How to Safely Remove Asbestos Siding

A particular type of non-wood siding product popular from about 1940 to 1960 made use of asbestos fibers blended with cement to create hard panels that were both strong and fireproof. Though sometimes known simply as “asbestos siding,” these products are more accurately described as “asbestos-cement.” By the early 1960s, as it became clear that asbestos fibers posed health risks when inhaled or ingested, the use of asbestos in siding and other building products was gradually phased out and other types of fibers were used to reinforce cementitious siding products. But millions of homes were sided with this siding containing asbestos during these years, and today’s homeowners and siding companies are faced with the problem of how to handle this hazardous material as homes are updated with new siding.

You might think that asbestos-cement siding must be removed, but in fact, removal may be unnecessary. Asbestos siding never needs to be removed simply because it is asbestos. As long as the siding remains intact, it can stay in place, where it remains harmless. Asbestos is really only an issue when it is disturbed in a manner that frees the asbestos fibers to travel through the air or into soil or water supplies. In fact, you may be able to install new siding on top of the asbestos-cement siding without removing it at all. This is often the approach used by siding replacement companies who may install new vinyl siding or other appropriate materials directly over asbestos-impregnated siding, thereby safely sealing and confining it.

However, if the old siding material is flaking, cracking, sloughing, or otherwise badly damaged, then removal is usually warranted. You have two options: You can either hire an asbestos abatement company (or a siding company that works in partnership with abatement specialists) or you can do it yourself.

Before You Begin

In many municipalities, there are no laws requiring that you hire an asbestos company. Laws on the books often pertain to the disposal, not removal, of asbestos siding. Removing asbestos siding, then, can be a do-it-yourself project, though you need to make sure that you do the job safely and completely. If you are not cutting, sanding, drilling, or otherwise creating dust from the siding, the hazards are greatly reduced. Merely removing a nail and taking down a siding shingle usually will not place you in danger.

There are many types of cementitious siding products, so before you worry about special removal and disposal techniques, you need to determine if you indeed have siding that’s impregnated with asbestos fibers. Some likely signals that you are dealing with potentially hazardous siding include:

  • A hard-surfaced (non-wood) siding shingle installed before 1979 is likely to include asbestos. After this point, most cementitious sidings made use of other types of fiber.
  • Siding planks or shingles containing asbestos often have grooves or a faux wood grain pressed into them. The bottom of the shingle often has a wavy pattern.
  • If you can remove a single panel, the backside of an asbestos-siding product generally does not have a manufacturing code stamped onto it. If this stamp is present, you are probably looking at a non-asbestos product.
  • Most asbestos-containing siding products are 12 x 24-inch shingles, similar in size to roofing shakes and shingles.

Even though you are removing the siding yourself, the costs you incur might surprise you. You will likely need to buy a proper HEPA respirator, disposable hazards suits, extra-strength disposal bags, and possibly some other demolition tools. The most expensive components, however, might be the work permits and disposal fees. This can vary quite a lot by region, but in urban areas, the permitting and hazardous waste disposal fees might well cost several hundred dollars. But this will probably still be many thousands less than the cost of having the work done by a professional remediation company.

Safety Considerations

There is no need to panic merely because you identify your siding as a product that contains asbestos. Asbestos siding products made by blending fibers with Portland cement are among the most stable (non-friable) of all building materials containing asbestos, especially when compared to the insulation materials that contain asbestos. The asbestos in siding materials is bound together very tightly with hardened cement, The primary danger posed by asbestos comes when tiny fibers become airborne where they can be inhaled into the lungs. Unless siding materials are shattered, drilled, sanded, or weathered so badly that the surfaces have begun to fray and splinter, you are probably not in any danger simply because this type of siding covers your home.

But you will need to take some special precautions if you choose to remove asbestos-cement siding yourself. The process of pulling nails and prying off siding shingles will inevitably cause some breakage, and it’s important to do this work carefully so as to avoid directly inhaling fibers or dust, or distributing asbestos fibers around where they can create an ongoing hazard.

The potential health problems caused by asbestos are very real, including asbestosis, pleural disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Just as important as your demolition technique is the process you use to dispose of the asbestos-impregnated siding materials. Asbestos removal requires that you apply for a permit to do the work, and the local permits office will give you specific requirements for how to bag up the demolition materials and where to dispose of them. Under no circumstances should you violate these requirements, as asbestos discarded improperly in standard landfills can cause contamination to water supplies.

Asbestos-laden debris is usually handled by recycling companies who transform the materials through heat treatment materials into safe ceramics or aggregates used in road construction. Any other method of disposal is probably illegal. NEVER try to dispose of these materials at standard landfill sites.

Disclaimer: Curated and re-published here. We do not claim anything as we translated and re-published using google translator. All images and Tattoo Design ideas shared only for information purpose.

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