How to Identify Asbestos Material in Your Home

Posted by Brad Porteus on 26 November 2013

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Asbestos materials were used in the construction of most Australian homes and commercial properties built prior to year 1987. Unfortunately some Building Companies had stock piles of Asbestos building materials and were still using their Asbestos Material stores up to the year 1990.

Asbestos Removal

Asbestos is a very hard material and not easily penetrable. Grey, blue or white fibres can be visible in the surface of unpainted material and the material will give off a stone-like sound if tapped using a metal object.

If your property was built in the 80’s and you are concerned about Asbestos material, then some of the areas to look for in your property that may contain Asbestos are:

1. Ceiling linings

Both internal and external ceiling linings, joint strips and cornices.

2. Wall linings

Both internal and external wall linings. The bathrooms, toilets and kitchens wall linings are most likely to contain asbestos.

3. Floor coverings

Vinyl floor covering can contain asbestos.

4. Boundary fences

Most boundary fences installed in the 80’s will contain asbestos. The asbestos fibres can be seen on the surface of unpainted and corroded asbestos fence panels.

5. Roof coverings

A corrugated roof covering similar to your fencing corrugations may identify asbestos roof sheeting.

6. Gable roof linings

The triangle roof features can be lined with asbestos sheeting.

7. Plumbing Exhaust flues

The flue (chimney) caps above your exhaust fans can contain asbestos.

8. Electrical meter box linings

The black backing boards inside your electrical meter box or fuse board can contain asbestos. The electrical meter and fuse boxes have also been known to be lined in asbestos sheeting.

9. Structural concrete and steel insulation

The structural concrete and steel in homes or commercial properties may be coated in an insulation material. This material looks like white Papier Mache and is very brittle to touch and should not be tampered with.

10. Roof guttering and downpipes

Many older homes will contain asbestos roof gutters and downpipes. The clips used to fit these materials can also contain asbestos.

11. Plumbing pipes

Stormwater pipes, sewer pipes and other service pipes can be known to contain asbestos.

12. Packing materials

Broken pieces of asbestos material were used to level flooring joist and roof timbers.

13. Sheds and Garages

It is common for older sheds or garages to be built using asbestos materials including the roof covering, wall linings and joiners.

14. Fire rated doors

Any fire rated doors including lift doors can contain asbestos.

15. Ground ducts

Electrical, telephone and plumbing ground located ducts can contain asbestos. These are usually identified by their grey colour. They are commonly located in or next to your front pathway or near the front boundary of the property.

Dangers of Handling Asbestos Material

Extreme care must be taken if handling asbestos material. Asbestos material should not be cut, drilled, broken up or disturbed without the use adequate personal protection equipment. All asbestos material should be handled, removed and worked on by licensed asbestos removal companies. You must be careful not to brush or scratch the surface of asbestos materials if you are trying to self-assess any material at your property. Brushing or scratching the surface of Asbestos material can release asbestos fibres that can be hazardous to person occupying the property.

Loose and airborne Asbestos fibres can be inhaled into your lungs and become lodged, causing irritation to the lung tissue, which can in turn over a long period of time cause cancer. The fibres can be microscopic and you will not know you have inhaled them.

To protect yourself and the other occupants of your property it is recommend you appoint a qualified Building inspector or Consultant to identify any Asbestos material used in the construction of your home or Commercial property. The building inspector should not only identify any asbestos material in or around your property but document its current condition and make recommendations for any maintenance or removal of the asbestos material required.