Asbestos Soffits - A Complete Guide
Asbestos soffits were widely used between the 1970s and 1990s and if your house was built before 1999, there is a possibility that it could have asbestos soffits. These under-fitted boards were either made from AIB or asbestos cement and can pose a health risk if the asbestos fibres become airborne.
In the below guide, I explain everything there is to know about asbestos soffits so you are armed with knowledge and can act if needed.
Understanding Asbestos Soffits
Soffits are the boarding that fits underneath the eaves of your roof. The soffit is the vertical board, while the fascia is the horizontal, front-facing fixture. When asbestos was popular, it was used in a range of residential construction products including soffits.
The soffits were made either from asbestos insulation board, or asbestos cement. This mainly happened between the 1970s and 1990s and the asbestos soffits were seen as a relatively attractive and inexpensive solution.
Why Was Asbestos Used to Create Soffits?
During its zenith, asbestos was seen as a wonder mineral and it was used in everything from ceiling boards and roofing sheets to floor tiles and soffits. When used in soffits, it offered the following benefits:
- Easy to mix with other products like cements.
- Easy to work with and mould into boards.
- Decent aesthetic styling for the exterior of your home.
- Fire-resistant properties.
UPVC soffits didn’t become popular until later which made asbestos soffits one of the best options available during the 1970s to 1990s.
What Do Asbestos Soffits Look Like?
Asbestos soffits can be difficult to identify as they can look like regular cement soffits or other materials. The difficulty is compounded if the soffits have been painted over to match the facias which is often the case.
If the soffits are exposed and untreated, they should be a white/grey colour and you may notice white spores or discolouration on the panels.
Oftentimes it is virtually impossible to tell simply from a visual inspection and this is when testing is needed. You can buy asbestos home testing kits that allow you to safely take samples of your suspected asbestos soffits to be sent off to a lab for analysis. Alternatively you can call a local surveyor who will come out and take a sample.
Are Asbestos Soffits Still Common in the UK?
Asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1999 but before this it was widely used which means many older homes still have asbestos containing materials.
If your home was built from the year 2000 onwards, it should not have any asbestos soffits. Before 1999 the use of asbestos was already diminishing due to the adverse effects, but we say 2000 to be sure as a cutoff point.
If your home was built before 1999, particularly between 1970 to 1990 and you haven’t had your soffits refitted since that point, there is a much higher chance that they could contain asbestos.
How Dangerous Are Asbestos Soffits?
Asbestos soffits containing AIB (asbestos insulation board) are the more dangerous product. AIB is considered friable (easy to crumble by hand) which means that it can only be removed by a licensed asbestos removal company.
Asbestos soffits made from asbestos cement are not as dangerous and removal of these is classed as non-licensed asbestos removal and doesn’t require a licensed company.
Either way, if your soffits are damaged with cracks and crumbling parts, the asbestos fibres could be released and cause health issues including asbestosis, breathing problems, and mesothelioma (a type of lung cancer). We always recommend calling a local asbestos removal company if you want to have them removed.
 – Asbestos.com – Mesothelioma in the UK