Building with asbestos became illegal in Australia back in 2001, following years of debate about the dangerous nature of its microscopic fibres. Beginning in the 1950s, many Aussie homes were built with asbestos wall panels, roof tiles and gutters, and the material was appreciated for its powerful and affordable insulating properties, and its capacity to stop fire spreading.
Now with widespread recognition of the significant health impacts of white asbestos, property owners are scrambling to remove asbestos from their homes.
Just how dangerous is an asbestos roof?
Unfortunately, asbestos roofs and gutters do pose dangers to the people living around them. When asbestos has been used in roofing tiles and guttering materials, any disturbance of these structures can cause tiny, hooked fibres to be released into the air. Even gently handling asbestos materials can cause breakages that stir up these particles, making it possible to breathe asbestos fibres into the lungs, causing a risk of contracting Asbestosis, or Mesothelioma.
Does my roof contain asbestos?
Asbestos fibres may be present in older Australian roofs, and if you think your roof may contain asbestos it is important to have the material tested and, if necessary, removed.
The safest way to verify the composition of your roof is to have a sample tested. Although home sample kits are available, obtaining the sample could expose you and your family to asbestos fibres unless it is done correctly, and it is best to hire a professional to do the job.
How does asbestos roof replacement work?
If your roof contains asbestos, it is important to have it replaced, as any break or crack in the panels can release this dangerous material. While it is legal to remove small amounts of asbestos yourself in Australia, replacing your roof must legally be done by licensed and trained professionals.
To replace your roof, a team of professionals in protective clothing and breathing gear will take the following steps:
Erecting signage to warn passers by about the work in progress.
Cordoning off your house and yard, so that any dangerous materials don't escape into the neighbourhood.
Coating your roof with an adhesive spray.
Removing and wrapping all asbestos tiles and sheets carefully to avoid disturbing the fibres, before taking them to an approved asbestos disposal site.
Vacuuming the entire ceiling cavity and searching your garden to ensure that every fibre has been removed.
Respraying your roof area with adhesive before constructing a new, asbestos-free roof.
Yes, it's a process, but you'll breathe easier when your asbestos roof has finally been replaced. After all, nothing is more important than your health, and that of your family.