If you suspect you’ve got asbestos or know that you need it removed, you’ll not be too worried about the cost of having your home tested or made safe. But just because it’s a vital job, it doesn’t mean that you should pay over the odds. Read our guide for information on everything related to asbestos, including the cost and how to get the best deal for your asbestos testing or removal project.
- Do your research
- What is asbestos?
- Where’s asbestos found?
- What are the dangers of asbestos?
- How to deal with asbestos?
- Professional asbestos survey steps
- How and where is asbestos disposed of?
- Who should remove asbestos?
- Set a budget
- How much does it cost to remove asbestos?
- Local council services
- Does home insurance cover asbestos removal?
Do your research
Asbestos is a very common problem, so it’s a good idea to read up on the issue. Have you confirmed its presence in your home? Learn why it’s there, what risks it poses and how to deal with it, safety and effectively.
If you’re not sure whether there’s asbestos in your walls, ceiling or other areas, you should have the property surveyed. These specially trained and licensed professionals can identify the type of asbestos and advise you on what to do next. They, like most asbestos services, come at a price. But with their help and your own research you should be able to set down a practical plan and budget.
What is asbestos?
Let’s start with the basics. Asbestos refers to six microscopic fibrous minerals that are naturally combined into soft substances. Their great resilience to heat, electricity and decay made them very popular construction materials in the ‘30s. A few decades later and asbestos revealed its dangers, but not before homes around the world were already covered in it. Since 1999, all asbestos products have been banned in the UK.
If your property was built or renovated in the mid to late 1930s, it’s very likely that you’ll find asbestos in various parts of the building. It’s no reason to panic, but don’t check for it yourself without the proper knowledge or gear. While there are asbestos signs you can easily pick up on, it’s better to pay for a surveyor and the security that comes with them.
Common types of asbestos
White or Chrysotile
The colour is typically white or grey. Its composition, strong but flexible and porous, made it ideal for both residential and commercial buildings, as well as garages. Current applications aren’t restricted to building construction – home appliances, brake linings and protective clothing depend on its handy but carefully handled properties.
Brown or Amosite
The second most popular asbestos of the past owes its brown colour to the iron and magnesium in its makeup. Because of its brittleness, however, it was reserved for insulation and ceiling materials.
Blue or Crocidolite
As the name suggests, this asbestos is blue or grey in colour. Its appearance can also range from translucent to cloudy. Even through quite flexible, it lacks the heat resistance to suit the same widespread applications as chrysotile. In fact, it was only used in the production of cement.
Additional types of asbestos
The colours you may encounter are grey, green or white. However, this is a rarer strain of asbestos and is unlikely to be present in buildings. When manufacturers could acquire the mineral, it was typically added to cement and insulation products.
Magnesium levels in this asbestos affect whether it turns white, grey, brown, green or translucent. It was used in building materials like plasterboard, stucco and fireproofing products. While another rare form of the mineral, it still found its way into UK homes and will need to be removed if detected.
Its colours and qualities are similar to tremolite’s, making it another favourite additive for a variety of construction solutions. Insulation, paint, plasterboard and other materials are the best places to look for the mineral.
Where’s asbestos found?
All types were used across the construction industry. Brands like Artex revamped their products so they didn’t contain asbestos or only had trace amounts that could be easily managed. In terms of homes with pre-1999 works, the truth is there aren’t many places it can’t be found. But knowing the facts helps homeowners and tradespeople detect issues and deal with them effectively. The asbestos cost is also easier to manage.
Explore buildings and parts of a property where asbestos was commonly used. Check the history of your home. Apart from the main house, asbestos work was often done to garages and sheds too. Water tanks and boiler rooms shouldn’t be overlooked either when testing for the stuff. The same for walls, floors and ceilings, especially since asbestos-based cement was a key building material.
From rafters to floorboards and tiles, many features can be included in the survey. Insulation was heavily dependent on asbestos, white and other strains. So, lofts, windows, cavity walls and anything related to this sort of work are good things to inspect. Ventilation systems and roofing materials too. Also make a point of looking at pipes, flues and guttering.
Here’s a summarised list:
- Ceiling, flooring and walls in the house, garage and shed
- Loft and boiler room
- Door and window frames
- Insulation, ventilation, roofing materials, plasterboards and cement, especially Artex products
- Water tanks
- Pipes, gutters and flues
What are the dangers of asbestos?
Cases of asbestos poisoning remain a common occurrence in the UK, but there are ways to avoid exposing yourself to the harmful minerals. First off, asbestos is harmless when solid and undisturbed. The problem is when its structure crumbles, whether from age, housework or a collapse. Inhaling fibres which then disturb the lungs is the primary cause of asbestos-related illnesses, like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Here are symptoms to look out for:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough
- Swollen fingertips
If you live in an old house, the best protection against asbestos poisoning is to find the harmful mineral and either isolate or remove it. In a modern home, you only risk exposure when using pre-2000 construction materials, like concrete or insulation, that probably contain large amounts of asbestos. Manufacturers today may add traces, but they take extra measures to keep their effects under control.
How to deal with asbestos?
There are two ways to at least remove the threat of asbestos. Which one you choose depends on your budget and building’s integrity. The more work you’ll need to do to the house, the higher the total asbestos cost will be.
This treatment involves locking the asbestos onto its surface, keeping the fibres contained. Simply painting over it isn’t enough because the sealant will start flaking off after a while. To ensure the long-lasting safety of the household, invest in a licensed pro. Knowing the best products and techniques in the asbestos-sealing business is their specialty, so they’ll come with exactly the right tools for the job.
Why choose to encapsulate? It’s easier, safer and cheaper – the price is lower than removing and rebuilding entire walls. Another factor is that, considering the age of buildings that contain asbestos, there’s always a question of how much reconstruction they can take without collapsing. Such an event would create extra risk for you, workers and neighbours as the asbestos scatters.
There comes a point, however, when the danger is too high to just seal it in. This would involve the asbestos no longer being stable and safe. In this case, if you have the money and reliable resources, why not get the job done properly? An added incentive is that local councils usually have schemes in place to help with asbestos situations.
Your finances and peace of mind will feel strained throughout the long process – it can take several days depending on your home’s needs. Expect a degree of disruption until the process is complete – the building will be wrapped in a live asbestos removal enclosure. But, in the end, you’ll have a better property to come home to. Both its value and safety will be increased.
Asbestos removal process and benefits
The first step in the process is identifying where the asbestos is and what type you’re dealing with. That’s a job best left for a surveyor, but, if you’re determined to cut down on costs, there are testing kits available in local and online retailers. They usually come with industry approved protective gear to use while following their instructions to the letter. Investing in a proper survey usually costs around £250, but gives you greater peace of mind.
Professional asbestos survey steps
- Formal documentation of asbestos locations
- Report on the type and condition of the asbestos
- Samples sent to a lab licensed by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)
- Assessment of whether the asbestos needs removing or encapsulating
Asbestos management survey
If a professional carries out the survey, they’ll use their own products and equipment to test how easily the asbestos in your home or office releases fibres into the air. This involves lightly disturbing the substance, so you’ll have to steer clear of the location while the surveyor’s working. You may want to leave the premises entirely for a while. This less intrusive process determines if the asbestos is in good condition and how likely activities around the building are to accidentally make it disintegrate.
Asbestos refurbishment and demolition survey
When an old building needs renovating or demolishing, this more intensive process is required to decide its safety before works begin. In this case, vacating the premises is essential for as long as it takes to complete the inspection. Why? The surveyor will be carrying out a far more intrusive process, meaning breaking down parts of the building to find and identify every bit of asbestos.
Encapsulation or removal
Once the surveyor can detail the mineral type and risk of poisoning, they’ll instruct you on what needs to happen next. This’ll either involve encapsulation or removal, each demanding a certain amount of work, time and money.
A detailed price guide is available below, but expect to spend around £8 per m2 for encapsulation and at least £50 per m2 for removal. Overall, asbestos survey and removal costs vary, depending on the tradespeople you hire and the extent of works you end up needing.
In terms of time, the first method is faster than the second, but they can both take several days before the house is deemed safe from asbestos. Consequently, be ready to make living arrangements for you and the rest of the household. This is another expense to keep in mind as you calculate the overall budget for the project.
A surveyor takes this measure at the beginning and end of the process. It can involve four separate tests over a set period that check if there’s asbestos in the air and how much. Generally, it shouldn’t exceed 0.1 fibres per cm3.
- Personal test: checks exposure to residents and employees
- Background test: the standard evaluation of a building before any works are carried out
- Leakage test: checks for leaks outside the live asbestos removal enclosure, but is also used throughout the process
- Reassurance test: final assessment of the property’s air after the asbestos is removed and before you can return
How and where is asbestos disposed of?
Because of the nature of the material, there’s a specific process to disposing and destroying asbestos. Firstly, the removal professional wears a protective dust mask and disposable overalls. The harmful materials are carefully double bagged to release as few fibres as possible. Even their exposed clothing and anything used to clean up debris are sealed in a bag at the end of the project.
According to official asbestos removal procedures, these bags and larger sealed asbestos materials are then stored in lockable containers and transported to licensed landfills. You can either hire the services of a local asbestos skip or disposal company. Each option has a different price range and is more suitable for particular asbestos waste sizes. Independent companies, for example, aren’t the best or cheapest for large quantities.
Currently, the final stage of asbestos disposal involves storing the waste at special licensed sites. But researchers are coming up with ways to completely destroy the materials, such as the ABCOV method. Through non-thermal physical-chemical processes, asbestos is broken down without impacting the environment. Once such methods are officially sanctioned, it shouldn’t be long before they’re incorporated in the asbestos disposal services.
Who should remove asbestos?
This is the kind of work that must be left to trained pros. The asbestos cost may be higher than if you dealt with the matter yourself, but the risk to your health would be too great to ignore. Also, the money you’d need to spend on gear for a safe asbestos disposal job – mask, clothing, plastic bags, secure containers and more – could easily buy you reliable services to take care of everything for you.
While there are small jobs that don’t require special credentials, the more intense services absolutely do. On top of that, any work likely to cause more than minor disturbance to asbestos must be declared to your local council authority.
To begin with, make a note of qualifications recognised by the Asbestos Licensing Unit (ALU):
- HSE Licence
- BOHS P402 Standard
- Hazardous Waste Carriers Licence
Whatever the asbestos task, check that the asbestos removal professionals you hire are well certified and vetted. This ensures that they come with plenty of training and experience to carry out the testing or disposal with the least amount of hassle to you. They’ll also be able to advise you on everything related to the minerals – from what local help you can get for an asbestos problem to what you should look out for after works are finished.
If you’re wondering what exactly needs licensing and notifying, here’s a helpful list to stop you wasting funds and energy on services you don’t even need. Tick off the points that apply to your situation and make the appropriate plans.
- Collecting asbestos samples for analysis at a UKAS-licensed lab
- Minor and careful drilling for home improvements
- Sporadic and low intensity clearing of minor asbestos-containing materials
- Encapsulation of asbestos materials that are in good condition
- Maintaining, painting or repairing products with asbestos contents – cement, tiles, ropes, cloths, roof felt, cables and others – without it causing substantial deterioration to the minerals
- Removing the same kinds of low-risk materials while taking appropriate health and safety measures – minimal intensity, protective clothing and so on
- Interacting with materials or appliances that restrict the release of any contained asbestos, such as paint or old air conditioning units
Notifiable non-licensable work
- Anything engaging with asbestos cement products that may be substantially damaged
- Removal of asbestos paper and cardboard products if not firmly bonded in a matrix
- Large-scale removal of textured decorative coatings using steaming or gelling methods (e.g. beyond that required for maintenance activities such as installation/replacement of smoke alarms and fittings)
- Minor, short duration work to remove asbestos insulating board as part of a refurbishment project
- Minor short duration work involving asbestos insulation e.g. repairing minor damage to a small section of pipe insulation where the exterior coating has been broken or damaged
- High intensity jobs that require regular or lengthy interaction with asbestos-contained materials
- Environments likely to exceed the control limit of 0.1 fibres per cm3
- Sprayed coating removals
- Jobs that might disturb asbestos-based insulation in areas like pipes and walls
- Clearing large amounts of debris containing asbestos dust
Set a budget
Although you can’t leave asbestos once you know it’s there, it’s important to ensure you can afford it. Try to set a realistic budget and stick to that price range when you start to get quotes from all the services your situation needs. You can pick the one that matches best with your budget and circumstances.
How much does it cost to remove asbestos?
The only way to get an accurate price for asbestos testing or removal is to get a quote. But here are some typical costs that you can expect:
Type of asbestos service
£25 – £195
£50 – £100
Asbestos management survey
£150 – £600
Asbestos demolition survey
£100 – £250
Asbestos air testing (basic background air test)
£60 – £250
£8+ per m2
£800 – £3,000
Asbestos ceiling tiles removal
From £50 per m2
Asbestos guttering removal
£50+ per m2
Asbestos garage roof removal
£350 – £2500
Asbestos garage ceiling board insulation
Asbestos garage roof and sides removal
£600 – £1,100
Water tank removal
£44 – £277
Local council services
Depending on the type and size of the asbestos waste you want to dispose of, your local council should be able to help with its removal. Each county has its own policies and price ranges, however. A couple even offer minor services for free. The point is that you’ll need to get in touch with the right authorities to find out what’s available and for how much.
Also, make sure to check their terms and conditions, especially regarding who’s responsible for collecting asbestos waste. If you hire a commercial company, for example, the council may not accept responsibility for any waste they leave behind. The condition in this case is that the collection service is available to homeowners who’ve removed small quantities of asbestos-containing materials themselves.
To avoid such risk to your health, the best option would be to go for a reliable independent company that comes with proper vehicles to carry away the waste they’re responsible for. The overall asbestos cost may be higher than a combined DIY and council job, but minimising the danger of poisoning is surely worth the expense.
An alternative removal method for leftover waste following an independent job is to drive it – double-bagged and secure – to a local asbestos disposal centre. Such sites tend to only accept specific kinds of asbestos materials like cement, sheeting, pipes, guttering and flues. Even if your waste is small, you’ll need to phone in advance to check there’s available space. If you don’t already have all the information you need, this is a good time to fill in the blanks before paying and showing up with the asbestos.
Does home insurance cover asbestos removal?
Because of how widespread and costly asbestos is, insurance policies prefer to avoid covering any related services. There are exceptions and loopholes, however. Under very specific circumstances, some providers like Admiral will help with asbestos surveys, repairs and even alternative accommodation. For the rest of your home’s needs, you’ll have to make other arrangements with local council or commercial removal services.
Do plenty of research and you can set a manageable budget to tackle your asbestos problems. The best thing to do is to get a range of quotes and reviews from the different providers in your area. Every business has different overheads, so there can be a wide disparity between the offers you get.
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