Understanding the Risk Posed by Asbestos in Your Older Home

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Understanding the Risk Posed by Asbestos in Your Older Home

1 October 2018
 Categories: Environmental, Blog

As you may know, there was a massive boost in home building following the end of the Second World War. Contractors would often use whatever type of material they could get their hands on to keep up with the demand. Asbestos cement was readily available, and everybody else seemed to be using it, so it found its way into most houses that date back to that time. You may be the owner of a structure of this vintage and may now be considering a significant update, but you need to find out if your property contains any asbestos before you begin, so where should you start?

Different Types of Risk

It's best to begin with a presumption of guilt, to use legal terminology, or to "expect" that asbestos is present in your older home. Now, this is not necessarily a huge problem, but it is dependent on the type of material that you find and whether it is non-friable or bonded versus friable or loosely bound.

Hidden, but Still There

Asbestos cement, for example, is an example of a bonded product where a certain amount of asbestos fibre is actually embedded into the cement itself. This can be much less of a risk than the alternative because it is essentially sealed in place. However, if you're going to be drilling into a cement wall or otherwise deconstructing part of your home, you should not proceed until you know. In this case, asbestos fibres could be released following penetration and cause a significant risk.

Look for bonded asbestos in other areas as well, including circuit boards or electrical panels, partitions or ceiling tiles and insulating board, especially in the attic.

What About the Other Type?

You are less likely to find the loosely-bound asbestos derivative, as this was mostly used in industrial settings rather than domestically. Nevertheless, it may be included within lagging throughout hot water systems, or as part of a vinyl floor or linoleum. The asbestos here is not as "contained" as the other type and has a tendency to become airborne more easily.

Upstairs, Downstairs

In addition to the previously mentioned areas, you should exercise some caution when dealing with corrugated roof sheeting or other lining products in and around the top of your home. Asbestos may also be found within cladding, imitation brick or weather-boarding on the exterior.

Testing First

As you can see, there are many potential risks, and if you're planning an extensive renovation, you're almost certain to touch these areas. Consequently, you should ask an asbestos testing professional to do some testing first and before anyone gets too enthusiastic.