How Much Does It Cost To Remove Asbestos From My Washroom?
A question we are often asked is “how much does it cost to remove asbestos from my washroom?”
The answer? It varies, but expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $7,500. But first let’s take a step back.
You have just purchased a charming 1970’s home and you are planning on a full washroom renovation down to the studs and subfloor. You know there is a possibility of asbestos present, so to protect your family you wisely arrange for asbestos testing by a qualified professional before commencing demolition. After sampling is conducted and lab results received, your hazardous materials report indicates that your drywall joint compound and vinyl sheet flooring contains asbestos.
You then decide that you are not qualified to safely remove the asbestos yourself, so you choose to call a professional abatement contractor for a quote and it comes back at $3,500. But how did they arrive at this number? And why was your neighbor’s project only $1,500?
To help understand where this figure came from, lets unpack a few key factors which can affect the cost of your project:
1. Risk Assessment
Every asbestos abatement project in BC completed by a licensed contractor must include submission of a Notice of Project (NOP) to Worksafe BC. The NOP must include a copy of the hazardous materials report, the specific removal procedures written by the contractor, and a risk assessment written by a qualified professional. Risk assessments identify which materials are being removed, and classify the work as low-risk, moderate-risk, high-risk, or a hybrid of the 3 levels.
The risk level tells the contractor what engineering controls are required (type of respirator, if a shower is required on site, what type of decontamination station). The risk assessment also restricts the work procedures your contractor can use, for example power tools cannot be used on low or moderate risk projects.
As a general rule, expect projects with a higher risk assessment to cost more than a lower risk project.
2. Air Monitoring
Higher risk projects require installation of air monitoring pumps on the workers, the surrounding area, and the decontamination station. This monitoring is completed by an independent 3rd party consultant who must be on site during the work to take air samples. At varying intervals, the cassettes from the pumps are analyzed under a microscope for the presence of asbestos fibers, in order to provide assurance that the number of fibers are well below the occupational exposure limits. The cost of this sampling can be 10%-20% of the abatement costs.
As a side note, we recommend hiring the consultant directly and not through the contractor to ensure they are working for you, which will eliminate any conflict of interest. This will also help reduce your overall project cost, because the consultant’s fee is not being marked up by the abatement contractor.
Asbestos can be found in many materials, and the time required to remove the material varies greatly on the type (1/2” or 5/8” drywall), condition (can the sheet flooring be removed in one piece or do we have to scrape many broken sections), and how it is adhered to the substrate (will the glue be easy to remove, or do we have to manually scrape or chemically strip it).
Costs will generally be higher to remove thicker materials, or those which have deteriorated over many years and require manual scraping.
4. Removal Procedures
In British Columbia, asbestos removal is performance based and not prescriptive such as in Alberta. The asbestos removal procedures and techniques used by the licenced contractor in BC are allowed to vary greatly, provided the contractor has sufficient documentation from previous projects proving that their removal methods ensure the safety of the workers and the surrounding environment.
Similar to shoveling snow from your driveway you could use a plastic shovel, a snowblower, or a gravy ladle, as long as each method delivers the same result which is a safely cleared driveway.
How we removed asbestos 20 years ago is not how we remove it today, although some contractors are still stuck in the past using elbow grease and hard labor. Modern tools, plant-based chemicals, steaming units, and creative approaches may help lower your cost, provided your contractor is up to date and experienced in modern removal methods. Because of this, we always recommend obtaining two quotes because each contractor has their own method of removal and respective costs.
When workers are completing your abatement, we often have to contain the work area with 6 mil poly to prevent asbestos fibers from being released into the surrounding areas. If the washroom is so small that only one or two workers can safely access the space, it may take more hours to complete the work than if more workers can assist.
6. Work hour restrictions
Although more common on commercial projects to prevent business interruption, restrictive work hours may limit the amount of work completed in a day. If you live in an apartment building your bylaws may prevent work from occurring before 10am, or after 4pm. Because of this a 2-day project may take 3 days.
7. Disposal Fees
Asbestos is only accepted at specific waste stations, and an appointment has to be made in advance so a hole can be excavated for the asbestos to be buried upon arrival. Due to strict regulations on how the waste is disposed, the tipping fees per ton is far greater than general household waste.
Abatement contractors sometimes have to balance the additional labor costs of removing the asbestos from the substrate (for example peeling the sheet floor away from the subfloor) vs. the extra weight of asbestos waste by taking the subfloor and sheet floor together and disposing of it.
Depending on the project location, the asbestos waste may also have to be transported 1-2 hours to reach the nearest station, which must be factored into the cost of the project.
Hiring a professional abatement contractor is one of the smartest decisions you can make as a homeowner to ensure the safety of your family, and we hope this information provides a better understanding on the factors which affect the cost of your project.
As you can see, there are many factors which come into play, and for this reason we always recommend obtaining two quotes. Once your quotes are obtained we strongly suggest having a conversation with your contractor about these various points to see which approach they are taking, to ask about their removal methods, and inquire if there is a way the work can be completed more economically by modifying the approach or risk level.
If your contractor is not fully transparent in discussing their specific approach, which tools will be used, and which equipment will be placed on the job, then we recommend finding another contractor.