On a recent inspection we found some vermiculite insulation in an attic. Vermiculite insulation was created with the naturally occurring vermiculite mineral that was heated until it popped like popcorn, making it light and porous and suitable for insulation. The insulation is easily recognized as it is a light brown and gray loose material with some pieces that have some shine or glitter.
This insulation is pretty common for us to find in houses built between the 40’s and 60’s, but what was interesting with this one is that there was an almost fully intact original bag. This bag is paper so it was very brittle and would fall apart if moved. Older packaging in general is pretty cool, we thought this one was extra cool. Note the guy in the rendering pouring the insulation out of the bag has no face mask what-so-ever. Wording on the packaging reads “safe and easy to install”.
As home inspectors, when we see vermiculite insulation, we let our clients know that it may contain asbestos and that it should not be disturbed. According to health.state.mn.us/ – “The insulation product has very low or trace levels of asbestos (less than 1%). However, tests show that activities that disturb the insulation can produce measurable levels of fibers in the air.”
A contractor that spoke at one of our local ASHI chapter meetings tests for asbestos in different materials found in houses. He said that they have never actually found asbestos in vermiculite insulation.
From asbestos.com – “Not all vermiculite insulation is contaminated with asbestos, but approximately 80% of the vermiculite used in America came from the Libby, Montana mine, including Zonolite.” ‘Zonolite’ is printed on the bag.
From health.state.mn.us/ – “Ore from the Libby mine was shipped to many processing plants around the country. From 1938 to 1989, ore was processed at the Western Mineral Products plant located in Minneapolis.” ‘Western Mineral Products’ is printed on the bag pictured.
Vermiculite insulation is something to be aware of and another good reason to have a professional home inspection when buying or selling a house. For more information on vermiculite insulation, we recommend referring to guidance from the EPA.
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