How to deal with an Asbestos roof, and whether you need to consider replacement
You may be familiar with asbestos as a type of material with many industrial applications. In houses, it is typically present in ceilings, drywall, caulk, linoleum/vinyl flooring, and in roofs, among others. You might also be aware of its harmful health effects. But what exactly is it, and what should you do if it happens to be present in your home – particularly your roof?
Is Asbestos a friend or a foe?
A group of six natural silicate minerals, asbestos is composed of microscopic fibres that are flexible and resistant to heat, corrosion, and electricity. By its nature, it is quite useful, especially as an insulating material. Asbestos is referred to by its colours (white, blue, green, and brown) or its specific names: Chrysotile, Crocidolite, Anthophyllite Amosite, and Tremolite/Actinolite.
True to its Greek word origin, which means inextinguishable or inconsumable, asbestos is exceptionally flexible, durable, and versatile. It is also relatively cheap, making it a favourable option versus other materials that cost more. Because of its tensile strength, poor heat conductivity, and resistance to decay and chemical attacks, it is a “magic mineral” used in thousands of products.
Its extreme versatility would have been so sought-for, except that it can also cause fatal illnesses. When disturbed, microscopic asbestos fibres get released in the air and can be easily breathed into the lungs. Exposure to asbestos, even in small amounts over an extended period, can potentially cause asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.
My roof is Asbestos — What now?
The 31st of December 2003 marked the day that asbestos was banned in Australia. By then, manufacturing, importing, transportation, storing, buying, supplying, using, and reusing anything asbestos is officially banned in the country. The ban, however, does not apply to all asbestos materials that are already in place, which means that it is highly likely asbestos is still present in the community.
Asbestos roofing is bonded or non-friable; they are mixed with cement or another bonding compound and are therefore tough and solid. These are relatively stable and won’t pose health risks until they get damaged, worn, and disturbed. These usually take a considerable length of time before they degrade and become friable. In that stage, they easily get crushed and pulverised, get blown in the wind, and inhaled by people. That’s when asbestos becomes a major health risk to everyone, especially with repeated or prolonged exposure.
What you should do about asbestos in your roof
The best control measure is to remove asbestos and any asbestos-containing materials (ACM) and replace it with a safer alternative. This measure is generally advised to minimise, if not eliminate, health and safety risks as far as reasonably practicable. If your roof happens to be made from asbestos, follow these measures to ensure everyone’s safety:
- If the material is still intact and in good condition, it is considered low-risk and need not be replaced. Leave it alone and undisturbed.
- Keep asbestos-containing products in such a condition that would not pose a significant health hazard. You may use surface finishes like paint, enclosures, and capping. You may also opt for restoration service for fibro asbestos roof.
- Maintenance activities, such as sealing or painting on asbestos, are permitted if you are working in a ventilated area. When maintenance involves any action that may release fibres in the air (such as sanding, scraping, or wire brushing), you must take proper precautions. Use P2 mask with respirator, a pair of gloves, safety goggles, and if possible, disposable coveralls with hood.
- If there are portions of the asbestos roof that have deteriorated and needs replacement, you may DIY. There is no need to obtain approval to remove it if the area will not exceed 10 square metres. You may check the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency’s recommendations on the safe removal of asbestos.
- Stack the removed asbestos material carefully and double wrap with a thick plastic sheet. Label or put asbestos warning sticker once it is wrapped. Clean up the area, mist with water before sweeping; do not dry sweep. Remove the asbestos material immediately but never put in the skip! Do not mix and dispose of it with other household waste. Contact the nearest asbestos disposal facility in your area.
- If the entire roof’s material appears damaged (or greater than 10 square metres), do not DIY. Contact an accredited/licensed and trained asbestos professional.
- If you live in a Housing NSW property and are concerned about the state of your asbestos roof (or any ACM in the property), you may contact the Housing NSW Contact Centre.
- In case you are privately leasing a house, the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010 give you the right to have it repaired. Learn more here.
Call a Professional for advice and proper handling of Asbestos
You may be wondering — is it a must to have my asbestos roof replaced? Would it be worth the expense to have an asbestos-free replacement?
The answer to the first question is it depends on where you are living. In NSW, for example, there is currently no requirement to remove and replace the asbestos roof. The decision to keep it or replace it is up to you. For as long as it is in good condition and won’t pose a health risk, it is fine to leave it. However, when it gets weathered and damaged, it would be best to have it replaced for everyone’s safety.
In some places like WA, for instance, people are strongly urged to remove and replace, rather than repair or restore their asbestos roof.
The answer to the second question is yes, without a doubt. It is better for your health if you have it replaced with an asbestos-free alternative. Besides, a house with an asbestos roof is difficult to insure (and insurers are even known to decline homes with asbestos roof). Properties with asbestos roof are also found to be difficult to sell.
For fibro roofing restoration in Newcastle, Central Coast, Maitland, Cessnock, and anywhere in Hunter Valley, contact Amazing Roof Restoration today. We provide asbestos fibro roof conversions and other services for your residential or commercial property, and our experienced team is trusted to carry out a reliable and safe job.