Asbestos is found in many construction materials and homes built in decades past. It is not used as much in modern buildings due to the related health hazards.
It’s important to understand the different types of asbestos products so you can identify them on your property – one such common item is asbestos siding. Below, we take an in-depth look at asbestos siding including what it is, how to identify it, and how to deal with it..
What is Asbestos Siding?
Asbestos siding is essentially a mixture of asbestos fibres and cement. This mixture would then be applied to exterior walls of properties as a type of shingle.
Asbestos is a natural mineral – it contains fibres that have some fantastic properties for construction including heat resistance. One way that asbestos was used was to create siding.
The mixture was highly durable and meant that properties had better fire protection, resistance to things like rot, and were much easier to clean and maintain.
What Does Asbestos Siding Look Like?
It can be incredibly difficult to identify asbestos siding due to the huge variety of styles, shapes, and profiles that have been used over the years. There isn’t one uniform asbestos siding sheet. However, there are some common properties and characteristics you can look for that can help including:
• There is usually 2-3 nails holes at the bottom of panels.
• It should have a chalky texture.
• The shingles are typically 12x24 inch.
• It may have a wavy pattern or woodgrain pattern at the bottom.
• To handle, it usually feels denser than modern cement siding.
Today, siding shingles are required to have a manufacturing code stamped on it somewhere – usually on the back. In contrast, older asbestos sidings were not required to have this. Therefore, the lack of a code stamp could be an identifier.
If you want to identify the sidings on your property and are unsure if they contain asbestos or not, always take precautions. Wear a mask and gloves and try to avoid breaking any of the shingles as this could release the potentially dangerous dust.
Similarly, due to the huge range of asbestos siding products, if you can’t be 100% sure, it is recommended to seek professional advice. Companies specialize in asbestos detection and removal and can state with certainty whether your property contains it or not.
When Did They Stop Using Asbestos in Siding?
Asbestos cement and sidings have been used as early as the 1900s. In the 1940s it became incredible popular and a huge number of homes in the US were built using it. At this point, the associated dangers were not known – only the benefits.
However, from the late 1960s and early 1970s, technologies and medical science had improved and it merged that asbestos fibres when inhaled could cause serious health issues including lung cancer and asbestosis (lung scarring). Therefore, after this point the use of asbestos drastically reduced and other construction methods and materials became the preferred choice.
How to Deal With Asbestos Siding?
If you find that your property has asbestos sidings, you have to decided what to do with it. There are three options:
1. Keep it understanding the potential health hazards and property value reduction.
2. Have it covered with new sidings (this is possible).
3. Have it removed.
Below, we look at some of the steps and pointers relating to your choices.
Testing Asbestos Siding
One of the first things you can do if you think your property contains asbestos is to use a testing kit. We offers these sampling kits and they are relatively easy to use. Complete instructions are included, detailing how to take a sample - together with all the necessary materials and packaging to perform the test.
Once you have the results, you can then decide of what to do next. If you want to use our testing kits, we advise taking samples from multiple parts of the property exterior. Over time, sidings could have been changed and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your entire house has a uniform finish.
Keeping Asbestos Siding – Cleaning & Painting
If the asbestos siding is in a good condition, there may be no need to have it removed or covered. There is more concern if the siding is damaged and pieces are falling off which can expose the fibres.
You have to bear in mind that it could negatively impact the value of your home, however, as people are generally put off when they know a property contains asbestos.
If you do want to keep it, it is possible to maintain the siding safely including cleaning and painting it. However, we advise extreme caution if any of the siding shingles are cracked or broken.
For cleaning, it is generally advised to scrub it with a hard-bristled brush soaked in a dish detergent or abrasive cleaner and warm water. Once you have scrubbed it, rinse away the solution with fresh water.
Painting is also a relatively safe option as it should not disrupt or dislodge any of the potentially dangerous asbestos fibres. Additionally, once you have applied the paint, it adds an extra layer of protection. Just take caution – especially if you have to prepare the surface first so the pain takes better. When cleaning and painting asbestos siding, always wear a mask and gloves and make sure the area is well-ventilated.
Removing Asbestos Siding
It is possible to remove asbestos siding if you simply don’t want it anymore and don’t want to deal with the potential health risks.
However, this is not something that can be done personally. It is a process that should only be carried out by trained and certified professionals who know how to work with asbestos safely and dispose of it in the correct way. Once you've had the siding removed you can look for an alternative to asbestos siding for its replacement.
Covering Asbestos Siding
A common solution today is to simply have the asbestos siding covered with a new, modern shingle. There are companies who can do this and know all the correct procedures to seal it and cover it safely. With the asbestos siding covered, there should be no potential health hazards going forward.