Asbestos represents a high risk for owners of older homes and buildings due to the fact that its presence poses a very real and very serious threat of life-threatening illness. If you have asbestos within the fabric of your property, then you should be seeking the help of a professional asbestos removal company to survey the site, check its condition and assess if and how it should be removed.
In this article we’ll look at the different types of asbestos, its associated health risks, as well why to remove, how to remove asbestos and the costs associated with it.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to a set of naturally occurring silicate minerals, all of which share some common traits, in particular their long-soft, flexible fibres that can take on a ‘fluffy’ appearance.
An effective insulator, asbestos is resistant to heat, chemical erosion and electricity; while also helping materials such as cloths, paper, plastics and cement become stronger when mixed into them.
As you can imagine, this historically made it a popular material within the construction industry, and was used extensively in buildings across the UK and internationally during the 1930s and continued to be used to varying degrees throughout the second half of the twentieth century.
The health risks were first brought to widespread attention in the 1960s, when a New York study identified higher mortality rates among labourers continually exposed to asbestos, although it was not until 1999 that UK authorities officially identified the substance as harmful and potentially fatal, leading to its full ban within the construction industry.
The Risk of Asbestos
The fibres within asbestos are extremely toxic, and ingestion into the body can cause serious long-term illness and potentially death.
Breathing in small particles can be extremely damaging to the lungs, leading to a respiratory disease called asbestosis, as well as an aggressive form of lung cancer known as mesothelioma.
This, of course, is the reason that you need to take the presence of it in your property extremely seriously, and seek advice about whether it needs to be removed, and how to safely do so.
Two Types Found in the UK
- Chrysotile (white asbestos) – Identifiable by its greyish white colour, chrysotile is a strong, flexible material that was commonly used in public buildings, garages and homes.
- Amosite (brown asbestos) – This is the type you might typically find in the use of thermal insulation in ceilings, lofts, roofs, and cavities.
Should we worry if we find asbestos in our home?
The reality for the owners of homes built in the UK between 1930 and the late 1960s, and even in homes built up into the 1990s, it is certainly possible that asbestos will be present in some part of the house or garage; if the house has not undergone any changes since it was built.
This might be asbestos insulation in the roof or garage, or even within the fabric of the house itself.
However, this fact alone is not a reason to panic.
Asbestos only becomes a major health hazard if it is damaged, broken or has deteriorated. So, asbestos that may be sealed within the fabric of the home, with little chance of it being exposed to damage or deterioration, then it may be more cost-effective to leave in place. Of course, for peace of mind, seeking advice from an expert should always be sought.
Where it becomes more of a risk, and should definitely be removed, are areas in which the material can become exposed to the elements (and the people within that environment), which could cause the kind of damage or deterioration that lets the dangerous fibres go airborne.
This might be your loft, roof or cavity insulation, or piping, walls or ceilings.
If you discover, or have any reason to believe that asbestos is present, seek professional advice sooner rather than later, before the damage has been caused.
Never remove asbestos yourself
However competent you are as a DIY or home improvement enthusiast, this is a job strictly for the professionals.
Not only are there legal aspects that need to be considered in the safe removal and disposal of asbestos, but there are very significant health ramifications as well.
Get the removal process wrong and you could be releasing the extremely harmful fibres into the atmosphere and creating a major health hazard.
Professional asbestos removal experts are highly trained and certified to carry out the task correctly, safely and legally.
They will have the correct personal protective equipment for the task and ensure that the risks during and after the process are absolutely kept minimal.
Typical Asbestos Removal Costs
Now that you’re in no doubt that this is a job for the professionals, then you’ll probably be wanting to understand just how much this kind of a job is going to cost.
There are a number of factors that will determine the overall cost of the project, including:
- Quantity – The amount of asbestos to be removed will help determine how much the overall cost will be
- Location – Where in the building is the asbestos being removed from?
- Type of removal – Is the asbestos ceiling, insulation, garage, or roof removal for example
To get a broader understanding of the general cost of asbestos removal for a typical UK-based property, then consider these stages in the process.
This requires the services of a professionally qualified surveyor who can determine:
- If asbestos is present
- How much is in the property
- What level of risk it poses
Surveys are a compulsory part of the asbestos removal process and can cost between £50, for a standard survey, to more than £200 for more extensive property surveys.
If you have taken an extensive survey at the identification phase, then it is possible that a recommended course of action is to encapsulate, rather than fully remove, the asbestos from the building.
This process involves application of a highly-specified adhesive, covering all areas that asbestos is present. The adhesive seals the material and ensures that no harmful fibres or dust can escape.
To reiterate, this should only be done where the survey has indicated it is safe to do so.
The cost for this kind of process would typically be in the region of £8 – £10 per square metre.
Full Asbestos Removal
If the survey reveals that encapsulation is not a safe option, then full asbestos removal is required.
This must be carried out by qualified, experienced professionals, and the cost is likely to be in the region of £50 per square metre.
Clearly, this is a lot more expensive an option than encapsulation. However, do not be lulled into taking the cheaper option unless it is specifically highlighted as safe by the survey.
Asbestos removal is the safest and most responsible option, and while your outlay is higher in the short-term, you will have the peace of mind that your home or property is safe and free from hazardous materials.
And, a safe, asbestos-free home will certainly have a positive impact on the sale value.
Re-Boarding and Decorating
After the asbestos removal process there’s going to be some superficial damage to the property that will need to be repaired. Boards will likely have been removed that need replacing and rooms are potentially going to need to be re-decorated.
Of course, these are tasks that you might have the skills to do yourself, to keep costs down. But there is still a material outlay that you might have to factor in, which could be anywhere from £350 upwards, depending on the amount required.
Average Cost in a Property
Using the above cost averages, you can realistically work out how much you are going to have to spend for a full, complete and safe task.
As an indication of some of the common types of removal tasks, you might expect to pay:
- Insulation removal cost – it will depend on the quantity and size, but it could amount to approximately £1000
- Ceiling boards – Typically found in garages as insulation boards, although they can be found in other rooms and buildings, with an average cost around £1350
- Water tank or piping – Typically smaller tasks with less work involved with pricing starting from around £200
- Garage removal cost – This is a fairly common and usually larger project, and tends to come in more than one stage. For removal of an asbestos garage roof, you could pay anywhere between £400 to £800.
Be Cautious and Get Advice from Professionals
If you have, or suspect you have asbestos in your home or garage then you need to get professional help and advice. Your local authority is a good place to start as they often will not only provide guidance but also professional asbestos removal services at subsidised rates to keep the costs down.
Asbestos in the home or other property type is not something to be taken lightly. Half-hearted measures won’t suffice because the ramifications for getting things wrong are not just going to cost you money, but potentially your health.