Where to Find Asbestos in the Home
You may be able to find asbestos in the following materials/areas:
A - Asbestos cement water tank
B - Pipe Lagging
C - Loose fill insulation
D - Textured decorative coating (Artex)
E - *AIB ceiling tiles
F - AIB bath panels
G - Toilet seat and cistern
H - AIB Fuse box
I - AIB airing cupboard and/or sprayed insulation coating boiler
J - AIB partition wall
K - AIB interior window panel
L - AIB around the boiler
M - Vinyl floor tiles
N - AIB behind the fireplace
O - Gutters and asbestos downpipes
P - Soffits - AIB or asbestos cement
Q - AIB exterior window panel
R - Asbestos cement roof
S - Asbestos cement panels T-
Artex was a very fashionable textured coating used during the 70s and 80s. It is well known for its swirly patterns or popcorn effect. Its soundproofing and heat resistant properties also led to the material being widely used in both residential and commercial buildings. Unfortunately, Artex and similar textured coatings also often contained asbestos, which is what gave it its beneficial qualities as a ceiling.
Any Artex on your walls or ceilings that is in good condition is likely to be perfectly safe. That is unless the asbestos within is disturbed. Demolishing walls, drilling a hole in a wall or ceiling, removing ceiling or wall boards and re-plastering are just some of the ways that harmful fibres can escape into the air.
* AIB = Asbestos Insulation Board
Asbestos insulation board (AIB) is often located in partition walls, ceiling tiles, soffits, or any other area with insulation boarding. To verify if asbestos is present, we’d recommend using an asbestos testing kit. This will alleviate any concerns you may have.
I have been exposed to asbestos; what should I do?
It’s estimated that nearly 50% of UK homes have some asbestos-containing materials in them. Because of the nature of asbestos, this isn’t typically a problem. That is as long as the material retains its integrity. This way, its harmful particles cannot be inhaled by those in the vicinity.
However, when materials containing asbestos, such as insulation, coating, floor tiles, or other items are disturbed, this can result in the substance becoming powdered and airborne – which is when problems begin to arise. Yet, because of the pervasiveness of asbestos, there have been instances of homeowners becoming accidentally exposed to it.
Here’s how to deal with such a situation:
Dealing with Accidental Asbestos Exposure
It’s unfortunate but we’ve seen this scenario play out many times. For example, someone is renovating their living room, and as part of the remodel they install new crown mouldings. However, during the process of fastening the new crowns in place, they accidentally miss with the hammer and take a chunk out of their old *Artex (see bottom of page) ceiling – which is suspected of containing asbestos. Dust and debris rain down. What should they do?
- Stop work immediately and leave the area– Don’t hesitate. Get out of the room as quickly as is safe to do so and close the door behind you. Then notify anyone in the house that they should leave immediately.
- Remove your clothes– Once you’ve left the work area, make sure you slow down your movements. Continuing to move around quickly will disturb any dust on your clothes; this risks spreading the harmful particles around your house. If possible put on rubber gloves, then carefully remove your clothing and place each item into a plastic bag. Place the gloves into the bag once you’ve finished.
- Shower– Take a shower and make a point to thoroughly wash your hair as asbestos fibres are known to attach themselves to human hair.
- Call the experts– Once you have closed off the area, evacuated others, disposed of your clothes, showered and put on clean clothing, it’s time to call a licensed asbestos removal contractor. Ask them to visit ASAP to ascertain the risk level and advise you on your options.
- Arrange for the asbestos-containing materialto be removed – The safe removal of the asbestos should be arranged as soon as possible. A trained and qualified expert should always do this.
- Report the incident– Once the presence of asbestos-containing fibres has been confirmed, the removal company should notify the HSE. Ask your asbestos removal company for more information about this.
- Don’t panic– Although exposure to airborne asbestos should be taken seriously, a single momentary exposure is unlikely to cause long-term health problems. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, only that there is a low probability of risk.
Verifying The Existence of Asbestos
If you suspect that there could be asbestos lurking in your home, you can purchase an asbestos test kit here. If the results confirm the presence of asbestos, contact a licensed removal contractor to discuss options.
Those purchasing a new home sometimes discover they’ve placed an offer on a house (or perhaps even completed the purchase) that may contain asbestos. This discovery is often made during the survey stage of a purchase, or it could be known about before this.
However, there are several reasons why asbestos sometimes goes undetected, starting with the possibility that the seller misrepresented the facts. Or perhaps the home was built within the last 30 years, and so the buyer (and previous owner) assumed asbestos would not have been used in its construction.
The seller may simply have been unaware of the presence of asbestos and did not intend to mislead. This is the most common case. If the building is older than 30 years, the previous owner may have assumed all possible asbestos was already removed.
Discovering Asbestos When Moving to a New Property
Finding out that asbestos resides in a home you either plan on buying or have already purchased can be a disturbing situation. It’s also one that leads to lots of questions regarding your rights and your health.
You’ll certainly want to determine how this happened; although truth be told, it’s not likely to make a huge difference in the long run. Asbestos is generally detected during the survey, so it’s unlikely to be found later if it didn’t flag then.
In the unlikely case that asbestos is discovered later, you may want to pursue litigation against the seller if you feel they deliberately mislead you – and that is certainly your prerogative.
However, your priority should be the safe removal of asbestos by qualified experts.
Why Could My House Contain Asbestos?
There have been many “great innovations” in home construction that eventually turned into problems. Of these, lead paint is a prime example. It is now banned in most developed countries and has been since the 1970s. However, there was a time when nearly every new home contained some lead paint.
The same can be said of asbestos. During the early and mid-20th century, asbestos was touted as a miracle insulator that found its way into many homes built during that period.
Most of those homes are still standing today. While the asbestos has been removed in many of them, there are scores of homes in the UK that still contain it. As these homes get renovated and modernised, the discovery of asbestos becomes more of a risk.
Why Hasn’t All Asbestos Been Removed?
Asbestos only presents a danger when it is disturbed (such as during a home remodel). Therefore, much of it has sat there safely since it was installed. Previous owners may have known this and therefore took no action for that very reason. Eventually however, the asbestos could pose a threat.
Can I Renovate a Home That Contains Asbestos?
Yes, but you’ll need to locate the asbestos and remove it first, ideally. You can do so by using an asbestos testing kit or a complete home survey to pinpoint exactly where the asbestos is. If in doubt, always verify the existence of asbestos before work begins.
I’m Not Sure if My Home Contains Asbestos
If your home is more than 20-30 years old and you are not sure if it contains asbestos, then you can purchase an asbestos sampling kit to find out. Just be sure to follow the instructions to the letter. If you prefer, a licensed asbestos removal company can perform this test for you.
Just remember, that if you are aware of asbestos-containing material in your home and you decide to remove it yourself, you will still have to notify the proper authorities that you’ll be conducting asbestos removal.
We would always recommend hiring professionals to complete this task though. There are some asbestos-containing materials (such as spray coatings, lagging, and insulation boards) that can only be removed by a licensed asbestos removal contractor.
Selling a Home That Contains Asbestos
If you’re selling a home that contains asbestos, then there are several things to consider. Remember, it’s still possible to sell your home just as long as you keep the following in mind:
- Full Disclosure– You are legally obliged to disclose that the house contains asbestos to any potential buyer. Your home is not the first house to contain it. It’s also not a personal failing on your part. But it is your responsibility to make your buyer aware.
- Being Realistic About the Threat– While many people will recoil when they hear the word asbestos, others will simply want a realistic assessment of the threat posed by it. Provide this for them. The asbestos in question likely poses no risk unless it’s disturbed, but it’s helpful to the new owners to know exactly where it is. It will also help your sale.
- Removing it Beforehand– Some homeowners who lived with asbestos in their home may decide to remove it before putting their house on the market. This would increase the chances of finding a suitable buyer. Remember, you’ll still have to disclose the fact that this work was done, but the cost of doing so may allow you to increase your asking price.
Where asbestos might be hiding in your home
There are numerous places in the home where asbestos may be located. The materials containing it can include floor tiles and linoleum to Artex ceilings and insulation boards. Some types of wall panelling may be asbestos insulation board. Asbestos can also be found in roofing, particularly in outbuildings, extensions, and drains.
The interior of your fireplace and its surrounding area might contain asbestos, as could your boiler. Even nearby pipes might be lagged with the substance.
If asbestos products in the construction of your home are in good condition, then you don’t need to worry. For example, if the floor tiles are not worn, cracked, or broken, then asbestos exposure is unlikely to be an issue.
However, if they are, then you could be breathing in airborne fibres without realising it. If you suspect asbestos may be a risk, use one of our asbestos kits to find out for sure. Then, if necessary, have it removed by professionals.
Remember, asbestos can be a risk outside of the home too. For example, fly-tipping is a growing problem, as more and more discarded materials may contain the substance. If you find building materials dumped somewhere, do not approach it, just in case. We’d also suggest that you make your children aware of this danger too, and encourage them to avoid such areas.