Q: I am considering buying a house which has an asbestos contaminated garage.. Is the house safe to buy and if so how expensive will it be to dispose of the garage?
A: The product used on an asbestos contaminated garage will have been asbestos cement, which has an asbestos content of between 10-15%. If it’s in good condition and not being abraded – or going to be abraded – then it will not be releasing dangerous quantities of fibres. The garage should be monitored so that if the condition begins to degrade it should be removed at that time.
Q: I have an asbestos contaminated garage that has come to the end of its economic life and needs to be removed. I am being told that it will be very expensive, as I need to use a licensed contractor. Is this correct?
A: You do not need to employ a licensed contractor, but you do need to use one that is competent; see ‘Working with Asbestos Cement Products’ for more information.
Q: My building society’s surveyor has advised that a house I am intending to purchase has an asbestos sheet/slate roof and so I need to either have it sealed or removed by a licensed contractor before I move in. How much is this likely to cost?
A: Your surveyor is giving you incorrect advice. If work is required on the roof you do not need to use a licensed contractor, but as above you do need to use a competent contractor. Having a roof sealed is extremely difficult, and since all the lichens, moss and dirt will need to be removed first, it will be counter productive, as the removal will release more asbestos fibres than leaving the roof alone.
If the roof is not leaking, then the sheets/slates must be in a reasonable condition, and so the best course of action is to leave well alone. If the roof is leaking and/or must be removed, then you will need to employ a specialist roofing contractor who we suggest is a member of a reputable trade association such as the National Federation of Roofing Contractors.
Q: I understand that there are different kinds of asbestos – blue, brown and white – with blue being the most dangerous. The slates on my roof are blue, does that mean that they contain blue asbestos and that they are causing damage to my family?
A: There are three different kinds of asbestos that have been commercially used in the UK, which are listed below in order of their danger, with Crocidolite being the most dangerous:
- Crocidolite: this is known as blue asbestos
- Amosite: this is known as brown asbestos
- Chrysotile: this is known as white asbestos
You cannot tell from looking at a product, which type of asbestos it contains. You have to use an electron microscope to tell the difference. The slates on your roof will be asbestos cement and will most probably contain Chrysotile. UK manufacturers stopped using Crocidolite in roofing products in the 60s.
Q: I have been told that one asbestos fibre can kill, is this correct?
A: Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in rocks in the UK and elsewhere in the world; it is constantly being eroded into the atmosphere. If you take a reading anywhere in the world, you will find small quantities of asbestos fibres present. So asbestos fibres would be being breathed in by everyone even if asbestos had not been used by man. It is the inappropriate and excessive use of asbestos by man, which is so dangerous, as when handled incorrectly, dangerous amounts of asbestos fibres can be released.
Q: I am proposing to buy a new home which was built in the 60s. It has textured ceilings, which my surveyor advises may contain asbestos. Since it must be dangerous, how can I safely remove it?
A: If the textured paint is in good condition and is not being abraded, then it will not be releasing dangerous quantities of fibres. Those paints that did contain asbestos only contained approximately 5% chrysotile (white) asbestos. The best thing to do is to leave it alone and decorate by painting in the normal way. Keep a note that it contains asbestos, so that if you or anyone else has to work on the ceilings, you can take the necessary precautions to keep the dust to a minimum.
If you strongly dislike the texturing and wish to have a smooth ceiling, then it is not a good idea to try and scrape it off, as the process is likely to cause excessive dust. The best course of action is to plaster over it. There are proprietary products that can be obtained from your local DIY store or builders merchant that are designed for this situation.