Healthy living

Asbestos – maintenance, removal and renovations at home

Licensed asbestos removalists
Asbestos removal is best carried out by licensed professionals to ensure it is done safely.

If you are thinking to renovate, you must think asbestos. Take care when renovating houses built prior to 1990, as it is likely that such houses may still have a variety of materials that can contain asbestos.

Renovating and removing asbestos containing products can be complicated. You will need to comply with the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 (external site) and avoid activities that can create dust.

Do not cut, drill, grind, sand, saw or use high pressure water or air for cleaning.

If removing a large amount of material or if in doubt as to its condition hire an experienced, licensed asbestos removalist (external site) and check that the work area is free from visible asbestos, including dust and debris, at the end of the job.

If you are considering doing a small removal job or minor maintenance or renovation on or around asbestos containing products take the time to find out how to do so safely. Follow the advice for working with asbestos safely from the kNOw asbestos e-learning (external site) or information below.

The kNOw course has essential information for anyone thinking of doing any form of repair work or renovation to their home ranging from painting, hanging pictures and removal of asbestos-containing materials.

Do I need approval to remove asbestos products from my home?

Building renovation work (involving removal of asbestos from your home) may require a:

  • building licence
  • demolition licence.

Contact your local government for further advice (external site).

Should I paint or seal asbestos cement sheeting?

Applying a good quality surface coating or sealant may extend the life of an asbestos cement fence or roof and improve its appearance. This is only an option for products that are still in good condition.

If you have an asbestos cement roof, consider complete removal and replacement of a roof rather than cleaning and sealing, especially if it has started to deteriorate. This is because:

  • most asbestos cement roofs are over 40 years old and have reached the end of their useful life, particularly if they have not been regularly maintained
  • to seal or coat a product the surface first needs to be vigorously cleaned and this may be virtually impossible for roofs not well maintained and/or that have significant moss and algal growth penetrating the surface
  • you can not use a high pressure hose to clean roofs as this will break up the surface of the sheet and cause asbestos debris to be widely spread. The use of a high pressure hose is an offence and you may be fined or prosecuted.
  • asbestos cement roofs become brittle with age and can be unsafe to walk on.

It is still possible to seal an asbestos cement roof that has been maintained in good condition. You will need to choose a sealant specifically designed for use on asbestos cement sheeting as these are capable of penetrating the surface and binding the fibres to the cement layers. Safe work practices need to be observed.

How do I safely remove asbestos cement products?

Special precautions must be taken when removing asbestos cement products. If removing a large amount of material or if in doubt as to its condition:

If doing any small jobs yourself you will need to:

The following precautions should be followed when removing and disposing of asbestos:

  • For removal of asbestos products inside the home:
    • remove all movable furniture and fittings from the room
    • turn off heating/air conditioning systems
    • isolate the work area from family, visitors and neighbours.
    • wear suitable personal protective equipment that has Australia Standards approval:
      • Class P1 or P2 disposable respirator
      • disposable coveralls (Type 3)
      • eye protection
      • disposable gloves
      • prior to removal, gently spray the asbestos cement with water or a poly vinyl acetate (PVA) solution, to minimise the creation of airborne dust.

Caution: it is advised to use a licensed asbestos removalist (external site) for any work on asbestos cement roofs as these can be very slippery when wet and may be brittle and unsafe to walk on.

  • for removal of asbestos cement fences:
    • dig a trench around the fence
    • remove the entire sheet
    • remove the asbestos cement products with minimal breakage:
      • do not use excess force
      • use hand operated not power operated tools and do not cut or break sheets.
      • stack the asbestos cement sheets on 0.2 mm thick polythene (plastic) sheeting:
        • avoid sliding the sheets together
        • wrap plastic around the material and seal it with heavy duty tape (like cloth tape)
          • limit number of sheets per bundle for easy lifting and handling
          • small pieces of asbestos cement should be collected and wrapped or placed in heavy duty polyethylene bags, approximately 0.2 mm thick – bags should be filled to no more than 50 per cent capacity
          • label or mark the bundles with the words caution asbestos
          • clean up any dust or debris using wetted old rags that can be disposed of with the asbestos.
            • do not use an ordinary household vacuum cleaner to clean up dust.
            • dispose of waste material at licensed waste facility.
How do I remove old linoleum flooring?

The backing of linoleum flooring in older homes may be backed with white asbestos. This material can have higher asbestos fibre content than asbestos cement products and can be more loosely bound and more dangerous.

It is strongly recommended that you seek the services of a licensed asbestos removal contractor when removing this type of flooring.

If it is necessary for you to remove the floor surface the following steps should be taken.

  • Wear suitable personal protective equipment that has Australia Standards approval:
    • Class P1 or P2 disposable respirator
    • disposable coveralls (Type 3)
    • eye protection
    • disposable gloves.
  • Isolate the work area from family, visitors and neighbours.
  • Remove all movable furniture and fittings from the room.
  • Turn off heating/air conditioning systems.
  • Make a series of parallel cuts, approximately 20 cm apart, across the entire floor surface, cutting through the top layer and through the backing using a blade.
  • Prise up the corner of the end strip using a stiff blade scraper and gently spray with water mixed with detergent as work progresses.
  • Roll and dispose of one strip at a time.
  • Continue in a systematic manner across the floor surface, placing and sealing removed sections into labelled 0.2mm polythene sheeting or asbestos waste bags without delay.
  • Removal may also be assisted by thoroughly heating the floor or wall covering, using a hot air gun to penetrate through the material and soften the adhesive.

Caution: Excessive application of heat may give rise to toxic fumes from some vinyl floor/wall surfaces. Good ventilation and/or additional respiratory protection may be necessary.

  • If solvents are required to remove stubborn sections then use sparingly. Do not apply as a spray, ensure good ventilation and wear respirator meeting Australian Standards 1715 and fitted with organic vapour filters.
  • Residual adhesive materials and/or backing may also need to be scraped or cut back.
  • Water sprays should again be used.
  • Work in cool atmospheric conditions if possible, and ensure that electrical appliances and heat sources are removed from the work area. If wet, allow the underlying floor surface to dry, then thoroughly clean with wetted disposable cloths.

Dispose of all used materials as asbestos waste.

Where can asbestos waste be disposed?

All asbestos material must be disposed at a landfill or waste disposal site licensed by the Department of Environment Regulation (PDF 137KB) (external site).

More information

Remember

  • Use a competent, licensed asbestos removalist to do any work relating to asbestos containing products.
  • Don’t use power tools to drill, cut, sand or remove materials containing asbestos, as this will release asbestos fibres.
  • Never use a high pressure cleaner to clean asbestos cement roofing or cladding.

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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