What You Need to Know Before Buying a House with Asbestos
Buying a house can be very difficult. There are lots of things to consider before putting the money down, from the house’s location to the condition, accessibility, size and more.
But what’s even more difficult is to check out a house that you really love and want to buy, only to find out that it has asbestos in it. Second thoughts come to your mind almost instantly. Should you push through with the purchase? Or do you back out?
Asbestos presence in a house is not something to be taken lightly. That’s why in this piece, we’re going to share with you what exactly you need to do during these situations.
But before we go deep into that, here’s a little background about asbestos…
Believe it or not, Australia has a long history with asbestos. It was first mined in Wittenoom in Western Australia (around the 1930s up until the 70s) and was widely used from the 1940s until its total ban in December 2003.
It was also used in almost every industry that you could think of. From construction (both commercial and residential) to ship making, cars and aircraft, boilers, HVAC systems and more.
Because it was cheap and highly effective when it comes to fireproofing and insulation, it’s no wonder why almost every home from that era was built with asbestos as well.
In Australia, houses built before 2004 have a chance of containing asbestos is some form or another. Some of the common places it might be found include:
- Roofing shingles
- Chimney flues
- Ventilation ducts
- Pipe insulations
- Wall insulations
- Corrugated asbestos sheeting
- Heater and stove insulation
- Lino tiles and seamless vinyl floor covers
- Carpet underlays
- Cement sheetings (particularly behind wall and floor tiles)
- Fireplaces and more
Although it was once considered the “miracle material”, it’s no secret that asbestos is a hazardous one. That’s why it was banned in Australia in the first place.
If you get exposed to a significant amount of asbestos, there is a chance that you’ll develop serious health problems like lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and more.
These asbestos-related diseases will take decades to develop after the exposure, so you won’t really know at what age you’ll start having symptoms.
The worst thing is that there really is no cure for these diseases yet.
That’s why you should avoid getting exposed to this material as much as possible.
How to tell if your house has asbestos
It’s impossible to tell whether a house contains asbestos or not by simply looking around – well, not 100% impossible, but very unlikely unless you have a lot of asbestos related knowledge.
The best thing that you can do is to ask the current owner or landlord about these places or items and see if there are asbestos-containing materials in them.
Most sellers would tell you upfront about the asbestos in the house, so you won’t get blindsided.
But if the homeowner doesn’t mention anything about the asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and the place was built right around the 40s to 90s, which is the peak of asbestos production and usage, you have every reason to feel sketchy about the sale.
It’s either the homeowners are hiding it from you, or they don’t know anything about the asbestos presence.
Either way, you’ll have to find out whether asbestos is present in the house so you can make the best decision moving forward.
If you’ve already found a new home to settle in, but you’re afraid that it has asbestos in it, then conducting a residential asbestos inspection is certainly worth it.
Doing this will not only confirm your hunch but will also protect you and your family from the potential health hazards of asbestos, particular if you are planning to carry out renovations.
Once you’ve confirmed the presence of asbestos-containing materials and their condition, you can either drop the deal altogether, use this as leverage to drive the price of the house down, and most importantly, you’ll know what you’re dealing with.
Although it’s not the best situation to be in, buying a house that contains asbestos is not necessarily the worst idea. As long as you know the risks that come with it, and you know how to manage these risks, you’ll be fine.
But if you’re going to ask us our professional opinion, these are the only reasons why we would buy a house with asbestos:
This is the best card that you hope is on the table. You can talk to the owners if they are willing to pay for the asbestos removal. And if they are, you have nothing else to worry about but to push through with the purchase of the house.
Completely removing the asbestos-containing materials will give you a huge sense of relief since you’re already eliminating the risks of asbestos exposure.
In some cases, asbestos-containing materials that are in the house don’t need to be removed. As long as they are in great condition and monitored, all you need to do is to leave them alone as much as possible.
You can hire professional asbestos inspectors to investigate what kind of ACMs are in the house, and whether they’re friable or not.
Friable asbestos is the type of asbestos that you hope is not present in your house. It easily crumbles down into dust or powders when disturbed, causing you to get exposed by inhaling or ingesting the fibres accidentally.
That’s why you must hire professional asbestos inspectors. They’ll indicate in their asbestos reports what type of ACMs are in the house and whether it’s better and relatively safer to not disturb these materials, especially if there’s not much in there.
It’s better if the house containing asbestos is move-in ready and you envision it as a house that won’t need any modification in the next 10 years.
This way, you won’t disturb the asbestos-containing materials by tearing the walls down and renovating the house. Doing this will only lead to asbestos fibres scattering in the air, compromising the health and safety of the whole family.
But when the time comes that you want to renovate the house to accommodate your growing family, make sure to get the ACMs removed first by asbestos professionals.
While buying a house with asbestos certainly has risks that come with it, what’s more important is that you know how to manage them. There are many ways to do that:
1. Leaving the fibres alone – if the ACMs are in perfectly good condition, you have nothing else to do but to make sure they won’t be disturbed in any way and that the condition is monitored.
2. Encapsulation – this is one way to prevent the ACMs from getting disturbed. For example, if the house has asbestos tiling, laying linoleum tiles over it is the best thing to do. Or if you have an asbestos roof or asbestos ceilings, you can install false ceilings to prevent the ACM from falling.
3. Putting an asbestos management plan in place – this is a written document that details the locations of the ACMs and the best steps to take to minimise the risks of asbestos exposure.
If you hire professional asbestos inspectors like us from Greenlight Environmental Services, creating this plan is normally part of our services.
4. Asbestos removal – doing this will not only help you manage your asbestos risks but will also eliminate them. Once done, you don’t need to worry about asbestos exposure if you need to renovate the house.
If you’re planning to buy a house that was built before 2004, testing it for asbestos is one of the best things you can do. Especially if the homeowners or landlords have no knowledge of asbestos presence in the house as well.
Our accurate asbestos testing and reporting services will certainly help you when purchasing a house. If it turns out that the house contains asbestos, you can rightfully stop the purchase and seek other options. This way, you don’t have to face the potential health risks that come with the said material.
If you suspect that the house you want to buy has asbestos in it, call us on 03 9048 4411 and we’ll confirm it for you!