If you own an older home built prior to the 1960s, the odds are good that you may be wrestling with the issue of asbestos siding removal.
Asbestos was commonly added to cement siding for many decades. It added durability and kept siding from breaking and cracking, plus it is very resistant to fire and weather.
Asbestos siding is very durable and in some cases remains in perfect condition 50+ years after being installed.
Asbestos siding is no longer used anymore and its presence is definitely something to consider when buying a house or remodeling a home, as far as asbestos siding removal issues and potential health risks.
Determining if You Have Asbestos Siding
One confusing issue with many building materials that asbestos was added to is that there’s no way to tell from a visual inspection whether or not it in fact contains asbestos.
Not every manufacturer used asbestos as an additive and those that did might not have used it in every product.
This is especially true of siding products, which were produced in similar profiles and shapes and sizes for decades but may or may not contain any asbestos depending on when it was manufactured.
The only true way to tell if you have asbestos siding is to have a test in a lab performed. Results can often be had in 24 hours or less, letting you know with certainty if you have a potential problem.
Asbestos Siding Removal Pros and Cons
One common misconception is that asbestos must be removed, and that removing it is very expensive and dangerous.
Asbestos siding poses absolutely no health risk of the siding is intact and in place. Touching intact asbestos siding poses no health risk. Handling intact asbestos siding poses no health risk.
Asbestos siding only poses a health risk when it is broken up and friable and the fibers become airborne.
If that doesn’t happen, it poses no danger. The fact that the siding is outdoors also reduces risks, as fibers must be inhaled in large quantities to be dangerous, which typically only happens in enclosed areas where air is re-circulated.
If you have asbestos siding on the exterior of your house and it is not broken, chipped, and falling off the wall, it poses no health risk.
If only a few siding pieces are broken, cracked, or chipped, you can now find replacement siding made by companies such as GAF and James Hardie that match the look and profile of older siding.
If you do opt for asbestos siding removal, keep in mind that you’ll need replacement siding for everything you remove.
Removing Asbestos Siding
If you decide to remove asbestos siding from your home, you’re basically faced with two options: hiring a licensed asbestos abatement contractor or removing the siding yourself (assuming laws in your area allow you to do so).
Hiring a professional with the proper equipment and regulation is the safest course of action but it can also be quite expensive, with some jobs running in the tens of thousands of dollars depending on where you live.
The specialized equipment used is costly as well as the added cost of properly disposing of the hazardous material in many states.
Homeowners are allowed in most states to remove asbestos from their home themselves, although it’s essential that proper safety steps are followed.
Asbestos removal is too difficult and dangerous a job for homeowners to tackle in most cases but asbestos siding is one of the easiest and least dangerous forms of asbestos to handle.
Steps for Safe Asbestos Siding Removal
The removal of the siding itself is a relatively simple task. The process is similar to what an asbestos abatement company would do when removing siding.
Buy a Tyvek suit and gloves and use a respirator rated for work with asbestos and toxic dust when actually removing the siding.
Wet all siding down thoroughly before removing it and be very careful not to break pieces when removing them from the wall.
In most cases, siding was installed with nails. You’ll have to use trial and error to find what method and tools work best for asbestos siding removal but your goal is to gently pry each piece off intact, using a pry bar or similar tool to carefully work it off the wall.
Carefully place each piece of siding in a heavy-duty contractor bag. Don’t overfill bags as the siding pieces will be heavy.
When a bag is full, double bag it and seal securely.
Disposal procedures will vary from state to state so you’ll need to check local laws to see how you can properly dispose of the asbestos siding that you remove.
Throw away the Tyvek suit and any clothes worn while actively removing and handling siding.
Before tackling asbestos siding removal jobs be sure to check with local and state agencies for any resources they provide.
Many states (such as Texas and Maine) provide detailed guides to removing asbestos siding and other materials.