Asbestos? How can you identify it?

On my old coal converted boiler (Burnham) I have white plastery like stuff. If I press down on it it flexes. This is because it was put on a wire mesh. Someone told me the other day that it may not be asbestos. How do I tell. Is there a lab that can honestley tell me ? The house was built in 1947. Don't know why they used a coal converted boiler.
By the way, this is a great boiler. I have a beckett oil burner in this thing and it does a good job heating the house and the basement. If I replace it then I get a cold basement (unless I put in baseboards). Last year my heating bill totalled $1600 (1200 gallons of oil). for heat and hot water. I have a small 7 room cape in Northern New England. The $1600. is probably higher than other years because we had such a cold winter. Replacing the the boiler and getting rid of the so called asbestos would not be cost effective to me. It would take about 10 years to recover, I think.
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You might first want to ask yourself why you care to know...
If the asbestos is contained on the furnace it is not going to do anyone any harm... and since you do not know if it is asbestos you can legally fill out any form that asks about asbestos as "unknown". That could come in handy if you decide to sell the house, or refinance it, or otherwise encounter any legal documents that ask about a few high publicity materials that in some extremely rare special situations can be enviornmentally unfriendly.
Those forms can be very strange - for instance you are required to swear there are no radioactive things on your property at the same time you are required to swear that you have smoke detectors...I have news for all the lawyers out there, smoke detectors are radioactive, as is your favorite lawn fertilizer!
Do you have any old tile - likely has asbestos in it. Is there any old joint compound on the walls, guess what... and when you sand it the dust gets everywhere... but do you call a toxic waste abatement company when you remodel a house?
If you want to know - and start playing the game then send a sample out to a testing way so that they can send you an official registered document.

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Generally you don't want to officially know that anything you own has asbestos. If you love the boiler and don't want to get rid of it, then just ignore the entire issue. Don't worry about asbestos danger to yourself if you leave the material undisturbed.
The only inexpensive solution to asbestos is to get rid of it yourself and then never tell anyone you had asbestos (if you did).
If you want to rip out the furnace and replace it with an efficient one and a cold basement, then you will have to do it yourself, find someone who will do it no questions asked (maybe tough), or go the whole abatement route. Someone who tears it out and raises a whole lot of dust in the process may in fact endanger you assuming it is asbestos.
I think you could get some books at the library and examine fragments of the material under a microscope to identify the crystalline structure and convince yourself that it is or is not asbestos, if you are just concerned about protecting yourself while you rip out the boiler.

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Sounds like asbestos. Take a sample and send it to the your state department of environmental quality and ask them to test it.
Finite Guy wrote:

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There are test kits you can buy. There's a good chance you've got asbestos. No need to panic, lots of older home have it. The proper way to deal with it is to remove it professionally but it is a very costly procedure. You can encapsulate it with a sealer to prevent it from breaking up. As long as it is not disturbed, it is safe. The problem arises when there is a fire and things get busted up.
Back in 1985, I did a job with the EPA to audit asbestos removal in Oregon and in Michigan schools. The governement supplied free money for this, yet I was shocked only a small number of schools applied and there is still asbestos in schools today. Many school principals are just not concerned, so sad.
On Tue, 22 Jul 2003 18:27:06 GMT, finiteguy snipped-for-privacy@netscape.net (Finite Guy) wrote:

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Why so sad? If it is properly contained and is no risk to anyone, why spend a lot of money to remove it?
AFAIK, there is no such thing as "free" money. It came from some place, probably the taxpayers. Ed
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Coal conversions were very common back then. The house may have had coal when built. Could very well be asbestos, but I'm not qualified to say.

This past winter I heated my mid-New England 2000 sq. ft house with 800 gallons. That may give you some idea of payback. My heater is 23 years old. The big pipes that are in the basement are what is heating it. A new boiler may not make much difference in temperature if you keep the pipes.

Getting rid of asbestos is not all that difficult and can be a DIY project if you investigate it a bit. Left in place and covered, it is not a hazard. Airborne particles are the problem. Call a pro and spend big bucks. Ed
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It is almost assuredly plaster with asbestos mixed in to provide insulation to the converted burner. It was also probably coated with some sort of heat resistant sealant and is for all practical purposes encapsulated. It is not causing any problem now, but will significantly add to the cost of replacing your boiler as you will have to pay to remove it and have it disposed as a toxic waste.
--
Peace,
BobJ

"Edwin Pawlowski" < snipped-for-privacy@snet.net> wrote in message
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