It's scary to think that your home might contain asbestos, but up until recently it was a popular building material, and it's still being discovered in properties across the UK. If it's not looked after and monitored properly, it can cause severe health conditions, so it's crucial that you know where to find asbestos in the home and what to do about it.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that went into making thousands of different products before it was banned in 1999. It's naturally strong, as well as heat and chemical resistant, which made it popular with the construction industry.
It's found in both commercial and residential properties, and experts predict that asbestos is still present in as many as 1.5 million buildings in the UK.
Asbestos is hard to identify by sight alone because it's often just one component that has gone into making something else. One tell-tale sign is the stray fibres that can appear when it's starting to deteriorate or has been damaged.
This is when asbestos is at its most dangerous and it should be left alone until it can be identified by a specialist asbestos removal company.
Properties built before the year 2000 are at risk of containing asbestos, but you're more likely to find it in homes that date somewhere between 1920 and 1980.
Asbestos was used to make insulation boards, pipe lagging, cement pipes, as well as roof and floor tiles. Artex also can contain asbestos. It's found in most rooms of the house, particularly in places where heat-resistant materials are needed.
To help you find asbestos in the home, we've put together a list of common places where it could be lurking.
Loose fill insulation, cement water tanks, and pipe lagging, are all places you might find asbestos in your loft space or attic.
It's possible that asbestos was used to insulate your airing cupboard or as a type of spray insulation to coat the boiler. It may also have been used to make the bath panel, toilet seat, cistern, and ceiling tiles.
Some vinyl floor tiles were made using asbestos, and you can still find these in kitchens throughout homes in the UK. For help identifying asbestos tiles, read our post 'asbestos floor tiles – how dangerous are they?'
Asbestos insulation boards (AIB) were used throughout the home as partition walls, interior window panels, and behind fuse boxes and fireplaces. You may also find asbestos in textured decorative coatings, like Artex.
Asbestos in the home isn't just contained to the interior because there are a whole array of places you can find it outside, including your guttering, cement downpipes, soffits, and exterior window panels.
It can also be found in roofing felt and some cement roofs, particularly those on old garages and sheds.
If you live in a property that was built before the year 2000, and you think you've found asbestos, then you may need the help of an asbestos professional.
Asbestos is only dangerous when it's damaged or deteriorating and its stray fibres have come loose. These airborne particles can be inhaled by the people nearby, and this can lead to serious – even potentially fatal – health conditions.
If the material you've found is in good condition, then the best thing you can do is to leave it alone, but if it's in poor condition or you're planning to do any DIY that might disturb it then it may need to be removed.
You should never attempt to remove asbestos yourself – it's a dangerous job that should only be carried out by professionals who have the right training, experience, and equipment.
An asbestos specialist will have a better idea of whether the material you've found is asbestos, but the only way to confirm its identity is by removing a sample and sending it away to be tested by an accredited UKAS laboratory.
In some cases, asbestos in the home can be repaired or encapsulated to stop the damage getting any worse. If it does need to be removed, then a removal specialist, like Asbestos Gone, can arrange this for you in a way that safeguards you and everyone in the property.
If you know your home contains asbestos – or you think it might – then it's your responsibility to let any tradespeople or contractors know before they start work on your property.
Around twenty tradespeople die from exposure to asbestos every week in the UK, and only by knowing it's there can they take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.
Likewise, if you're planning to sell your home, then you should tell your prospective buyers that the property contains asbestos. If you don't, you could be prosecuted under the Property Misdescriptions Act 2013.
It could also invalidate the sale of your house – costing you a lot of time and money.
In cases where the seller doesn't know whether there is asbestos present, it's up to the buyer to arrange an asbestos survey to check the property. This is a specialist survey separate from home buyer surveys and condition reports.
To think that there might be asbestos in your home is alarming, but if it's in good condition, then you aren't at any immediate risk. If you're planning to do any DIY that might disturb it, you should get it checked out first by a removal specialist.
And remember to tell any tradespeople working on your property about the asbestos.
We specialise in asbestos surveys and removals in the South-East of England, covering Essex, London, and Kent. For advice on what to do about asbestos in the home, or to arrange to have it tested or removed, contact our friendly team.