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Asbestos was used in many building products during the 20th century. If you own a home built before the 1990s, there is a chance that it may contain an asbestos product.
Homeowners should never try to remove asbestos on their own. Depending on the type of asbestos, you may need to hire asbestos professionals to remove or encapsulate the materials. Here is a closer look at asbestos in residential properties, including how to remove asbestos and how much the removal process costs.
When Did Asbestos Stop Being Used in Homes?
The use of asbestos in Australian homes was mostly phased out in the 1980s. The asbestos industry peaked in the mid-1970s. Around this time, government agencies began exploring the health risks of exposure to asbestos dust.
Australia completely banned asbestos in 2003. However, asbestos was mined in Australia until 1984 and appears in about one in three homes built before 1990.
Manufacturers began importing and mining asbestos in Australia in the 1920s. By 1983, over 1.5 million tonnes of asbestos had been imported into the country. Common products that were often made with asbestos include:
- Cement sheets
- Corrugated roofing
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Pipe insulation
- Loose fill insulation
There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos. Inhaling asbestos fibres can lead to life-threatening health issues, including asbestosis.
Asbestos-containing materials should be eliminated whenever possible. However, in some cases, encapsulating or sealing asbestos is a safer and more efficient option. For example, you can often seal corrugated asbestos materials with paint to prevent the release of asbestos fibres.
How to Remove Asbestos from a Home?
Removing asbestos from a home involves several steps. You must first determine whether the material truly contains asbestos, which typically involves working with a licensed asbestos assessor.
Asbestos assessors have completed training to understand how to inspect homes for asbestos materials. They can take samples and have them tested. They also know how to monitor the air for the presence of asbestos fibres and perform clearance inspections after the removal work is completed.
Hiring a licensed inspector may cost several hundred dollars. However, the cost depends on the size and location of the property. Depending on the results of the inspection, you may also need to hire a licensed asbestos removalist.
A licensed removalist is needed for the removal of:
- More than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos
- Any amount of friable asbestos-containing materials
The same requirements apply to tradespeople carrying out work in your residence. For example, if you hire a contractor to complete home renovations, and they uncover asbestos, a licensed asbestos removalist is still required for the safe removal of the asbestos-containing material.
Friable vs Non-Friable Asbestos
The legal requirements for dealing with asbestos in workplaces and residences depend on the type of asbestos. Asbestos is either friable or non-friable. Friable asbestos is more likely to require a licensed removalist.
Non-friable asbestos is solid and less likely to release asbestos fibres into the air when handled, which makes it less of a threat. Examples of non-friable asbestos include asbestos cement and vinyl asbestos floor tiles.
Non-friable asbestos can create the potential for dangerous exposure to asbestos fibres when you cut, drill, or sand the material. If you need to modify or remove the material, contact a licensed asbestos removalist. However, in some cases, you may be able to encapsulate it.
Asbestos removal is not always necessary. Asbestos-containing materials that remain in good condition may not pose a health risk unless disturbed. Asbestos encapsulation involves leaving the material in place and covering it with a protective barrier that prevents fibres from escaping.
Friable asbestos crushes easily, releasing harmful asbestos dust. Friable asbestos construction materials include pipe insulation and loose fill insulation. Removing these materials requires a licensed asbestos removal contractor.
How Much Does Asbestos Removal Cost?
The average cost of licensed asbestos removal work is about $50 to $150 per square metre. The costs of asbestos removal depend on a variety of factors, including the types and amounts of asbestos. Costs also vary from one state or territory to the next.
For example, the cost of asbestos disposal in Victoria and New South Wales is often lower compared to the cost in South Australia or Western Australia.
Here are some of the main factors that influence the cost of asbestos removal:
- The type of asbestos – friable or non-friable
- The amount of asbestos
- The location of the asbestos
Friable asbestos may cost more to remove due to the health precautions taken during the removal process. The use of air monitoring equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other resources cost time and money.
Any workers involved in the removal of asbestos must also complete the required asbestos removal training. Training organisations such as AlertForce offer separate courses for non-friable (Class B) and friable (Class A) asbestos removal.
The amount of asbestos and its location may also impact the cost of removal. Removing loose-fill insulation from a large residence may require considerably more work compared to removing pipe insulation from a few pipes.
Obstacles can also increase the cost. For example, you may pay an extra cost for the removal of asbestos from difficult locations, such as an area that workers may have trouble accessing.
Construction companies and homebuilders used asbestos in a wide range of building products, from the 1920s until the late 1980s. About one in three homes built before 1990 contains some type of asbestos.
If you have an older home, before completing any renovations or repairs, you may need to inspect your property for asbestos. Exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to serious health complications.
The bottom line is that an asbestos removal professional is needed to deal with any type of asbestos in a home. A licensed asbestos assessor can test the material for asbestos and recommend the best course of action.
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