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Ask the Expert: Asbestos

If you’re in the process of buying or selling a property and asbestos is identified, it could be tempting to panic and put a halt to the transaction. However, finding asbestos needn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker.

In the latest of our Ask the Experts series, we take a closer look at the issue of asbestos in properties.

What is Asbestos and where was it used?

Asbestos is a substance that was commonly used in the manufacture of building materials between 1930 to 1980, during which time the harmful nature of the substance was widely unknown. Asbestos was extensively used in building materials including:

  • Roofing, shingles, felt and cladding
  • Insulation (common in homes built in the 1930s to 1950s).
  • Textured paint/artex
  • Patching and joint compounds
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Piping for hot water

Following the discovery of the harmful nature of asbestos fibres, most asbestos-containing materials (ACM’s) were banned from construction in the UK in 1999.

What are the risks of asbestos?

Asbestos is only harmful when disturbed, damaged, or in deteriorating condition. If asbestos is in good condition or undisturbed, it is widely accepted that the level of threat is minimal.

If you know your property contains asbestos and you plan on undertaking any building work or renovations, you should instruct a licensed asbestos professional who will be able to properly contain and remediate the asbestos before, during, and after the works.

If your home was built during the period asbestos was commonly used and you plan on undertaking renovations, you might be well advised to have an asbestos survey undertaken. This will determine whether asbestos is present, and if so, where. Should work begin without an inspection and any asbestos is disturbed or damaged during the process, you could put yourself, family, or tenants at risk.

How do I know if my property contains asbestos?

The age and type of a building can give rise to the likely presence and location of asbestos. However, this isn’t always an entirely reliable indicator, and even older properties where asbestos during building would be unlikely can contain ACM’s – for instance, in later modifications such as fire protection, thermal or sound insulation, or services installations.

The only way to determine whether asbestos is present is to instruct a specialist asbestos surveyor, who will be able to undertake a full investigation.

What should I do if my survey uncovers asbestos?

If you are buying a residential or commercial property, your Chartered Surveyor may identify or highlight a risk of asbestos in your survey. If this happens, the Surveyor will usually recommend that you contact an asbestos specialist to advise you further. 

There is no statutory requirement to remove or treat areas of asbestos. Government guidance is to encourage people to leave alone any asbestos that is intact and in good condition. 

Where suspected asbestos-containing material is exposed and appears to be damaged or in poor condition, it may need to be removed. As well as being removed by an appropriate specialist, there are strict laws and guidance in relation to the disposal of any asbestos, which must be complied with.

The cost of removing asbestos varies widely on the type and usage of asbestos. A specialist asbestos surveyor should be able to give you a clear idea of how much the removal and disposal costs are likely to be.

Lea Hough’s team of Chartered Surveyors are well versed on the rules and regulations regarding asbestos and can assist property owners, or prospective property purchasers, who are concerned about asbestos. We are also able to recommend specialist asbestos contractors in Lancashire who will be able to provide detailed advice in this area. For more information, please contact us.

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“We had a Schedule of Condition carried out on a Commercial Property. From vacant possession to our proposed completion date we were really tight on time. Gary managed to carry out the inspection and write a very thorough report in the time needed to ensure we hit our completion date. The price of the report was also extremely competitive. I would recommend Lea Hough to anyone looking for a Professional Surveyors with excellent service & communication at a competitive price.”

Danny Ambler - Fuse Contract Furniture, Blackburn