It is often a situation you have never encountered before; you’ve found your perfect home, requested a detailed survey on the property and the surveyor has come back with some strange results – the walls are lined with asbestos.
If you’re not familiar with the substance you might think ‘so what?’ but in reality asbestos is nothing to be brushed off, and if you’re serious about this property as a potential future home, you’ll need to make plans to get the asbestos removed as soon as possible.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was widely used as a fire-proofing solution and as insulation in buildings that were constructed in between the 1950s and the late 1990s.
It comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours but is mainly found as blue, brown and white asbestos.
Asbestos was also commonly mixed in with other building materials, so it can be hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for; which is why a detailed report by a chartered surveyors is so important.
Dormant asbestos is relatively harmless, however because of age and general wear and tear it can start to disintegrate. It can also be disturbed if heavy renovation works are taking place.
This is when it becomes deadly, as loose fibres cause a number of serious, and in some cases fatal lung diseases when inhaled. These fibres were so dangerous that the decision was eventually made to ban the use of asbestos as an ingredient for construction work in 1999.
However, there are countless properties and buildings that still have asbestos present in their foundations and walls. Unless disturbed or disintegrated, the threat is minimal, however, asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, with 20 tradesmen dying each week as a result of past exposure.
It is a real constant threat and a reminder of how the past can continue to affect and detriment our current lives.
Clearing out Asbestos
Never try to remove asbestos yourself.
Different types of asbestos need to be dealt with in specific ways so unless you are officially licensed and able to remove asbestos yourself (as in, it is in your own profession) hire a professional to complete the removal and destruction process. Asbestos cannot simply be dropped off at the local tip; it needs to be disposed of properly.
If there are any fittings or furniture that you want to keep following the removal of asbestos, you’ll want to get them removed and potentially deep cleaned in conjunction with the complete removal process. Because loose asbestos fibres can get everywhere, it is not recommended that you keep anything that has been excessively exposed to asbestos.
A deep clean may get rid of most, if not all fibres, but the chances are that you may simply be unlucky and in homes with particularly vulnerable individuals – elderly parents or small children for example – one nice piece of furniture is simply not worth taking the risk.
Following Asbestos removal
Once the asbestos has been safely removed, you may end up with a property that looks a little skeletal on the inside. However it is now perfectly safe to live in, so you can go ahead and start on your renovation and decoration plans.
You’ll have a lot of work ahead of you, but you’ll have realised that from the start of the project.
Go wild and remember, always ask a professional if you happen to see something that may look suspicious!