Asbestos Siding – Remove It or Leave It Alone?
Written by Todd Fratzel.
Should You Remove Asbestos Cement Siding?
Here in New England there are thousands of homes with Asbestos Cement Siding. Not only can it be really ugly but many home owners fear the obvious health risks and financial liability that may be associated with it. Many homeowners often ask whether or not they should have it removed from their home or leave it alone. Read on and I’ll give you my thoughts about this sensitive subject.
What is Asbestos Cement Siding?
According to Merriam-Webster, Asbestos Cement is:
“a hardened mixture of asbestos fibers, portland cement, and water used in relatively thin slabs for shingles, wallboard, and siding”
Asbestos siding was first introduced into the US in the early 1900′s by Austrian engineer Ludwid Hatschek. He discovered how asbestos could help “reinforce” thin shingles made from cement. From about the 1920′s until the 1970′s hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of homes were built using asbestos cement siding. If offered home owners a fire resistant, rot resistant, and insect resistant siding material that was affordable and easy to paint.
Health Risks with Asbestos Siding
According to the EPA, exposure to asbestos can lead to lung diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. While these are obviously terrible diseases the risk associated with exposure from asbestos cement siding isn’t that great unless you’re cutting, drilling or removing damaged siding. This is because exposure happens when the fibers are inhaled into the lungs. The fibers are only released into the air when the siding material is damaged or cut.
Remove Asbestos Cement Siding or Leave It Alone?
Whether you’re remodeling an existing home or deciding if you should buy a home with asbestos cement siding you may be wondering what to do with it. In many cases homeowners find this siding ugly and dated and want to replace it with a more modern, aesthetically pleasing option. This poses the question of whether or not you should replace the siding or leave it alone.
In most cases it’s best to leave the existing asbestos cement siding alone and not disturb it (this is also the preferred method of the EPA). In this situation another type of siding can be installed over the existing siding further protecting it from people. One of the most common applications is installing a thin layer of foam insulation over the old siding then installing new vinyl siding.
If you do decide to remove the old asbestos cement siding, it’s best left in the hands of trained and licensed professionals. Licensed asbestos abatement companies follow the Governments best management practices and dispose of the asbestos in approved locations. This type of work isn’t well suited for home owners or DIY’ers.
Final Thoughts on Asbestos Cement Siding
While asbestos is considered a hazardous waste it’s not the end of the world or a real estate nightmare. This type of siding can easily be sided over or in extreme cases removed and disposed of. Removal is obviously much more expensive but certainly nothing unusual. The key to understanding and respecting the dangers of asbestos is to be sure the product isn’t damaged and you’re not exposed to any particles suspended in the air.
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