An asbestos survey may seem like a costly additional expense when carrying out some home renovations but is it really worth the risk not to?
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was heavily used in building materials because of its insulating properties, which made it an ideal material for fireproofing and insulating. It was most heavily used in the UK from 1950 through to the mid-1980s, although it was only banned in the UK in 1999. So, potentially any properties built before 2000 could potential have asbestos containing building materials used in them.
What is the risk?
Asbestos when intact and in a good condition is safe. The risk occurs when the mineral fibres are exposed and become airborne. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases, which don’t necessarily cause immediate effect and can take a long time to develop. It is because of the slow progression of these illnesses why asbestos was so widely used before it became banned in the UK and why thousands of people are still dying of asbestos related illnesses.
However, if you are not planning on removing the asbestos and it is kept in a good condition it should not pose a risk to anyone in the home.
Where might you find it?
There are lots of places where asbestos was used but some of the most common places inside the home are in decorative finishes such as artex, ceiling and floor tiles, in bathroom panels and cisterns, and in the insulation of pipes, lofts, fuse boxes, fires, airing cupboards and boilers. On the outside of the home, it can be found in the roofing materials, guttering and downpipes.
What is the law?
There are currently no legal obligations on the handling of asbestos in the private homes, however, there are rules on its disposal. Asbestos disposal varies by council area so contact your local council for guidance.
The handling of some asbestos containing materials should only be carried out by someone who holds a HSE license. This includes sprayed asbestos coatings, asbestos insulation or asbestos lagging and asbestos insulating board (AIB).
What should you do?
If you suspect that there is asbestos present in the area of the property that you are planning on doing work on or suspect that you have damaged asbestos containing materials in your property you should consult a professional first to ascertain the risk.
An asbestos survey will determine whether there is asbestos present, carry out a risk assessment and whether a licensed contractor is required to carry out the removal of the material. The survey will normally include sampling and analysis to determine the presence and this should only be done by a competent surveyor.
When you contract a tradesperson to remove the asbestos ensure that they have the appropriate licenses where needed. If you plan to carry out the work on non-license asbestos removal ensure that you have the appropriate information, training and instructions.