Identifying Asbestos For Home Owners

Hardly a week goes by without some sort of news story about the dangers of asbestos so ignorance is no excuse when it comes to this hazardous substance.  Because the use of asbestos was so widespread in the construction industry in the 20th Century, there is hardly a building in the UK that’s not at risk of containing asbestos somewhere.  Although asbestos was finally banned totally in Britain in 1999, any building constructed before that date is likely to contain asbestos.

This is just as true of older and historical buildings as it is of those built during the 20th Century as many of these older buildings will have been refurbished or remodelled at some point to bring them up to date.  Much of this refurbishment and remodelling work will have involved asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACMs).  This means that identifying asbestos in the building is vitally important for home owners nowadays in order to minimize the risks presented by this deadly material.

Asbestos was especially prevalent in building materials used between 1930 and 1980 and any houses and flat built or refurbished during those years are highly likely to contain asbestos or ACMs.  If you’re a homeowner, try to find out when your house was built and when any major remodelling work or alterations took place to determine whether or not asbestos is likely to be present.

Some of the work that will have involved asbestos can be found in the following places:

  • Asbestos lagging often has an asbestos content of between 55% - 100% and this lagging material has been commonly used for the thermal insulation of boilers and pipes.  It was used extensively in system built apartments and public buildings, in particular around the locations of heating plants or boiler housings.
  • Insulation boards use for fire protection, heat or sound insulation contain between 20% - 45% asbestos and were in common use throughout the 1960s and 1970s in system built housing project.  This insulation boarding is often found in ducts, infill panels, ceiling tiles, wall linings, partitions and bath panels.
  • Asbestos cement products can contain up to 40% asbestos and these can be found in many homes as profiled sheeting for wall cladding and roofing.  Flat sheets and partition boards that line walls and ceilings may also contain these products as may fire surrounds, bath panels, soffit boards, flue pipes and cold water tanks.  These products were also commonly used for cladding and roofing garages and sheds, drainpipes and gutters.  Although asbestos cement products are not likely to release high levels of asbestos fibres, they may do so when subjected to weather damage or abrasion.
  • Spray coatings were often used as fire protection on structural steel.  These coatings could have an asbestos content as high as 85% and are usually found in system built flats constructed during the 1960s and 1970s.  Although the coatings were usually used in the core of buildings (service ducts, lift shafts, etc), the coatings will need to be removed or sealed to prevent the asbestos fibres from entering the atmosphere.