Cottage Archaeology

Adventures in rehabbing a 50-something cottage.

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Name: Mike Yuhas
Location: Wisconsin, Land o' Cows

Editor emeritus pro tem

Friday, August 17, 2007


Say hello to the Zonolite Man. This five decades old drawing appears on an empty bag of Zonolite brand vermiculite insulating fill. (Classic 1950s styling -- I'll bet the Zonolite Man's car was replete with tailfins!) The bag itself was found in the rafters above the kitchen ceiling, under several inches of actual vermiculite. Apparently the people who insulated thought that by laying empty bags in the rafters (they also used old roofing shingle boxes, rugs, and other handy material), the vermiculite wouldn't percolate through the ceiling drywall.

The Zonolite Man and I have become close friends. I've learned that vermiculite is a fireproof mineral that attains its small nuggetlike characteristics during an exfoliation process after being mined. It's like mica. It can be used horticulturally, as a soil conditioner. An informative Wikipedia article suggests that over 35,000,000 homes in the United States are insulated with vermiculite. When it pours out of the ceiling it creates a lot of dust, which is why I always wear gloves, safety glasses, a condom (just kidding!), a hardhat and mask when dealing with the stuff. I'm concerned that the Zonolite Man did not use a respirator when installing the product. I hope he didn't fall ill.

Even with all the personal protection devices I employ, vermiculite has found its way into places I wish it hadn't, like my ears. A load went down the back of my shirt and ended up in my butt crack. Yick!

Here's a photo of a large mound of the stuff in the dumpster. Can't you just smell the dust?

This post dedicated to the memory of my dad, Harry Yuhas, an active gardener who frequently used vermiculite in potting soil. Today would have been his 81st birthday.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if you're aware that Zonolite vermiculite are contaminated with asbestos.
Here's an excerpt from CBC.
"Vermiculate from the Libby Mine in Montana were used in insulation products sold under the brand name Zonolite Attic Insulation in Canada. Health Canada notes that vermiculate from the Montana mine may contain amphibole asbestos, which when inhaled may cause serious health problems, including cancer."

February 24, 2008 11:35 AM  
Blogger Gregory said...

This post has been removed by the author.

March 18, 2008 6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've just inhaled a ton of asbestos cleaning this up. You really want to talk to your doctor about monitoring yourself for lung cancer (specifically mesothiloma) for pretty much the rest of your life.

Also, call the local hazardous materials group and tell them about the fact you have zonalite in your attic. They'll likely have to seal the whole place off and do an environmental assessment and cleanup.

March 18, 2008 6:51 AM  

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