Asbestos and your property renovation project


If the property you’re renovating was built in Britain between the 1940s and 1990s, chances are it contains asbestos in one form or another.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material. The fact that it’s fire-proof and a good insulator (along with being quite cheap as far as building materials go) means it was widely used in UK construction between the 1940s and 1990s.

It’s also for these reasons that asbestos can be found in various different guises – from being used as thermal insulation on pipes and boilers to being included as a material in garage roof and ceiling tiles.

However, scientists have since discovered that breathing in loose asbestos fibres can damage lung tissue. This asbestos exposure has also been shown to cause various lung disease such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. It was subsequently banned in 1999.

What to do if you find asbestos whilst renovating

So, what should you do if you come across an area where you suspect there may be asbestos present during your renovation project?

Is it actually asbestos? Asbestos comes in all different shapes, colours and guises and it can often be tough to tell whether your property contains asbestos – especially where if the asbestos is mixed in with other materials.

To help determine whether you may be dealing with asbestos, we recommend taking a look at this list of the most common places and products to find asbestos – along with browsing the HSE asbestos image gallery for pictures of some of the most common materials that contain asbestos.

What if you do find asbestos in your home? It’s worth noting that having asbestos (where it’s in good condition) in your property doesn’t necessarily pose a threat to your health. The best option here is to simply leave any intact asbestos well alone and check back on it every now and then to make sure that its condition hasn’t deteriorated.

The danger comes when the asbestos found in your property is in bad condition (where it crumbles easily if handled or shows signs of having been sawed or sanded into a powder) or if the renovation work that you’re planning may disturb the asbestos.

In these cases, the asbestos will need to be removed by a professional.

How to get rid of asbestos. Different types of asbestos need to be tackled in different ways. Only a licensed contractor should work (licensed work) at removing asbestos from your property. This is especially the case where moving materials containing asbestos will lead to large volumes of fibre being released into the atmosphere – since this situation is considered high risk.

However, for work on lower risk asbestos materials such as asbestos cement, this falls into the non-licenced work category. You can find out more about the difference between licenced and non-licenced work here.

Dealing with asbestos: more information

If you do happen to find asbestos during your renovation project which needs to be removed, then it’s important that you hire a professional asbestos removal expert for the job.

To find a professional who may be able to help you and your asbestos situation, please get in touch with your local council who will be able to advise you.

Otherwise, for more information on asbestos, take a look at the HSE’s asbestos essentials section on their website.

Whilst you’re waiting for your asbestos situation to be resolved, why not take a look at our handy Knowledge Base to find out more about the various types of renovation insurance your project may need? Or, click through to our blog section to gain access to a wealth of helpful renovation resources.

Photo credit: Urban Combing

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