Asbestos Cement - Frequently Asked Questions
What is asbestos cement?
Asbestos cement is a mix of white asbestos (also known as chrysotile) and regular cement which has been blended together and shaped into various products. It is mostly found on building exteriors in the form of drainpipes, gutters and roof sheeting. Although it can also be used as wall cladding.
What does asbestos cement look like?
Asbestos cement looks a lot like regular cement but upon closer inspection the white asbestos can be seen within it, giving it a weathered white and grey appearance. The visibility of asbestos cement can vary, depending on what it’s used for, but this is the tell-tale sign when compared to regular cement.
What does an asbestos garage roof look like?
One place where asbestos cement was widely used was on top of garage roofs as part of the roof sheeting. These will feature a similar surface patten to other asbestos products, but it may be hard to tell for certain, especially to the untrained eye.
A tell tale sign for asbestos roofing is the wavy / corrugated design of the sheeting. It looks like ordinary cement to the naked eye but be wary asbestos was extremely common in cement roofing sheets. See some pictures below to help.
To identify asbestos on a garage roof, or in another cement-based product, it’s advisable to use an asbestos testing kit. This way the existence of asbestos can be verified safely.
Why was asbestos used in garage roofs?
Asbestos was used in construction for many years all over the UK and abroad. Tradesmen used to refer to asbestos as the ‘magic mineral' because of its versatility. This is why so much of it still exists today and eventually needs to be removed.
Asbestos was effective when used as an insulating material. This meant that blending it with cement and using it in roofing helped keep garages dry and prevented them from getting too hot or cold. Making it useful all year round.
Unfortunately, once the dangers of asbestos were revealed the use of asbestos cement stopped. Since the 1980s cement roofs (and other cement-based products) have not been blended with asbestos. But the many asbestos roofs still exist in the UK today.
When did they stop using asbestos in cement?
Asbestos was legally banned around the year 2000, so it has not been used in construction work since. The material was used fairly widely throughout the 20th century, including during the 1970s - a period when many UK homes were built.
Prior to this asbestos had been already been used in thousands of construction projects all over the country. Today, many of the buildings that still contain it are now due renovation work, this is when asbestos needs to be detected and ideally removed.
Is asbestos cement dangerous?
Asbestos cement, such as the type used in garage roofs is only dangerous to when the material is disturbed. When this happens, the particles can become airborne where they can easily be inhaled by those nearby.
When asbestos is left undisturbed, it remains relatively harmless. But garage roofs have a tendency to degrade and older ones may need to be fixed or replaced in time. These are the ones that are most likely to contain asbestos, therefore it’s essential that they are tested for it before the material is disturbed.
If you suspect your garage roof, or any other cement-based product contains asbestos, always get the material tested before you interact with it. Never attempt to remove or interact with asbestos yourself; the risk to health is too great. Only qualified experts who are trained in asbestos removal should ever attempt this.
If you're confident your garage roof or cement products contact asbestos, then we can get you up to 5 free quotes from local asbestos firms in your area - Get an asbestos removal quote
How to take a sample of asbestos cement
Our asbestos testing kits come with full instructions and personal protective equipment. This way, you’ll be able to take a sample safely and easily. But if you need some support or would like us to walk you through the process, we’d be happy to do so.
Once your sample has been retrieved, you can send it to us for testing. We’ll aim to test it on the same day we receive it, to not keep you waiting. We’ll contact you soon after with the results.
If your sample tests positive for asbestos, we’ll advise you of what your next steps should be. Of course, what you do next is your choice, but we’ll make sure you know how to arrange for the safe removal of the asbestos.