The dangers of asbestos when renovating
Finding asbestos in unexpected places
Popular renovation shows like ‘The Block’ and ‘House Rules’ have inspired a renovation boom. These days, everyone wants to jump on the renovation bandwagon.
Although this isn’t a bad thing, there are some hidden dangers that DIYers and home renovators need to be aware of.
One of the big ones is asbestos.
Asbestos: Australia’s favourite building material
Asbestos was used extensively in the twentieth century as a building material.
Up until the 1980s, Australia had one of the highest asbestos use per person in the world. Asbestos was mined in Australia until 1984 and we imported over 1.5 million tonnes between 1930 and 1983.
It was popular because of its sound absorption, strength, fire resistance, durability and affordability.
There are 3 main types of asbestos
- Chrysotile (white asbestos)
- Amosite (brown asbestos)
- Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
Where asbestos was used in the home
In a typical home built before the mid-80s, you could find asbestos:
- in wet areas behind tiles (fibro sheeting)
- as a backing for vinyl floors
- under floors and sub-floors
- as packers for bearers and joists
- in roof tiles and eaves
- as loose-fill insulation
- electricity meter-box lining
- sheeting in walls (fibro) and external cladding
- window and rope putty
- blackjack glue
- boiler rooms in apartment blocks
- vermiculite ceilings
- imitation bricks
Asbestos can also be found outside the house in soil, fencing, sheds and garages and in loose asbestos cladding.
Asbestos is a serious health risk
During renovations or home demolition, asbestos can be disturbed. This leads to fibres being released into the air.
And this is where the danger lies.
When asbestos fibres are inhaled, a person’s risk of developing malignant mesothelioma and other lung-related disease increases significantly.
Unfortunately, most people can’t tell whether building materials contain asbestos by simply looking at it.
So, if your property has been damaged or if you’re about to start renovating, and you suspect there is asbestos, don’t take the risk. We recommend that you engage a qualified specialist to safely remove all asbestos from your property.
For more information about asbestos, read our info booklet Asbestos: working with Australia’s #1 hazardous building material.