Sayonara Cement: Safely Removing Asbestos Cement From Your Property

By now the dangers posed by the asbestos sheeting commonly used in older building is self-evident, and the mere mention of this dangerous insulating material sends a shiver up the spine of many a homeowner and property developer.

However, asbestos doesn't just exist in the rigid, fibrous boards that inhabit the public imagination -- asbestos was also used as an integrated material in many other building materials, but this asbestos is no less dangerous than its 'pure' counterparts and must still be removed promptly. One of the most insidious forms of asbestos, and one of the most difficult to remove safely, is asbestos cement.

What is asbestos cement?

Asbestos cement was a widely used material for much of the 20th century, and its unique properties mean that it can be found in a wide range of older Australian properties. By combining conventional cement with reinforcing asbestos fibres, builders were able to create an exceptionally strong and heatproof form of cement that was ideal for building durable, summer-proof homes.

However, any form of damage or abrasion sustained by a piece of asbestos cement can release asbestos fibres and particles into the atmosphere, their most dangerous and carcinogenic form. As such, asbestos cement must be removed and replaced with suitable replacement materials wherever it is found, be it a residential, commercial or industrial building.

How can I have asbestos cement removed from my property?

The first step of removing asbestos cement from your property is determining whether your property has any asbestos cement in the first place -- unfortunately, asbestos cement is visually very similar to more benign forms of cement, so a simple visual inspection is generally not enough.If you are lucky, you will have access to your building's original design and building plans, and blueprints, material manifests and other documentation can tell you the location and amounts of asbestos cement (if any) that are present on your property.

However, asbestos cement is predominantly found in older homes that may no longer have their original documentation --  in these cases you should call in a professional asbestos identification service. These services are often offered by the same firms who can safely remove asbestos cement from your property, so choosing the same company to provide both services can be a great way to save time and money.

Once the location and state of any asbestos cement on your property has been ascertained, the removal process can begin. Smaller amounts of asbestos cement, such as those found on old garage roofs, can be safely tackled yourself as long as you do not allow them to break during removal. However, larger asbestos cement structures, particularly load-bearing structures, should always be removed professionally. Asbestos removal services have access to the protective equipment and knowledge required to remove substantial pieces of asbestos cement safely, and will also be able to advise you on which replacement materials (if any) you should choose.