Asbestos is often regarded as the silent killer, being responsible for a reputable 4,700 deaths every year in the UK, which is higher than the mortality rate arising from road accidents; and is expected to peak in 2015.

Asbestos was first identified in 1907 and was used extensively from 1950s onwards, not being finally banned until 1999; consequently there still remains a substantial amount of Asbestos in existing buildings today.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral that has been in widespread use since the 1950’s, and is used predominately for its thermal, acoustic and heat resistant properties. 

There are 3 main types of Asbestos, these are Chrysotile, (white), which is the most common, and Amosite (brown) and Crocodilite (blue). See Types of Asbestos for more information


Where was Asbestos used?

Asbestos is impossible to identify by the naked eye and requires sample testing to confirm its presence. However, there are a number of materials in the home, which where used extensively between 1940-1999 and incorporated asbestos in their formation, which are consequently regarded as ACM’s (asbestos containing materials) until proven otherwise.

It is highly unlikely that buildings constructed prior to 1800 will have had asbestos incorporated within their design, however asbestos materials may have been subsequently added at a later date, therefore, buildings of all ages should be checked for Asbestos


  • Asbestos Cement- Often found on corrugated profile metal roofs e.g. to garage and shed roofs.
  • Insulation board (AIB) – Asbestos insulation boards incorporated in partitions, doors and suspended ceilings
  • Thermal insulation – Often used to insulate hot water tanks, boiler rooms, steam pipes and in hot and cold water and air conditioning systems.
  • Paint- Asbestos used in textured coatings, particularly Artex on walls and ceilings.
  • Pipe insulation- Asbestos lagging for thermal insulation, taking the form of rigid pipe sections and sprayed coatings. Often Crocodilite used, with 100% asbestos content.
  • Sprayed Asbestos – Extensively used to provide fire resistance for structural steelwork
  • Floor coverings – Thermoplastic, PVC and vinyl tiles

Other typical common locations for Asbestos containing materials to check are heat pads beneath the kitchen sink, bakerlite toilet cisterns, packing within ceiling voids, tank and roof insulation, under cloaking to roof tiles and flash guards to electrical switch gear.


Identifying Asbestos

Asbestos cannot be identified by visual inspection only, and requires testing to confirm whether the material contains Asbestos. All suspect materials are assumed as containing Asbestos until testing proves otherwise. See article Types of Asbestos

If asbestos containing materials are suspected, reflecting the age of the property, or any sighted known materials the following may be undertaken:

Management survey  (old type 1 and 2)
This survey is conducted to locate as far as is reasonably practicable the presence of ACM’s (Asbestos containing materials).  Samples of suspect ACM’s are subsequently taken and tested to verify Asbestos.

Refurbishment and Demolition survey (old type 3)
This is an extensive survey, which seeks to locate and determine all the Asbestos within a building. This is a comprehensive survey, which is likely to be disruptive and may cause damage, as the Inspector may need to take up floorboards, remove tiles and break through walls, therefore this should only be considered if you are planning extensive refurbishment work.

There is also a legal requirement under Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 regulation 7 to identify as far as is reasonably practicable all Asbestos within a building prior to major refurbishment or demolition.
All Asbestos that is identified needs to be recorded in an Asbestos Register.  This Asbestos register must be presented to anyone whom may come into contact with Asbestos.


Dealing with Asbestos

The method for dealing with Asbestos depends to a large extent on the type, location and condition in which the Asbestos is found. As materials that are regarded as relatively low risk, whereby the Asbestos is unlikely to become airborne may be dealt with by competent persons and disposed off in the correct facility. See article Dealing with Asbestos

In other instances, a specialist Asbestos removal contractor may be needed to ensure the safe and effective removal of the Asbestos.

Due to the dangerous nature of Asbestos, and its impact on health, it is advised that, if you suspect Asbestos, you should consult with a professional, to undertake a detailed inspection.

If Asbestos is found, there are different options available, these are:

Asbestos Removal
This should be carried out in a careful manner, or by a suitable trained contractor, and may entail substantial disruptive works to remove the Asbestos, including use of a removal enclosure to prevent spread of airborne fibres. Asbestos must also be taken to a license waste disposal site.

Depending on the type of Asbestos material found and the risk of fibre release, a licensed Asbestos removal contractor may be required to remove the Asbestos.

An alternative to the removal of Asbestos is to simply leave it where it is, which is often the safest, not to mention the most cost effective option. There are a number of Asbestos encapsulation products on the market, which may be used, from use of rigid boards, which form an airtight seal, to application of spray coatings.


Further Advice

It is recommended that if Asbestos is suspected, or if you are planning on undertaking any works to a building which may disturb ACM, advice should be sought from a suitable qualified professional.