Got vermiculite? Not sure what to do? RHI to the rescue!
Vermiculite attic insulation is a serious issue in Racine, Kenosha, and the greater Milwaukee area. Some attics with vermiculite contain “regulated asbestos”, but almost all attics with vermiculite contain “unregulated asbestos”. The amounts of regulated and unregulated asbestos fibers are often less than 1% asbestos, but this does not make them safe. Not at all! As explained below, the asbestos in vermiculite is EXTREMELY friable and is immediately released into the air once it is disturbed.
Again, please understand, most asbestos fibers are NOT regulated. These fibers will NOT be identified by a testing lab. For example, the richterite form of asbestos is not considered “asbestos” by the industry or by testing labs. However, richterite was one of the main types of asbestos found at the Libby, Montana mine (Zonolite) and has contributed to tens of thousands of disabilities and deaths. Unfortunately, richterite is not “regulated” and most labs will not even test or report its presence. To be blunt, they don’t want the liability that comes with explaining why many “non-regulated” fibers are equally as dangerous as “regulated” fibers.
What You Need to Know: The legal battle around the potential hazard of vermiculite in attics involved the analysis of various removal methods. the research concluded that when attic vermiculite is disturbed, even following the methods described by the defendant, the level of asbestos fibers in the air was often 15 to 100 times the limit that requires asbestos work rules and homeowner protection. This variability has to do with the removal methods of the contractor AND the testing methods for the presence of asbestos. In addition, the EPA and the State of Wisconsin have concluded that there are NO reliable testing methods for determining the presence of asbestos in vermiculite. This is because many asbestos fibers are NOT regulated and will not be disclosed by testing labs. This is why all vermiculite in Wisconsin has to be treated as if it contains asbestos, regardless of test results.
Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, and Chicago were major processing plants for this type of vermiculite from Libby Montana, and it was widely used in our area for decades. To learn more about vermiculite removal and re-insulation costs: see our post called “Is Vermiculite Lurking in Your Attic?“.
As described above, there is no reliable way to test vermiculite in an attic for contamination with asbestos. The EPA requires that it all be treated as if it contained asbestos, and only licensed contractors are permitted to remove or disturb it. These companies should all show proof of “pollution liability” insurance. Contractor liability insurance does NOT cover damage and health problems caused by removing or disturbing vermiculite and other asbestos-containing materials. Racine Home Insulators, LLC is fully insured with both General Contractor Liability and Pollution Liability insurance. We are happy to provide Certificates of Insurance prior to starting our work.
To Remove or NOT to Remove?
The EPA says to “leave it alone” unless you are tearing down parts of your walls and ceilings. This certainly is safe advice for them to give. But the EPA isn’t concerned about the resale value of your home or how well you will sleep at night knowing it is there. They also aren’t in the business of making homes more energy efficient. Racine Home Insulators, LLC knows that there is no way to really make a home energy efficient unless we disturb a whole lot of an attic’s existing insulation, even vermiculite. We have to disturb it in order to seal all of the penetrations in your attic floor. We do this to stop the air in your attic from mixing with the air you breathe below. If “air sealing” is new to you, read our article titled how and why we air seal an attic. Note: Disturbing large amounts of vermiculite requires all workers and the company to be Asbestos Abatement certified.
Use common sense, do you really want someone using a hose and blowing insulation all over the vermiculite? This certainly causes the vermiculite and asbestos fibers to become airborne. In fact, blowing over vermiculite with cellulose or fiberglass is the last thing you should do because now it will cost even more to have the vermiculite removed at a later time.
Why we recommend you remove the vermiculite from your attic
- ZAI Trust Fund Reduces Cost by 55%: With $140 million dollars set aside to cover homeowner costs for both the removal and re-insulation of attics with vermiculite, the cost is no longer prohibitive. We can now remove vermiculite and re-insulate attics to Energy Star standards for less than the regular cost of insulating. Racine Home Insulators, LLC is able to remove AND re-insulate attics for as little as $2.00/sq-ft. Most homeowners end up paying pay about $2.00-2.50/sq-ft, but every attic is different, so please call for a free estimate. Realize, these costs include professional air sealing and then re-insulating your attic, not just removal! The lowest prices are contingent on the vermiculite having been manufactured under the trade name Zonolite. Fortunately, it has been determined that over 90% of the homes in Wisconsin that have vermiculite in them have the Zonolite brand and qualify for the discounts. Racine Home Insulators, LLC will take a sample of your vermiculite and send to the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust for testing at no cost to the homeowner.
- Additional Program Savings from Focus on Energy: By having the vermiculite removed from your attic you are able to participate in the Focus on Energy program. This program will save you an additional $1,200 – $1,800 and our company awards this discount upfront so you do not have to wait!
- Home Sales, Resale Value, and Home Inspections: Discovering vermiculite in an attic is disappointing news for buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals. Missing, or not identifying vermiculite in an attic is a serious matter for home inspectors. Racine Home Insulators, LLC, can help solve this dilemma for all interested parties. Read more about vermiculite in attics in our article called: “Is vermiculite lurking in your attic?”.
- Energy Efficiency: Air sealing an attic is just as important as adding proper insulation. It is impossible to properly air-seal your attic with all of that grainy vermiculite all over the place. It first has to be removed. Every wall top plate, wire penetration, plumbing penetration, chimney, and light fixture has to be totally void of vermiculite before we can seal them up. If anyone tells you they can “work around it” please contact RHI immediately for advice and contact information. If you recently hired someone who worked in your attic they may be liable for any related health issues you may suffer from and the clean-up of your home if contaminated. Every home we insulate first undergoes rigorous performance-based testing.
This means we perform the industry standard blower door test on homes before we begin our work. This testing is inexpensive and highly reliable at determining how leaky (inefficient) your home is. We then hunt down all of the air leaks and seal them with expanding foam. The proof of our work is the “post” blower door test where you get to see how much fewer air flows in or out of your home at the industry standard 50 pascals of depressurization. Note: This work and testing should never be done if vermiculite was once present in your home.
- Safety: We do not remove vermiculite by shoveling it and creating clouds of vermiculite dust in your attic. We also do not “shop vac” it up, as doing that would be both illegal and dangerous. Instead, RHI owns and operates a proprietary 4-stage HEPA filtration removal system. Our system is EPA compliant and we are able to quickly remove your attic insulation with our nearly dust-free methods. Our proprietary system used 6″ industrial vacuum hoses to remove the material quickly and safely. We will NOT build a plastic containment in your home. While indoor containments may be “technically” permitted, they are definitely the least safe method. Instead, our company will bring our hoses through your roof, soffit, or gable vent, not your home.
Find out More
If you are in the Milwaukee, Racine, or Kenosha area please contact RHI to learn more about removing vermiculite from your attic and to obtain a free cost estimate. You can view our entire service area here. Call or text 262-989-8299 to speak with Matt and set up a free attic inspection and cost estimate.