The use of asbestos siding shingles was a popular one that was used in the US from the early part of the 20th century until the 1970s.
The siding was made by combining cement with asbestos, which is a naturally occurring mineral that is fibrous in nature and fireproof.
Adding asbestos to the cement shingles gave them more strength and resistance to fire (as well as rot and termite resistance, due to the nature of the product.
Asbestos shingle siding came in a variety of textures, profiles, shapes, and sizes. Compared to wood, it was much more durable and weather-resistant, and it was easy to maintain as far as cleaning and painting.
They were easy to package and ship and could be cut down to size as needed and was a popular choice for exterior siding, despite the fact that it wasn’t the most aesthetic siding choice available.
Dangers of Asbestos Siding Shingles
Asbestos was incorporated into a variety of building materials until it was discovered that inhaling asbestos fibers could cause cancer and other lung diseases, at which point asbestos ceased to be used in the construction of homes and buildings.
Due to its previous popularity, this means that many homes today in the US still have asbestos shingle siding on the exterior, as well as potentially in other products such as tile, sheetrock, insulation, and pipe wrap.
Shingle siding is only dangerous when broken up and the fibers are disturbed and sent into the air and inhaled. Intact siding that is still in place poses no health risk, as mesothelioma and other lung diseases only occur when a large amount of fibers are inhaled.
Identifying Siding Shingles with Asbestos
There’s only one way to know for certain if siding on your home contains asbestos and that’s through a laboratory test. Samples can be collected and sent off and tested for a nominal fee to see if they contain asbestos.
This is especially important with products such as shingle siding as there’s no way to tell from looking at it whether or not it contains asbestos, even if the siding is old enough. Some siding manufacturers included abestos in their shingles while others didn’t.
Repairing or Replacing Siding
Due to the low risk of asbestos shingle sidings, you’ll have several options if it turns out that you do indeed have them on your home.
Some homeowners simply leave it in place, buying newer asbestos-free siding from GAF and other manufacturers that exactly matches the look and profile of older siding. Older cracked or broken siding can be replaced piece by piece, with care taken to not break the old shingle siding when removing it.
Others choose to encapsulate the older siding by installing vinyl siding over it. This is a proven technique that avoids the risk of disturbing asbestos siding during removal, with the new vinyl siding acting as a barrier that seals it in.