The Ultimate Guide to Asbestos Roofs

For the most part of the previous century, the construction industry was blessed with a cheap and easy-to-work-with roofing solutions. That of course, included asbestos roofs who are still fairly common today. However, a lot has changed about how we view asbestos nowadays and things are more complicated than they seem.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that is both durable and resistant to heat and chemicals. Because of these properties, the material was heavily used in construction – namely, for insulation, fireproofing, and roofing. As the material is also abundant, it is also a cheap material that construction companies can use.

Since the 1980s, there has been a massive decline in asbestos roofs worldwide. That doesn’t mean they no longer exist. In fact, there are still many asbestos roofs out there, but they are often left untouched or damaged – more on that later though.

What Are The Risks Behind Asbestos?

In general, asbestos is still pretty common around the world. They can be found as insulators in buildings, homes, and other places. Of course, they are also used as roofing and siding materials as well. It was discovered that while a practical solution to construction, asbestos poses severe health risks as well.

Asbestos is made up of minuscule fibers that can be inhaled by anyone.  Asbestos products that are in good condition are no problem. However, if they are interfered in any way (sanding, cutting, drilling, pressure-cleaning, brooming etc) asbestos fibers can become airborne and if inhaled, they can get trapped in your lungs.

The fibers can accumulate over time. These will cause scarring and inflammation in your lungs. This will result in serious respiratory problems. One of which is asbestosis which is classified with symptoms that include shortness of breath, coughing, and pleural plaques and pleural effusions.

What’s harrowing is that it can take years – even decades, before the symptoms of asbestos fibers begin to appear. It’s important to know that the longer you are exposed to the fibers, the higher the risks on your end. As such, the best way to prevent such risks is to have your home inspected for possible asbestos problems.

Due to the health risks it possesses, Asbestos is now heavily regulated in various parts of the world. You might not know it yet but the home you own right now might have an asbestos roof covering it. The first step is determining whether or not this is the case in your house currently.

How To Detect If You Have An Asbestos Roof

The best way to have your home checked for asbestos roofing is to find professionals to do it for you. This means that if you can, you should contact your home’s contractors to ask about the materials they used for the roofing. Alternatively, you can contact roof repair contractors as well.

As a rule, if the roof material is fibro cement and older than 30 years, it is asbestos.

My Home Has An Asbestos Roof – What Do I Do Now?

If your home has an asbestos roof, you’ll be left with two choices –  have it replaced with a suitable material such as Zincalum or Colorbond, or have it encapsulated. What you do with your roof completely depends on your choice but it’s often best to ask roof experts about what the best course of action should be.

Replacing the roof involves a strict protocol: workers fitted with disposable personal protection (overalls, masks, gloves, hats etc) remove the asbestos sheets that have been previously sprayed with a binder solution to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne, sheets covered in durable plastic & tape then disposed in Council designated asbestos depos. The roof cavity is then vacuumed with a suitable vacuum to remove any loose fibers before the new roof goes on. This process makes the roof replacement an expensive operation.

The more economical alternative, the encapsulation process on the other hand, involves:

*applying anti-mould solution to kill the mould spores and prevent them from breeding under the coatings.

* Spraying a coat of sealer/binder is applied to seal & bind the fibers preventing them from becoming airborne.

* Applying a coat of filler to smooth out all the build-up material that has accumulated over the years and to help identify any cracks or holes around the screws or bolts that hold the sheets (over the years and with ground movements, the hard metal of the screw/bolt wears off the softer asbestos material enlarging the hole around it an allowing water to enter the roof cavity).

* Repairing/sealing any cracked sheets or ridges with a flexible, self adhesive waterproofing tape with silver backing for extra protection, seal all intrusions with Azcothane, a water-based, polyurethane, waterproofing membrane, enhanced with fibers for durability.

* Applying 2 coats of a thick, 100% acrylic, UV resistant roof membrane that completely seals the asbestos roof and gives it a new lease of life. As a rule, encapsulating the asbestos roof will give it at least 10 years of extra life and peace of mind for you and your family.

What’s important amidst all this is that you have an expert working alongside you. They know what’s best for you and your asbestos roof after all.

Can You Clean Your Asbestos Roof?

No. You need to keep in mind that some cities and governments impose heavy sanctions if you clean your asbestos roof

If you clean your roof, you might put yourself at risk of damaging the material, thus causing the fibers to become airborne and pollute the surroundings.

Asbestos roofs have long been a part of society. Despite the health risks they pose, it’s good knowing that governments and regulatory commissions are taking steps to ensure that people are safe from its dangers.

In saying that; asbestos roofs are ok as long as they are not interfered in any way that can cause fibers to become airborne; encapsulating them will enhance aesthetics, seal the roof and give it a long lease of life.

It’s good knowing that there are roof experts that can help you out with your asbestos roof – be it removal, repairs, or encapsulation that you need to be done.