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Renovation of properties with asbestos containing components

So you’ve purchased an older property with plans to tear down walls, rip up old floors and make it into your dream home. An exciting project that so many people who are lucky enough to be able to afford get into. However, the excitement can soon turn into a nightmare and a very dangerous one if asbestos happens to be present and the chances are, it probably will depending on the age of the property.

By far the biggest risk posed by asbestos is during a renovation to an old property. This is when the asbestos containing materials become damaged and asbestos fibres are released into the air that you breathe.

This is why it is vital to do your homework and call in the professionals to determine if any asbestos is present before you take the first swing of that sledge hammer. Anyone working or living in a property that has asbestos present are at serious risk of exposure should the deadly mineral become damaged during works.

Contractors and asbestos

Some property investors will not actually carry out the renovation to a property themselves and choose to employ building contractors instead. Be aware that few builders will have the license to remove and dispose of asbestos legally and safely.

Any professional builder is likely to have a good degree of awareness with regard to asbestos and will alert you to its presence if any is discovered. They may also have contacts within the trade who are able to deal with the asbestos before work continues.

Where is asbestos likely to be found?

Quite a lot of homes built before 1980 contain asbestos. This is often found in old floor tiles, ceiling tiles or ceiling coatings like Artex, insulation materials around boilers, ducts, pipes, sheeting, fireplace ropes, pipe cement, and even some jointing compound.

Some homes may even contain vermiculite attic insulation that is contaminated with asbestos, although most proerties will have fibreglass insulation rolls instead.

Must asbestos always be removed?

Not all discovered asbestos has to be removed from a property. Whether to remove or leave in situ rather depends on the location, the chances of disturbance and the condition of the asbestos. The cost of removal may come into play too, but this should only be a consideration if the asbestos is in good condition, sealed and away from occupants. It simply wouldn’t be practicable to remove all asbestos from every building, effective management is often the key.

Clearly if asbestos is discovered in an area that will have regular occupation levels, thus encountering the expected wear and tear of such occupancy, removal is the best way forward. Should the asbestos be located well away from habitable areas, be in good repair and thoroughly encapsulated with paint or varnish, then the need to remove diminishes considerably if it formes part of the buildings main fabric. An asbestos tank in a loft or some asbestos insulating board would not be too difficult to remove, so this course of action is recommended.

Never attempt to remove suspected asbestos yourself to save a few pounds and certainly don’t attempt to dispose of it at your local recycling facility or tip. Call in a licensed removal contractor who can remove and dispose of the asbestos safely and legally.

If you suspect asbestos may be present in the property you have purchased, there is no need to panic. A huge number of houses built in the 20th century contain some asbestos, and it is generally safe to live in them as long as you won’t be drilling into walls, knocking walls down or disturbing the fabric of the building where asbestos could be present.

If you are planning to renovate an older property, or even do some work in an existing one, know what you are drilling into or sanding down. Should you suspect anything you discover could be asbestos, you will need to hire a professional asbestos company to assess the home and dispose of the waste correctly. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of what asbestos looks like, so it is best to err on the side of caution and still seek professional advice.

Social housing and asbestos

Residents who live in social housing such as council or housing association properties are probably at less risk from asbestos, as the landlords will have a statutory duty to effectively manage any asbestos present. They will send contractors round to take samples of ceiling coatings and any other suspected materials at no extra cost to the tenants. Private home owners will have to make their own arrangements and have to meet the expense this may incur themselves.

But asbestos is a thing of the past....or is it?

Although asbestos has been banned for some time, it is still a clear and present danger in many properties built prior to such a ban. There are many consultancies who specialise in asbestos and also companies who deal with removal and disposal too.

The issue of asbestos in buildings is going to be with us for many years to come, as removal is not always possible. The effective management of existing asbestos is key to ensuring people remain safe from this deadly mineral and because of this, asbestos remains big business for consultants, removal companies and computer software companies who develop databases for asbestos management plans.

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