Home renovating is an exciting time – not only can you choose new colours and select beautiful materials, but you have the power to completely transform your home. However with all of these exciting decisions comes many more serious considerations and surprises, one of the most common being asbestos.
If your home was built before the mid-1980s it’s highly likely that you will encounter asbestos when renovating – researches estimate that this includes about one third of Australian homes. In fact, about 60 per cent of home renovators in Australia have been exposed to asbestos. Considering the long-term health risks associated with asbestos exposure, this means it’s really important to understand how to deal with it should you find asbestos in your home when renovating.
Unfortunately, it’s often very difficult to determine whether a material contains asbestos just by looking at it. That’s because asbestos fibres were mixed with other materials and used to build roofs, walls, carpet and tile underlays, fencing and sheds in the late 1900s. With the potential for asbestos to be anywhere in your home, it’s integral that your and your family’s safety are a priority when planning to renovate.
Putting Your Safety First
If you’re planning a renovation, the best place to start is to have an asbestos inspection and condition report done by a licensed professional. This will determine whether your home contains asbestos, its condition and if it is dangerous or not. If it’s in a good condition or if the asbestos is firmly bound in another material, it is generally safe to be left alone. Often a coat of paint can help to seal the material and ensure no asbestos fibres are released in future.
If asbestos materials are in a bad condition or are likely to deteriorate in the coming years, it’s best to have them removed as a precaution. If you’re not sure whether a material contains asbestos, treat it as though it does – when it comes to asbestos, it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
After your asbestos report has been completed, you can start to plan ahead to ensure disturbing or releasing any asbestos is carefully considered and controlled. Preferably you can also organise to have any removal done by a licensed asbestos removalist.
Due to the dangerous nature of asbestos (and the potential for long-term illness after exposure) it’s generally safer to have a professional remove the materials for you. Even unlicensed removalists are subject to stringent safety regulations and it’ll take the hassle out of the removal for you, giving you time to focus on more exciting parts of the renovation. If you are going to remove asbestos yourself, ensure you seek advice on how to dispose of asbestos and the appropriate protective equipment required when doing so.
In many cases, asbestos removal is legally required to be carried out by a licensed removalist – this is the case if asbestos is loose and when asbestos sheeting totals more than 10 square metres.
Asbestos can pose devastating long-term health risks to you and your family if not dealt with properly. This is why it is so important to follow recommended safety precautions, especially during renovations.
While it’s best to give asbestos a wide berth and leave it to the professionals, accidental run ins are common. If you do find unexpected asbestos while renovating, these tips can help minimise exposure in the short term:
• Spray with water to prevent fibres from becoming airborne
• Cover with plastic sheeting or a tarp to avoid exposure to weather
• Get in contact with one of the following Asbestos Awareness or DIY Safe – NSW Ministry of Health
If you’re ever unsure about a material, don’t be afraid to have a sample tested in an accredited testing lab. Visit NATA for more information and to find your closest lab.