Asbestos is a deadly carcinogen. Its resistant and insulative properties made it very popular within construction and other industries during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today it is banned in the UK, but may still be present in many building works completed before 1999.
In many scenarios, asbestos is not considered a threat, as long as it is unbroken, undisturbed, and out of the way. Otherwise, it is important to dispose of asbestos carefully and safely.
But how can you set about identifying asbestos - where might it have been used around the home? We give an overview of the more common applications and forms of asbestos used in the past, which may still be present within a home or building today.
Loose Fill Insulation
Often found in attic/loft spaces, loose fill asbestos was used for its insulative properties as well as high resistance to fire. It can also be found between partition walls or under floorboards.
Loose fill asbestos has been described as looking like candy floss but is blue-grey or whitish in colour. It is extremely dangerous because it is 100% asbestos and easily disturbed, meaning toxic fibres could come loose and disperse into the air.
Asbestos was often used for insulating pipework and lagging before its ban. Once again, its insulative and resistant properties made it ideal for protecting pipes and related fixtures from heat or cold damage.
Asbestos pipe insulation may look like dried cement, old felt, or a build-up of dust. It can be smooth or fluffy and will be found coating vulnerable parts of the pipework. If you notice fraying, breakage, or asbestos lagging in otherwise poor condition, it is not safe. The asbestos may have been disturbed and its fibres still present in the air.
Artex And Textured Coatings
Textured ceiling coatings, often referred to as Artex, were sometimes made with asbestos. It was a common ceiling design in the 1970s. Artex is just one company that popularised the style. They are ceilings that have a bumpy or swirling, raised pattern. Whether Artex or not, ceilings of this style and era can contain asbestos.
Undisturbed, these ceilings pose no danger. However, if considering renovations or demolition that affects them, consult with an asbestos specialist.
Asbestos Insulation Boards (AIB)
AIB can be found in various places, from ceiling tiles to partition walls, soffits and more. They may look just like any other plaster or polystyrene insulation boards. As with textured ceilings containing asbestos, AIB is generally safe if undisturbed.
However, if you have insulating boards that may be asbestos, it’s best to seek professional asbestos surveying and advice before interacting with them..
Sprayed-on protective asbestos coating was used on various construction elements - from roof undersides, walls, construction beams and more. Asbestos spray coatings are very dangerous as they are easy to disturb and crumble, releasing large amounts of asbestos into the air. They are white/grey and rough in texture.
Consult A Specialist
These are just a few examples of common materials potentially containing asbestos. Asbestos used before 1999 could also be found in some floor tilings or cement. Always consult a professional asbestos contractor if you suspect asbestos before you attempt to carry out any work affecting the area.