Does your property contain Asbestos Board Insulation

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Although it is banned in the UK now, asbestos was once popular and is still found extensively in buildings today. Despite this, you are unlikely ever to know it's there. In properties built before 1999, it often goes undetected, disguised as a common insulating board. Not only does this make it hard to identify, but if you unknowingly disturb asbestos, it can be dangerous. This essential guide to asbestos board insulation answers the most frequently asked questions on how to find and safely remove this hazardous material.

What is asbestos board insulation?

Often referred to as AIB (asbestos insulating boards), these innocent-looking panels were a popular building material in the 1960s and 70s. Because this type of board is fireproof, it was used extensively in both commercial and domestic properties. It looks like any other common insulating board, and to make matters worse, it's often painted over or hidden behind something else, making it harder to detect.

It contains a high quantity of asbestos - some experts believe as much as 45%. The most common type of asbestos found in these insulating boards is Amosite (brown), followed closely by Chrysotile (white) and sometimes Crocidolite (blue). Banned in 1985, it is now illegal to sell asbestos boards in the UK.

Where is it likely to be?

Asbestos board is found more often than any other type of asbestos-containing material in property surveys. Mostly used for fireproofing doors, walls, and ceilings, it can be found just about anywhere, from schools and hospitals to factories and warehouses. It was also used extensively in domestic properties.

There is a use for asbestos board insulation in almost every room of the house, particularly where you are trying to keep heat in. Even your bath panel could contain asbestos! This list of asbestos boards around the home reveals some of the places you might find it.

  • Behind the fire   
  • Bath panel
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Airing cupboard
  • Around your boiler  
  • Partition walls
  • Behind your fuse box
  • Interior window panels 
  • Exterior window panels 
  • Soffits

Asbestos board is treated in much the same way as wood - it can be drilled, sawed, and glued. This makes it easy to work with, but when disturbed, its dangerous fibres are released into the air and can be inhaled. When you put up a light fitting or a shelf, you could unknowingly be drilling through a ceiling tile or partition wall made from an insulation board that contains asbestos.

How do you identify it?

It is almost impossible to tell when an insulating board contains asbestos. On an unpainted board, you might be able to see small stray fibres - a telltale sign of asbestos. But that won't always be the case. The only way to positively identify asbestos is to test it in a laboratory. If you think you have found asbestos in your property, then you should arrange to have a survey done by a licensed professional. 

There are two types of surveys. 

1. Asbestos management

2. Refurbishment and demolition

The asbestos management survey is designed to find and identify asbestos in communal areas, industrial properties, offices, and rental properties. It is also an ideal survey if you are planning to buy or sell a property. Samples are taken to confirm the presence of asbestos from areas easily accessible so there is no damage to the property. Refurbishment and demolition surveys are designed to safeguard builders and other contractors by finding asbestos before they start work. It is a more thorough investigation into every area of a property, so slightly more intrusive. Samples are taken where necessary and tested in a laboratory.

Who can remove it?

Work on asbestos board insulation that is likely to take some time or is part of a major refurbishment or demolition must be done by a licensed professional. According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), short-duration work means less than one hour in a seven-day period. Anything over that, and you will need the help of an approved contractor. Over 20 tradespeople a week die from an asbestos-related disease. It simply isn't worth putting yourself, your colleagues, or your family at risk.

We are specialists in asbestos removal in the South East. We have the experience, expertise, and equipment to remove asbestos board insulation safely. Trained to the British Occupational Hygiene Society’s (BOHS) safety standards for dealing with asbestos and accredited in the CITB’s Site Management Safety Training Scheme.

Next steps

If you think you might have asbestos in your property, whether it's commercial or domestic, the safest thing to do is to have it checked. Don't fall foul of your responsibilities - it is a legal requirement for all non-residential properties to have an asbestos management plan. Without this, you could face a fine of up to £20,000 or 12 months in prison.

If you are planning to do any renovations or demolition work that might disturb it, then the likelihood is it will need to be removed first to protect the people working on your property. Even if it doesn't need removing, you will need to monitor its condition over time. Remember that asbestos is most dangerous when it's in poor condition and its fibres are released into the air.

For peace of mind, contact the experts. We are available 24/7 for immediate advice and guidance on asbestos board insulation in your property.

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