Vermiculite: How it can affect health and resale of your home

Vermiculite is a mica-like mineral mined around the world and used in a variety of products including insulation. Vermiculite mined from the Libby Mine in Montana between 1920 and 1990 is known to contain asbestos, which can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma in people who are exposed to airborne particles.

Vermiculite was one of a number of loose fill insulation products approved for installation under the Canadian Home Insulation Program (CHIP) that provided grants to home owners who improved energy efficiency in their property between 1977 and 1984. Health Canada believes that vermiculite was installed in approximately 250,000 Canadian homes during that time. There is no information available as to where vermiculite use was most common but I can tell you that I have run across Saskatoon homes containing vermiculite insulation a number of times during my sixteen-year real estate career.

Health Canada’s position is this; “If vermiculite-based insulation is contained and not exposed to the home or interior environment, it poses very little risk.” Perhaps this provides some comfort to homeowners who have vermiculite insulation in their home, but in my own experience, the presence of asbestos is a growing concern for home buyers. Asbestos which is contained and undisturbed may never cause you or others in your home health problems but there is some significant likelihood that it could cause problems in completing a home sale when you’re ready to move. Some home buyers may be totally disinterested in purchasing a home that contains such a potentially toxic substance insisting that it be remediated as a condition of the sale, or they may walk away from the deal all together once they know.

It’s important to note that not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos. If you suspect that you may have vermiculite insulation in your home you should avoid disturbing it. Contact a qualified expert for assistance in obtaining a sample for testing. In Saskatoon, Pillar to Post Home Inspections is qualified to gather samples and they can submit them to a lab on your behalf for testing. Testing costs can vary from one day to the next, but generally, a range of $150-$200 is what you should expect to pay for the service.

If vermiculite is present in your home and it does not contain asbestos, a lab report will be helpful in eliminating the concern that potential buyers for your home may have when you’re ready to sell. If it does contain asbestos, you can decide to remediate now, begin saving for an eventual remediation, or you can choose to leave it and deal with it at the time of sale. Remember though, leaving it until that late stage almost certainly raises significant concerns for your prospective buyer and could derail your sale.

One should probably consider that knowing your home contains asbestos might require you to disclose its presence when you offer the home for sale. The Property Condition Disclosure Statement (PCDS), which is not mandatory for home sellers, but is commonly used in Saskatchewan, has the following question. “To the best of your knowledge does the dwelling contain asbestos or urea formaldehyde insulation?” If you know asbestos exists, you are legally required to answer this question in the affirmative, if you choose to utilize the form. Home buyers are often suspicious of sellers who refuse to complete a PCDS. Even if you choose not to use the form a buyer could argue that disclosure is required based on the potential health implications of asbestos. In any case, professional home inspections are so common that it’s doubtful that vermiculite in your home could escape scrutiny when selling.

Health Canada has some good information online about vermiculite and asbestos including precautionary steps you can take to avoid contaminating your living space if vermiculite containing asbestos is present in your home. Check it out here.

Related posts: Asbestos in the home.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

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Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

May I ask why you're selling?

Found by way of Larry Yatkowski, author of the world renowned Yatter Matters blog in his recent post, “Is an anus a patent defectt?” Larry covers the Vancouver real estate market in a way you’ll appreciate. Thanks for this little gem Larry!

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Property condition disclosure

If you’re a fan of “The Colbert Report” you may recall a recent instalment of “The Word,” a regular feature on the show where Steven, in talking about the James Frey’s book, A Million Little Pieces defined the Latin term caveat emptor as “Tough Titty.”

All kidding aside the literal translation of the term means “let the buyer beware” and in general, it’s the position that the Canadian courts typically take when dealing with actions which arise over property condition disputes between real estate buyers and sellers.

It’s important to note that the law sees certain types of defects in different ways. The first type of defect is one known as a “patent defect.” A patent defect is one which would be discovered through a reasonably prudent inspection of the property by the buyer, or anyone else who inspects it on behalf of the buyer. The law is very clear that a seller has no duty to disclose such defects. It is assumed that the buyer conducts a reasonable amount of due diligence on their own behalf and would therefore be aware of these defects. The second category of defects is one known as latent defects. A latent defect is one which may not be so obvious to a buyer who is conducting a reasonable prudent inspection of the property. Now, the courts generally sees latent defects in two separate categories, some of which require disclosure by the seller, some of which may not require disclosure. A buyer is always entitled to disclosure of “material latent defects.” Of course, this is where shades of gray come into play but generally the courts consider a defect to be a material latent defect if it meets one of the following criteria.

  • Renders the property dangerous or potentially dangerous to the occupants;
  • Renders the property unfit for habitation;
  • Renders the property unfit for the purpose for which the buyer is acquiring it where the buyer has made this purpose known to the seller or broker;
  • Concerns local authority and similar notices received by the seller that affect the property; or
  • Concerns the lack of appropriate municipal building and other permits.

Finally, the law does not expect a seller to disclose problems which he or she is unaware of and the burden of proof is upon the buyer to prove that the seller had knowledge, or ought to have had knowledge of existing material latent defects.


The most prudent course of action for any buyer is to make inquiries of the seller on issues of property condition. A seller has a legal duty to not misrepresent and can be held liable for blatant attempts to mislead a buyer. Secondly; a professional inspection of the property by a qualified inspector is a must.


Sellers who have property condition issues with a property they wish to sell should be forthright with their real estate broker and their lawyer seeking advise on their duty to disclose. My experience suggests that most condition issues can be dealt with in a reasonable manner if they are brought forward in a timely fashion, before the seller has accepted the buyers offer. If a buyer discovers material defects after possession they are far less amiable at working towards a solution. No wonder.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra