How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
The house has asbestos siding. What should I do?
Saturday, August 25, 2018
Asbestos cement siding is probably the longest-life, lowest-maintenance siding around. It was widely used on houses from the 1940s thru the 1960s, and is still found in many of the older Gainesville neighborhoods around the university and downtown. The siding on some of the earliest houses often still looks almost new.
But during the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the news media began to report on the health hazards associated with asbestos. As reports increased, concern grew, so the federal government took action. In 1973, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) banned the use of asbestos in building products.
However asbestos-siding is not considered a problem unless the asbestos fibers separate from the cement bonding agent in the siding and become airborne. There are two ways that this can happen: 1) disturbing the material by cutting, drilling, or removing sections of it, 2) or by surface deterioration/weathering. So, if you don’t disturb it and keep the surface painted, asbestos siding should not be a health risk. Most experts, including the EPA, agree that it should not be removed, but simply left alone.
Unfortunately, some insurance companies will not insure a home with asbestos siding, so it may increase the difficulty and cost of acquiring homeowner’s insurance. Also we recommend that, if you do have to remove or disturb the siding for any reason, never do the work yourself. Have an asbestos abatement contractor do it for you.
Even re-siding over existing asbestos siding that is left in place requires approval and safe handling. According to the Vinyl Siding Institute, a national trade organization, “asbestos siding is a regulated material, and the appropriate environmental agency or local building code official should be contacted before re-siding over this product."
Also, see our blog post Should I buy a house with asbestos siding?
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