Building Surveying
Apr 30, 2024

Asbestos Information Sheet

These notes are for initial guidance and the intention is not to cause undue alarm. Asbestos content in building materials..

ASBESTOS INFORMATION SHEET

These notes are for initial guidance and the intention is not to cause undue alarm. Asbestos content in building materials is relatively common, especially in buildings prior to 2000. 

Asbestos content is not a health hazard unless materials are disturbed. Nevertheless, there has been increasing awareness of the health hazards of such materials and removal can be expensive if it requires the services of a licenced asbestos contractor.

It is therefore important when works are carried out that you and/or another responsible person and/or company who instructs contractors to carry out works makes them aware of any possible asbestos. We recommend instructing an asbestos survey to be undertaken with an asbestos management policy prior to instructing any works for the sake of everyone’s safety 

You should also seek confirmation that the contractors are familiar with such materials. If extensive removal or repair of damage asbestos-containing material should occur, then this must be carried out by a licensed asbestos removal contractor. 

Our building survey report is not to be construed as an asbestos survey, although we may mention any possible asbestos we may identify in passing. Such materials can often be hidden in older buildings, so care should be taken to make checks before investigating structures roof ceilings, finishes, etc.

Below are some examples of materials which (retrofit) properties may contain:

Damp-Proof Course and Felt Flashings

Strips and sheets of bitumen felt with asbestos added for strength have often been used to improve the waterproof integrity of the footings of older buildings. 

In normal service, the material is very stable and fibre release is unlikely. Therefore, under present legislation, it does not need to be replaced but can be managed “in situ”. 

In the event of refurbishment involving the dismantling of the buildings, the contractor should be advised of potential asbestos content. 

If the felt is removed for disposal, it should not be broken up or burnt which may liberate asbestos fibres into the atmosphere.

A pad of bitumen felt with asbestos added for strength was frequently applied to the underside of sink units as transit packing from manufacturers. In normal service, the material is very stable and fibre release is unlikely and therefore, under present legislation, does not need to be removed. 

If the pad is removed for disposal, it must not be broken up or burnt which may liberate asbestos fibres into the atmosphere. 

Floor Tiles

It is possible that the floor tiles may contain asbestos-based content as do the glues used to attach these to the floor. Early “plastic”' floor tiles often had a small amount of asbestos added for extra strength in the material. The material is very stable and has a low asbestos content (up to 7%). In normal service, fibre release is unlikely. Therefore, under present legislation, they do not need to be replaced. Generally, if tiles are in good condition, they can often be left alone and “managed in situ” by annual inspection and simple maintenance. The glues used may in certain cases contain asbestos.

Soffits

The panels are frequently asbestos cement composite. This can be fibrous and potentially hazardous if damaged and/or disturbed, but can often be left alone and “managed in situ” by annual inspection and simple maintenance such as painting.

Ceiling Artex

Old decorative ceiling coatings like “Artex” often had small amounts of asbestos added to the material to improve strength. Generally, if ceilings are in good condition, they can be left alone and “managed in situ” by annual inspection. Maintaining a good paint covering is also useful.

Roof Tiles and roof underlining.

It is not always possible to correctly identify asbestos content in roof tiles. If a roof is removed, it would be prudent to check that there are no asbestos-based materials either within the tiles or by way of hidden roof lining, often called an under-cloak.

Useful sources of information and regulations

Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006

The Asbestos (Licencing) Regulations 1998 (As amended)

The Asbestos (Prohibition) Regulations 1992 (Amended 1998)

Health & Safety Executive (HSE)

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

Asbestos Watchdog

Types of Asbestos 

White

Chrysotile has been used more than any other type and accounts for about 95% of the asbestos found in buildings. The most common use is within corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets typically used for outbuildings, warehouses and garages. It is also found as flat sheets used for ceilings and sometimes for walls and floors. 

Brown

Amosite is from Asbestos Mines of South Africa. One formula given for amosite is it is found most frequently as a fire retardant in thermal insulation products and ceiling tiles. 

Blue

Crocidolite commonly occurs as soft fibres. Common uses include:

  • Packing of plumbing joints.
  • Ceilings and roof materials
  • Glues
  • Thermoplastic tiles
  • Heat insulation
  • Cookers boilers flues chimney pots and some older domestic appliances.
  • Some roofing tiles. 
  • Some Artex types of ceiling coverings
  • Some screw fixing plugs in walls
  • A useful site is set out below.