How to Check for Asbestos Before You Build

21 February 2020

Gutted Building Prior to Renovation

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was heavily used in construction and manufacturing for many years before eventually being banned nation-wide. As such, it is approximated that almost all houses built before 1990 contain asbestos fibres in some form or another, with about one-third of all Australian homes estimated to be contaminated.

Asbestos is extremely dangerous, and the fibres asbestos is made up of pose a high threat to one’s health. Asbestos-related diseases include mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural plaques. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, so it is crucial to the safety of homeowners and those around them to have an understanding of asbestos.

If you’re just about to renovate, demolish, or build on to your property, it is very important to identify and remove any asbestos before getting the tools out to avoid incidental asbestos exposure.

How to Check for Asbestos on Your Property

In some cases, building materials will be labelled and identifying and confirming the presence of asbestos is as simple as checking the labels or the old building plans. However, not all homeowners have access to such documentation.

It is very difficult to confirm the presence of asbestos just by looking at it. Asbestos was commonly used in concrete, insulation, paints, lining, lagging, and cladding. If the asbestos is non-friable, it means it is tightly bound in by other materials and will be almost impossible to identify. Friable asbestos is less common and will come in the form of loose-fill insulation. The tiny fibres are almost invisible to the untrained eye. If you suspect your home contains friable asbestos, it is strongly advised that you do not disturb the materials to allow the fibres to become airborne.

How to Identify Asbestos

The best way to positively identify and confirm the presence of asbestos is to have a sample taken from the suspecting materials. Having a specialist asbestos technician survey a property and send samples to a lab for testing gives homeowners the peace of mind that their property is being thoroughly inspected and analysed for traces of asbestos.

If asbestos is confirmed to be on the property, the contaminated materials will need to be removed, disposed of, and the area remediated before any construction work can begin. Homeowners need to be sure that their house is entirely free of asbestos materials before disturbing any older materials.


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