A question I received almost daily is can I remove asbestos myself? First of all, let’s get one thing very clear: there are no safe forms of asbestos. None whatsoever. If your dad tells you that white asbestos is safe and blue is dangerous, he’s wrong. That information is outdated and the Health and Safety Executive have been very clear that all forms of asbestos containing materials should be considered hazardous.
What is correct is that some forms of asbestos containing materials are more hazardous than others. Asbestos cement, for example, is less friable (i.e. is less likely to release asbestos fibres if broken) than Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB). That means that you can remove asbestos cement products without an asbestos license but you absolutely should not remove AIB yourself within the exception of very small amounts (see below).
So, can I remove asbestos myself?
Yes, but only asbestos cement products known as AC. These are commonly found on corrugated garage roofs (the wavy grey sheets), waste water pipes and water tanks. However, you need to ensure that you follow the correct guidelines such as wearing appropriate PPE and doing your utmost to prevent breaking the asbestos products. The HSE provide very clear advice on how to remove asbestos cement products yourself and also answers further information surrounding the question can I remove asbestos myself?
I would strongly recommend that you invest in a decent half mask instead of using cheap and nasty face masks. Cheap face masks don’t seal properly. If you’re a man, have a shave before you start work. Plus by investing in a decent mask you can use it again for other DIY jobs like sawing MDF.
Can I remove Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) myself?
The Health & Safety Executive say that you can remove AIB no more than 1m2 as long as it’s only fixed with screws on nails, isn’t painted, isn’t glued, isn’t damaged, isn’t in the form of ceiling tiles, isn’t heavily nailed (or nailed in the centre) and isn’t in the form of soffits (see decent half mask for full guidelines). However, I strongly recommend that you look for a licensed asbestos removal company to do this for you.
Why? AIB is extremely friable. If you break it you will almost undoubtedly release asbestos fibres into the atmosphere. You’re playing Russian Roulette here. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing, leave it to a specialist.
What about other forms of asbestos?
Unless you have been on an asbestos awareness course, always seek professional advice. Any decent company will provide a free quotation locally. Look for a licensed asbestos contractor. If you are at all unsure, don’t touch it.
How do I know if a material is asbestos?
The only way to truly know if a material contains asbestos is to have it sampled and then analysed by a laboratory. There are various companies who offer an asbestos testing service around the UK. Look for one in your area. A sample should cost around £50-£75+VAT if carried out by a local company.
About the Author…
This article – ‘can I remove asbestos myself’ – has been written by Ritchie Hicks, General Manager of leading UK Licensed Asbestos Contractor AAS Ltd.