Boy that’s just ugly.
Older homes, especially ones that had steam systems, often had pipe insulation like this; it looks a bit like white corrugated cardboard. I suspect it was as much to protect people’s foreheads from being scalded as they walked through their basement as it was to deliver the heat where it needed to go!
Fairly effective as an insulator—with the pockets of air and resistance to high heat—Aircell type pipe insulation starts to be a concern in the home as it deteriorates.
Materials containing asbestos are troublesome if they can become “friable”. This means something that was once considered solid can disintegrate quite easily. Asbestos found in vermiculite is a problem because it may already be dust. Pipe insulation made with asbestos breaks down over time and turns powdery when it is bumped.
Keep in mind that not all white pipe insulation contains asbestos, other materials are now used. Asbestos was banned in the late ‘70s and should have been out of circulation by the early ‘80s. The best course of action is to leave it alone if you’re not sure. Leave it to the experts if it needs to be removed, they know what to do. A healthy, energy efficient home is in reach; knowledge is half the battle.
Image used with permission by Asbestorama on Flickr.