected, cleanup should be performed by qualified, licensed professionals, followed by retesting.