Does my fireplace contain asbestos?

Asbestos was a common component of many materials that wound up in UK homes during the early and mid-20th century. It was so pervasive that virtually no public or private structure built during that time was completely free of asbestos-containing materials and many of those materials are still in place today. That last fact comes as a bit of a shock to most people who thought the asbestos issue had been successfully addressed and put to bed. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that if your home or office is more than 20 years old asbestos-containing products may have been used in its construction and may still be present.

Asbestos: Forgotten But Not Gone

The word asbestos has so many appalling connotations that everyone was more than content to just stop talking about it once the UK’s total ban on asbestos went into effect in 1999. But that ban was not the end of the asbestos story. Not by a long shot. Because today it’s estimated that up to 50% of UK homes may have asbestos lurking somewhere within. One part of the home that should be checked carefully for the presence of asbestos is the fireplace and here’s why:

  • Gas Fires – While gas fires today employ various types of ceramic to achieve their realistic log effects it wasn’t that long ago that many of those fake logs were actually fabricated from asbestos-containing materials. If those old asbestos-containing logs are chipped they could be releasing asbestos dust particles into the air which is something you absolutely want to avoid. If you suspect that your old gas fire logs contain asbestos, replace them immediately.
  • Stove Gaskets – Asbestos stove gaskets – sometimes called stove rope – were commonly used in wood burning stoves to seal them against air leaks. These gaskets were so common that even today contractors often refer to modern stove gaskets that contain no asbestos as “asbestos rope.” If your wood burning stove is more than 20 years old there’s a decent chance it may have asbestos-containing gaskets.
  • Insulation – Asbestos insulation was often used in and around the fireplaces of older homes. This was due to the excellent fire suppression properties of asbestos. If asbestos-containing insulation was used in your fireplace it may still be intact and therefore present no immediate danger. But if it is old and starting to break down you’ll want to have it removed as soon as possible by a qualified asbestos removal expert.

If you suspect there may be materials in and around your fireplace that contain asbestos pick up an asbestos sampling kit and follow the instructions carefully. If asbestos is detected, contact an asbestos removal professional regarding the best way forward for your particular situation. Remember:

  • Not every home contains asbestos.
  • Not all asbestos needs to be removed.
  • Some asbestos-containing materials can only be removed by a licensed professional.

Asbestos isn’t necessarily a health hazard. But it might be. Start down the road to peace of mind by testing your home for asbestos today.