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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To learn more about exterior walls and structures, see these other blog posts:

What is the average lifespan of a house foundation?

What causes vertical cracks in fiber cement siding planks?

What causes raised white lines of residue on a block wall that are crusty and crumbling? 

What is the difference between soil subsidence, heave, creep, and settlement? 

How much ventilation is required for the under-floor crawl space of a home? 

 What causes stair-step cracks in a block or brick wall?

What causes a horizontal crack in a block or brick wall? 

How can I tell if a diagonal crack in drywall at the corner of a window or door indicates a structural problem?

What causes the surface of old bricks to erode away into sandy powder? 

What are the pros and cons of concrete block versus wood frame construction?

Should I buy a house with a crawl space? 

Why is my stucco cracking?

There's cracks running along the home's concrete tie beam. What's wrong? 

What would cause long horizontal lines of brick mortar to fall out?

How do I recognize serious structural problems in a house?

What is engineered wood siding?

Should I buy a house that has had foundation repair? 

What is a "continuous load path”?   

How can I tell if cracks in the garage floor are a problem or not? 

What do you look for when inspecting vinyl siding?

Why is housewrap installed on exterior walls under the siding? 

How do I recognize serious structural problems in a house?

Why did so many concrete block homes collapse in Mexico Beach during Hurricane Michael? 

How can I tell if the concrete block walls of my house have vertical steel and concrete reinforcement?

Should I buy a house with structural problems? 

What are those powdery white areas on my brick walls?

What causes cracks in the walls and floors of a house?

How can I tell if the exterior walls of a house are concrete block (CBS) or wood or brick?

What are the common problems of different types of house foundations? 

• What are the warning signs of a dangerous deck?

How can I tell whether my house foundation problems are caused by a sinkhole or expansive clay soil?

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