Initially, asbestos was an attractive material to various industries, and this was due to the impressive properties it possessed. Its tensile strength, flexibility, insulation from heat, and affordability made it a highly versatile material — people around the globe found hundreds of applications for it.
Among these uses was in the home building industry. In Australia, one third of homes built before or around the 1980s had asbestos-containing materials or ACMs. ACMs are typically found in many areas in the home including (but not limited to):
- Roof sheeting and capping
- Vinyl sheet flooring
- Wall sheeting
- Gables and eaves
- Drainage and flue pipes
- Carports and sheds
- Carpet and tile underlays
- Imitation brick cladding
- Waterproof membrane
- Concrete formwork
However, it was later proven that asbestos is a hazardous material. Because of this discovery, asbestos inspection and asbestos testing are recommended to homeowners whose properties were constructed before the mid-1980s. Furthermore, asbestos removal is needed if ACMs are found.
Breathing in asbestos fibres has many health risks. High and constant exposure to them increases your risk of contracting lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. The dangers are even higher if you’re a smoker, but symptoms of these diseases will only start showing 20 to 30 years after your first exposure to asbestos.
What to do
Whether you’re purchasing an old property or inheriting your parent’s home, it’s important to know when it was constructed. This will easily give you a clue on whether the house was made of ACMs or not. To be quite sure, you can follow these tips and figure out later on the best course to take:
It can be tricky to determine if a material or product contains asbestos. Sometimes you only find out about them accidentally — for instance, when you’re renovating. If you suspect that a product or material has asbestos fibres, it’s better to treat it like it really does and observe precaution. Contact an asbestos assessor to inspect your property and to have the material tested.
Take note that for asbestos air monitoring and inspections, you should seek an asbestos assessor. If you’re looking for asbestos removal services, you should call on an asbestos contractor.
Accidentally breaking asbestos
This often happens during renovations or repairs, and when you do break an ACM unintentionally, immediately wipe off the dust with a damp cloth. Afterwards, make sure to double wrap the plastic bags that you used and dump it in your rubbish bin. Using a wet cloth is essential as it will help minimise the release of asbestos fibres in the air.
In the event that the ACM has cracked, you can seal this with PVA glue or paint. However, if you’re dealing with a more serious damage, ask a professional to replace the entire sheet and to handle asbestos disposal as well.
Legally, you’re allowed to perform minor asbestos removal. However, it’s still not recommended due to safety reasons. If you’re decided on doing the task, though, remember that you may only remove non-friable asbestos material if the area is not bigger than 10m2 and if the job won’t take more than an hour in a 7-day period.
Also, wear disposable personal protective equipment or PPE. After using it, double wrap your suit and label as “asbestos” before disposal. If you’re dealing with loosely bound asbestos, it would be best to hire asbestos removal contractors instead.
Disposing of asbestos
Check with your local council where you can dispose of asbestos waste. There are only certain sites that have been approved by the council, and there are also rules on the proper disposal of this type of waste.
An alternative to this is enlisting the help of licensed asbestos removal companies in your area. Apart from removing and collecting asbestos waste, they can also provide you with bins and containers.
Things to check before hiring asbestos removal companies
Removing asbestos involves a dangerous process, so you should be very selective when hiring asbestos removers. Of course, you should ensure that they have the skills required for the job and consider their reputation in the industry. But apart from these things, here are three details that you need to check before officially hiring them:
Australian states and territories have different classes of licences for asbestos removalists, but generally there are two types of licences issued to asbestos contractors: class A (friable asbestos removal) and class B (non-friable asbestos removal). Friable asbestos products are considered the most hazardous as they are typically loose and dry; they can easily crumble and be released into the air. Meanwhile, non-friable asbestos (also called “bonded asbestos”) products are more solid; therefore, they can’t be pulverised or crumbled so quickly. Moreover, keep in mind that an asbestos removalist and an asbestos assessor are different from each other; hence, there are separate licences given to them.
There are risks in removing asbestos. Sometimes damage and injury caused by the contractor’s actions happen. For this reason, you need to ensure that your prospective asbestos removalists have insurance. A public liability insurance covers damage to your or your neighbour’s property. A workers’ compensation, on the other hand, covers injury that may occur on the site while work is being done.
Asbestos removal services cost around $45/hr, but prices may vary depending on the scope of the work. There may also be different rates for domestic and commercial asbestos removal, so when posting your job on the site, make sure to indicate the type of property you have: The key to getting accurate quotes is providing specific details about the job. At ServiceSeeking.com.au, you can compare up to 12 quotes from different businesses. You can expect to hear from them within hours after your job has been posted. Some contractors may need to have a look at the site before giving you a written quote, though. This is also a worthwhile step as it can help asbestos removalists prepare to carry out the job efficiently.