Asbestos siding was very commonly used in buildings and homes from around the 1920s until the 1970s, and can still be found in many older homes in the US and Canada. .
Asbestos siding (also called cement siding) was typically made by adding asbestos (which is a natural fibrous mineral) to Portland cement, which was then pressed into siding shingles that came in a wide variety of sizes, profiles, and textures
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral that has been mined and used in various applications for over 4000 years, with most applications and industrial uses of it beginning in the 1800s. The largest asbestos mine for many years was located in Asbestos, Quebec.
Asbestos siding was relatively cheap to manufacture and was very durable and resistant to the elements; it was also easy to clean and paint adhered to it very easily, making maintenance and upkeep costs low. Asbestos was added to the cement because of its fire-retardant properties, as well as to add strength and durability to the siding shingles, as well as insulating capacity.
Asbestos Health Concerns
Unfortunately, though, there was a lurking problem with asbestos that took decades to confirm: those same asbestos fibers that were being added could cause cancer if they became airborne and were inhaled. Once that fact was confirmed, asbestos obviously ceased to be used in building materials, although decades of its use in building materials meant that it was still present in many, many homes.
One thing that should be noted is that when asbestos fibers are inert, intact, and encapsulated in cement siding (as is most often the case), it poses absolutely no health risk. Asbestos only poses a health risk when the fibers are airborne, which in the case of asbestos siding only occurs if the siding is actively sawed or broken into many smaller pieces. Intact asbestos siding on your home poses no health risk as long as it is undisturbed.
Mesothelioma and other cancers — as well as asbestosis and other lung diseases — are a serious danger after continued, long-term exposure to fibers from asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), so the health risk is absolutely real in instances when a person has prolonged exposure to the fibers and inhales them.
Asbestos Remediation and Removal
If you own a home that has asbestos siding or are considering buying a home with asbestos siding or asbestos siding removal, it is important to know the facts about the risks of asbestos, as well as your alternatives for dealing with it and disposing of it.
This site is designed to be an independent resource to give you exactly that: the facts about asbestos siding. Lawyers chasing big class action lawsuit settlements and removal contractors offering very expensive remediation services have made it difficult to find unbiased information on the subject.
There’s no “good” news when it comes to owning a home that contains asbestos, but dealing with siding is thankfully one of the easier cases, with several options available to most homeowners including removing it yourself depending on the state you live in and local laws and regulations.
Always test first to see if you actually have asbestos in your shingles or siding, as many manufacturers made similar looking cement siding that in fact contains no asbestos whatsoever. Some states offer free testing for residents, while others charge a nominal fee of $20 or less for testing services.
Once you’ve determined that you do in fact have asbestos siding, the next step is to weigh the options that include the cost of removing it, the health risks of disturbing it during removal, Asbestos siding disposal, and whether or not encapsulating the siding with new vinyl siding or other materials might be the best option when it comes to asbestos abatement.