One of the most common questions asked to us about asbestos is ‘what does asbestos look like?’ To help to answer this question, we will give information on how is asbestos look like and where can you find it at your house, especially on the roof, wall, and ceiling.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral in the environment as a bundle of fibres that can be separated into thin fibres. It refers to six unique substances of amphibole mineral families, which are amosite (brown), chrysotile (white), crocidolite (blue), tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite. It was commonly used as a building material before the 1980s due to its desirable mechanical properties. It has an excellent durability as well as fire and water resistance. It was used nearly in any types of building such as residential and commercial buildings. You can find it almost in every corner of your house, especially in a wet area such as laundry or bathrooms. It was used as a mixing material for various purposes, for example, cement to construct walls. Currently, the use of asbestos-containing material (ACM) has been banned in more than 50 countries due to its potentially harmful effect on human’s health. It is known to cause several aggressive diseases such as lung cancers, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. It has been reported that chrysotile fibres are the most dangerous one amongst all.
Common location of ACM in a house – Image – https://identifibre.files.wordpress.com
However, the mere presence of asbestos does not mean that it is dangerous and will cause a disease for you immediately. It is dangerous when being disturbed or in a damaged condition. Thus, if you found ACM and it is still intact, do not interrupt it to prevent the release of dangerous fibres from it. But, if it is being damaged or deteriorated, you should take precautions to handle this problem. The first step to identify a damaged ACM is by asking the question ‘what does it look like?’. Here we will give you brief information on what does it look like in your house.
What does asbestos look like?
Sometimes, it ‘s hard to identify fibres by a visual inspection. To be 100% sure, you often have to get it tested by a NATA accredited laboratory to confirm its presence. However, we have a tip for you to identify asbestos in your home. You can start by looking at the identification marks on the product. In most cases, the manufacturer includes the list of materials used in a product, including asbestos. If not, you may try to call the manufacturer to confirm whether the product contains it or not. Then if the manufacturer does not provide an answer, you have to get it tested in a laboratory. The lab test is quite expensive; it can cost you around $50 to do a testing of a suspected material.
Thus, we provide you with this information below so you can have a better understanding of what does asbestos look like and where you can find it at your house.
Asbestos was used as mixing materials that were used to create walls. This makes visual identification of ACM becomes difficult. Some of ACM that were used to create walls were cement sheets and insulation board. Insulation board was commonly used in a house as construction materials for bathroom and kitchen due to its excellent heat-trapping properties. It mostly contains the brown fibres, along with a few white fibres. It can be identified due to its distinctive connections between panels, as can be seen in the photo below.
Insulation board in a bathroom – image from www.abp.uk.com
Cement sheets that contain ACM were common can be found outdoor, such as garages and sheds. These corrugated cement sheets were often not stamped with identifying marks, which make it difficult to identify them. They can contain up to 25% of white asbestos, while old sheets often made up of brown and blue fibres. The picture below is an example of cement sheets used in a garage.
Cement sheets in garage walls image from – www.beware-asbestos.info
Vinyl and Asphalt floor tiles are usually contained ACM. Asphalt and vinyl floor tiles were popular between the 1940s until 1970s and were produced until the late 1980s. Thus, if floors in your house were installed before the 1980s, it may be highly likely to be an ACM. These floors are considered not dangerous since they are better contained compared other materials. However, demolishing or breaking them can cause the release of airborne fibres in the air. You can identify the presence of ACM by looking at the original product’s packaging. The manufacturer usually put a list of materials as information on the packaging box. Otherwise, you can try to measure the size of the tile since ACM floor tiles were only produced in three sizes 9”x9”, 12”x12”, and 18”x18”. Also, look for a discoloration in the floor tiles. The oil from asphalt tiles can leak out and cause a discoloration. If the tiles show a discoloration, they will be most likely to contain asbestos. Here are some examples of vinyl and asphalt floor tiles.
Examples of floor tiles containing fibres Images: www.inspectapedia.com
ACM ceilings are commonly either made of insulation board ceiling tiles or a decorative texture, such as artex. They were often installed between the 1950s until the 1980s. They were used because of their fireproof and heat resistant properties. Within a house, they are most commonly found in a garage, bathroom, or kitchen. They were used to prevent the risk of fire spreading to other rooms, in a case of fire. They usually contain three types of fibres, which are white, brown, and blue. Bonded ceilings made of corrugated fibres and cement sheets are less dangerous than friable ceilings when they are intact and in good condition. However, if you are planning to do a renovation or refurbishment, these bonded fibres could become friable due to improper mishandling. Friable ceiling, such as popcorn ceiling, is usually more dangerous since a small disturbance can cause the release of fibres. This is an example of a popcorn ceiling that may contain asbestos in your house.
An example of a popcorn ceiling image: http://ceiling.rollinghillsccw.com
After you get an insight on how is asbestos look like, you should take precautions when you found a damaged or deteriorated floor, wall, and ceiling in your home. If you are unsure about it, call a surveyor to get the material tested in an accredited laboratory.