Asbestos was widely used in building materials for much of the twentieth century. You’d probably be surprised at all the different places asbestos might be found in your home — especially if it was built before 1990.
If you’re planning to renovate and you’re not sure whether your home contains asbestos, your best bet is to contact Airsafe for a thorough asbestos inspection.
Here are some of the most common places where asbestos can be found in the home:
Asbestos in walls
Asbestos is found in both exterior and interior walls in older Australian homes, sheds and garages, most commonly in the form of fibrous cement sheeting or “fibro”.
Fibro is a bonded form of asbestos, meaning that as long as it’s intact, asbestos fibres can’t escape into the air. However, as soon as fibro is disturbed — whether that’s knocking a wall down or even just drilling a hole — it risks becoming friable, meaning it can release potentially dangerous asbestos fibres into the air.
That’s why it’s very important to be aware of asbestos-containing fibro when you’re planning home renovations or improvements.
Asbestos in roofs
Asbestos is also a very common roofing material in older houses. In Australia, asbestos roofing comes in two main forms. The more common is corrugated asbestos sheeting (also known by the brand name “Super Six”).
Asbestos is also sometimes found in roof shingles. These can be particularly deceptive as they look very much like slate, and are often passed off as slate by real estate agents.
In its undamaged form, asbestos roofing is a bonded form of asbestos. However, roofing is at even greater risk of being damaged and becoming friable than fibro walls. This is because roofs are constantly exposed to the elements, and break down over years of weathering. The hailstorms that are frequent occurrences in Sydney are particularly liable to damage asbestos roofing.
Asbestos in carpets and vinyl flooring
Asbestos can also be found beneath your feet!
Right up to the 1980s, asbestos was extensively used to make linoleum more durable. It can be found in both lino sheets and lino floor tiles.
Asbestos is also sometimes found in the hessian bags used to make carpet underlay.
Flooring material includes very high concentrations of asbestos, which can easily be released into the air when the lino or carpet is ripped up. For that reason, it’s very important not to rip up old floor coverings in your home unless you know they don’t contain asbestos.
Asbestos in eaves, gutters, chimneys and pipes
There are many other structural features of homes that may contain asbestos, including eaves, gutters, chimney flues, and pipes such as downpipes and hot water pipes. There are so many different possibilities here that it really takes an expert eye to spot possible asbestos.
Asbestos in insulation
As well as being a strengthening material, asbestos was often used for its insulating and fire-retardant properties. It can often be found as loose insulation (not batts) inside ceilings, or as insulation for old heaters or stoves.
This type of asbestos is generally friable, and needs to be treated with extreme caution.
Other places you can find asbestos
Believe it or not, this isn’t an exhaustive list: there are still more places you might find asbestos around the home, including:
The website asbestosawareness.com.au has produced a useful visual guide to all the places you might find asbestos in the home.With all these possibilities, it’s very important to get advice from someone who really knows asbestos. Airsafe has been in the asbestos consultancy business for over 20 years. We give sound advice on managing asbestos to everyone from householders to huge commercial clients.
You can rely on Airsafe to do a rigorous inspection, to test any suspect materials in our NATA accredited laboratory, and to give you the right advice if we do find asbestos in your home.