Dastardly Asbestos

Our 1927 concrete fireplace with its original insert.

It was going to be so easy. My husband and I found a fireplace insert that would fit the opening of our 1927 fireplace within a half inch. Dreams of sitting by the fire that night, in my favorite chair with a good book and a glass of wine, dissolved as the installer took one look at the gap behind the old insert and said “I’m not touching this – there’s asbestos in there.”

Thus began the journey. Should we forget about the idea of a fireplace? What would it cost? We called three businesses that did asbestos removal and had them come over and provide us with a quote. They didn’t paint a pretty picture. It was going to cost around $3,700 to remove the 4 feet of asbestos stuck behind the fireplace facade. As it also turned out, one of the guys who showed up to do a quote had me over a year ago to help him and his wife choose colours for the exterior of their heritage home. I knew he would be sympathetic to our 1912 house and his quote was comparable so we went with his company, A&M Abatement Services.


My wariness at the cost associated dissolved as I saw the extent of the work associated with the removal of this small piece of asbestos – covered pipe. It took a better part of a day to set up the “rooms”. The workers erected these rooms with plastic piping, bright orange tarps and lots of tape on walls, ceilings and floors. They even had a portable shower to ensure they weren’t contaminating any area outside their work area.

On the second day a 3rd – party company installed equipment to monitor the air quality near the work site, and in the basement. A large “pipe” drew air from the work site to the outside through a taped opening  on one of our windows.

This image shows the portable shower and ‘clean’ room
Goodbye, old insert.

It saddened me to know that it would be necessary to cut through the original gas insert in order to access the interior of the fireplace surround. The insert became asbestos waste and would be disposed of according to the law. The fireplace interior was vacuumed, washed and sprayed with a type of glue that encapsulated any lingering asbestos fibres.

Thankfully the air was deemed clean on the second day and after the team left we were left with a bare hole – ready to accept the fireplace. Finally we could examine how our fireplace had been constructed. It was not what I expected. Check it out in my next blog entry.


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