When it comes to building construction prior to the 1990s, asbestos – the “miracle mineral” with previously ignored health concerns – rears its ugly head. Asbestos use was prolific in the United States and throughout the world and is still used in some places and applications even after its health issues have been widely documented. We’ve talked in the past about asbestos’ use in construction as both an electrical insulator and thermal insulation. Today we’re focusing on drywall, also known in different countries, brands, and materials as plasterboard, wallboard, gypsum board, or sheetrock.
A Closer Look at Asbestos-Era Drywall
Around the 1950s, drywall started to replace that traditional “lath and plaster” construction methods for walls and ceiling. Made of a mix of gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate), fiber, and additives extruded between paper layers, drywall had the advantage of being faster to install, and materials could be easily mixed into it to provide additional properties, from mold and mildew resistance to increased fire resistance. Asbestos, being able to add structure support, fire resistance, and sound-damping qualities (and being a cheap filler), was a natural choice as an additive.
Drywall Joint Compound Containing Asbestos
Another part of the drywall system is the drywall joint compound – which does exactly what it says it does: joining the corners and smoothing the edges of drywall, along with smoothing over screw or nail holes. Even if your drywall didn’t contain asbestos, your joint compound (sometimes known as “sheetrock mud” or simply drywall compound) has just as much chance of containing asbestos, usually as a cheap filler.
Drywalling Coatings and Texturing
As part of the complete “drywall system” or as a separate step, drywall was often coated in with a “finish system” or textured coating to improve properties of the drywall (such as sound dampening) as well as provide visual appeal. The most famous among these would be the “popcorn ceiling” (see our blog, The Dangers of Popcorn Ceilings Containing Asbestos, for full details), but many of them contained asbestos – either as a filler like in joint compound – or to provide fire resistance or sound insulation.
All these things together mean that large amounts of asbestos dust can be released from these walls during renovation, demolition, or if the interior walls are rotting. Any manufactured and installed before the 1980s could contain asbestos. If you’re worried about asbestos or lead in your home or business, or your contractor has discovered the presence of these hazardous building materials, we can help. Fiber Control, Inc. are experts in asbestos abatement and lead remediation. Contact us today to learn about your options when it comes to removing these materials.