Working with Asbestos Containing Roofs

Asbestos is a mineral that was commonly used as a building material during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, although any structure manufactured before the year 2000 may contain it. If you have a roof that you are concerned may contain asbestos then the following guide will help you to understand what to do:

Types of Roofs That Typically Contain Asbestos

All roofs built before the year 2000 may contain asbestos in their structure. This includes:

  • Garage roofs.
  • Shed roofs.
  • Asbestos cement roofs.
  • Corrugated cement roofs.
  • Roofing shingles.
  • Roof tiles.
  • Asphalt roofing.
  • Roofing felt.

Asbestos can also be found in other building products associated with the roof, such as guttering and pipework, pipe coverings and insulation materials (lagging and board). The Health and Safety Executive provides a comprehensive list of products that might contain asbestos.

Why and When Asbestos was used in Manufacturing Roofs

Asbestos was used as a building material in the UK from around 1940 to 1999, but most prevalently in the 1970s and 1980s. The UK banned the use of asbestos in 1999 after its health-endangering properties emerged so the material is only of concern if your roof was built or installed before the year 2000.

Asbestos hasn’t been banned in every country, however, and is still widely used in countries including the United States, Canada, Russia, China and India.

Asbestos was used as a building material for roofs because it possesses many ‘idyllic’ qualities. Amongst others, asbestos is cheap, strong, incombustible, heat-resistant and sound-absorbent.


What to Do if You Suspect a Roof on Your Property Contains Asbestos

Is the roof in good condition?
Yes – Leave it alone and the asbestos will do no harm to health.
No Notify the relevant enforcing authority and ensure you are suitably trained in the risks/control measures before taking action.

Is the asbestos roof damaged?
Yes – Protect the material against further damage if possible and if you are suitably trained in the risks/control measures and plan to carry out minor repairs then notify the relevant enforcing authority If the roof is significantly damaged and there is the risk of dust then contact a HSE licensed contractor to have the roof removed.
No – If the roof is not damaged and can be left alone then it will do no harm to health.

Does the asbestos roof only need minor repairs?
Yes – Consult a specialist to carry out the repairs on your behalf or notify the relevant enforcing authority and ensure you are suitably trained in the risks/control measures before beginning the non-licensed work (NNLW) yourself.
No – If the roof requires major repairs or large-scale removal then you must have the material removed by a HSE licensed contractor.

Does the asbestos roof need removing and removal will cause substantial amounts of dust?

Yes – Do not try to remove the asbestos yourself: consult a specialist HSE licensed contractor.
No – The asbestos will not do any harm to health if it’s undamaged and left alone. If the material requires minor repairs then notify the relevant enforcing authority and ensure you are suitably trained in the risks/control measures before beginning the non-licensed work (NNLW) yourself or consult a specialist to carry out the work on your behalf.

Do I need to get my roof tested for asbestos?
Yes – If the roof was built pre-2000 and you suspect that it may contain asbestos then stop work immediately and contact a HSE licensed contractor to take a sample and test for asbestos before beginning any work.
No – If you are in the UK and the roof was built after the year 2000 then it is highly unlikely to contain asbestos as the material was banned in 1999. If you are in any doubt then contact a HSE licensed contractor to take a sample and test for asbestos before beginning any work.

Do I need a licensed asbestos contractor to do the work?
Yes/No – Use the Health and Safety Executive’s interactive Q&A tool to learn whether the work you plan to carry out on your asbestos roof requires a specialist or can be done yourself.