With the waivered stamp duty due to end 30th June, it’s no wonder that everyone is looking to upscale or downsize on their home. But what if you’re looking to buy, or are buying an older house?
Asbestos is one of those words that no homebuyer wants to hear. Here at Artisan Environmental, we deal with asbestos-related enquiries on a daily basis, so we thought we would share our knowledge and experience on the matter.
What is asbestos and where do you find it?
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was widely added to many building materials until relatively recently. It is most commonly found in residential properties mixed with other materials such as cement sheeting, corrugated roofing and textured wall coatings, such as Artex. Asbestos was typically used in a wide range of other items including insulation on hot water pipes and tanks, in water cisterns, in floor and ceiling tiles, and on fire proof insulation board panels on ceilings, in doors, and around staircases and boiler cupboards. Externally it was used in roofing materials, guttering and downpipes, as soffits and fascia panels and in many other locations and materials.
The use of both blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos was prohibited in the UK in 1985, while white asbestos (chrysotile) was not fully banned in the UK construction industry until 1999. Whilst it is certain that UK homes built this century will not contain asbestos, properties-built pre-2000 will need to be treated with caution.
What are the health hazards associated with asbestos?
There are, unfortunately, lethal side effects with asbestos. The fibres are a known carcinogen when inhaled, which leads to serious long-term lung damage such as lung cancer and COPD. Other asbestos related cancers include kidney and throat cancer and the particularly nasty mesothelioma which is terminal and on the whole uncurable.
The most common way for asbestos fibres to enter the body is by breathing them in. However, Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) are usually not hazardous unless they are in bad condition, or are cut, drilled, abraded or removed incorrectly, when they then release the asbestos fibres into the air and are inhaled.
What to do if asbestos is found in the property?
It isn’t unusual to find asbestos in the home, and in most cases, there isn’t anything to worry about. Providing it has been well maintained, is not damaged and hasn’t been disturbed, there is no immediate hazard to your health.
So, what happens if your home survey has flagged up ACMs? Don’t panic! The best option is to seek further expert help to determine what asbestos may be present and to evaluate the risk and potential costs if you need to remove any of these materials, either before you move in, as part of renovating the property, or at a later date. It should be noted that Home Buyer Surveys do not specifically include for asbestos and the surveyors who carry these out are generally not trained asbestos surveyors. They may mention potential ACMs that they spot, typically Artex, but often do not mention many other potential ACMs that may be present in the property.
To reduce your risk before you buy a property, consider a detailed asbestos survey which will locate asbestos materials that may have been missed in your Home Buyers Survey. While you can sometimes remove some of the lower risk ACMs yourself within your own home (not within a business premises), most asbestos removal requires a trained, accredited and licenced operator to remove and dispose of it correctly. Asbestos removal is often very expensive so it is worth knowing whether you may incur such costs before you have fully committed to a property.
At Artisan Environmental, we can carry out an Asbestos Management Survey to provide professional analysis and insight, including full testing in UKAS accredited laboratories along with detailed reporting. For professional advice regarding asbestos in your property and to discuss your requirements for an asbestos survey, please contact us today.