Why some houses contain asbestos
Most houses built before 1983 will contain asbestos in some form. In most cases the presence of asbestos products in houses is no cause for alarm and they should be left in place. In the past, asbestos was extensively used in many products, one of the most common being "a/c, or asbestos cement, sheeting".
These sheets were often used for cladding (sometimes known as "fibro"), roofing and water-resistant underlay in wet areas. The asbestos in these products is usually firmly embedded in the cement. If the surface is undamaged the asbestos will remain embedded.
When to remove asbestos
If asbestos remains embedded, there is often no cause for alarm, however, if you have surfaces which are weathering, this could release the harmful asbestos strands into the air. To remedy this, people often cover the weathering surface with paint, or better, an acrylic waterproof membrane that resembles thick paint. It's important to always seek professional advice on the treatment of cracked or damaged sheets, especially if you are considering renovations to areas that may contain asbestos products.
Asbestos removal can add substantially to the cost of home renovations or maintenance but it may be necessary. Before you decide to remove asbestos, it is often appropriate to seek laboratory testing of the material to determine if asbestos is indeed present. Removal and disposal of asbestos cement sheet should only ever be undertaken by a licensed asbestos removal company.
Specialist removalists will take precautions like:
• wearing protective masks and clothing;
• using hand tools, not power tools, for cutting;
• not abrading or breaking up the product whenever possible;
• thoroughly wetting the product prior to working with it;
• working outdoors rather than indoors; and
• wetting any residue prior to sweeping.
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