A Comprehensive Asbestos Removal Guide for Homeowners

Asbestos Removal Procedures

If you believe that asbestos is a man-made product or that it wasn’t discovered until the 20th century, a little education is in order. According to the Mesothelioma Center, asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral found on every continent. In this asbestos removal procedures article we will cover the most important steps and safety precautions you should take.

Archaeologists unearhed asbestos fibres dated back to the stone age 75o,000 years ago. Early man used the material as early as 4000 BC, to make wicks for lamps and candles. Egyptians used asbestos cloth to embalm pharaohs and ancient Greeks wrapped dead bodies in asbestos shrouds before tossing them on funeral pyres, so this much-maligned material has deep roots. In fact, the word’s Greek translation is “inextinguishable”

Of course, one of the most disturbing aspects of the use of this material has deep roots, as well. Greeks and Romans diagnosed “sickness of the lungs”  in slaves wearing garments woven with asbestos threads. However as the slaves lives were worthless, warning signs were ignored.


Societies continue to ignore health risks

Did society awaken to the dangers asbestos from early warning signs? Hardly. The more asbestos was mined, the more popular it became. As a matter of fact, mining asbestos escalated over time. New South Wales Australia’s Jones Creek mine became the continent’s leading source by the 1880s.

It was it was only a matter of time before the influence of the Industrial Revolution came to bear on asbestos. Increasing its worldwide value and turning it into one of the most popular of all mined materials.


Asbestos-related diseases can’t be ignored

Australia’s government is one of the nation’s best resources for those seeking to understand the role asbestos played in this nation’s history. According to Australian health authorities, it was hard ot find a building didn’t use asbestos in the construction. By 1920, Australian cement also contained asbestos.

Dr. Montague Murray’s Charring Cross Hospital patients were passing away in alarming numbers and his research attributed this trend to the asbestos mines in which they worked at the turn of the century both in Britain and Commonwealth nations. At last someone issued a clarion call—-but who was listening?

Australia’s burgeoning mining and processing industry thrived as demand for this cost-effective, plentiful material skyrocketed. The 21st century saw a rise of awareness around the world as asbestos-associated lung disease became one of the most common causes of death.

especially in Southeast Asia where asbestos mining helped economies thrive.

By this time, Dr. Murray’s early warnings had become a Greek chorus of physicians literally doing battle with worldwide commercial interests. Today, you reap the benefits of this long-fought battle as you try to figure out whether you should be concerned for your home and family.


Heath Dangers

Asbestos-related diseases are a serious issue. Mesothelioma is attributed to breathing in raw asbestos dust and particulates. If building materials in your home have deteriorated they could be a heath hazard. Material disintegration is at the heart of the matter. If asbestos breaks down and exposed to air, it can seep into a home’s air ducts. What can cause this breakdown? Time, weather, construction, ground shifts and demolition. Asbestos leaching into the soil can also cause ground contamination.

There’s an additional risk when homeowners purchase products from abroad that contain asbestos.  Australia introduced asbestos bans in the 1980’s, but not every nation acts responsibly.

Further, while the homeland does its best to keep tabs on goods entering the country that could contain asbestos, they can’t be everywhere. Even if an import comes with an “asbestos-free” declaration, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. It’s better to buy Aussie-made goods anyway.


Questions to help you ascertain whether your home is at risk

Before you begin a thorough inspection of your home to ascertain its state of health, answer these questions to determine how you rate on our risk scale:

1.Was your home built prior to the 1980s?

If your answer is yes, do a thorough inspection because homes in this category are the most likely to have been built with asbestos products.

2, Was your residence constructed between 1985 and 1990?

If your answer to this question is also yes, your risk of having an unhealthy house isn’t as extreme, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find products that contain asbestos within your infrastructure.

3. Was your house built after 1990?

Lucky you; there’s a very good chance that you won’t turn up any traces of products that contain asbestos when you inspect your environs. Does that mean you shouldn’t check? What do you think?

4. Does post-1990s construction mean that you’re in the clear?

Not exactly. Australian health authorities may have begun their efforts to outlaw materials made with asbestos by 1990, but unsavory contractors in the early 2000s were still laying foundations made of asbestos cement until the nation’s ban went into effect in December 2003.


Beyond cement…

The list of building materials produced by Australian manufacturers and used by contractors since asbestos became a major factor in the nation’s building efforts has been known to leave Aussie homeowners gob-smacked. If you’re one of them, use this check list (alphabetized for your convenience) when you make a thorough examination of your structure. Every one of these products could contain asbestos:

  • acid-resistant gaskets and insulation
  • caulking compounds
  • carpet underlayment
  • cement foundations/patios
  • exterior sidings (e.g., villaboard)
  • fencing
  • fire retardant coatings applied by spray to steel girders
  • flooring compounds
  • heat-resist upholstery materials
  • insulation for household wiring
  • insulation used to wrap hot-water pipes, heaters and stoves
  • interior and exterior house paints; decorative and ceiling coatings
  • low-density fiber board on walls and trim
  • millboard and paper electrical panels
  • pipes; water and flue
  • plastering fillers
  • roofing insulation
  • roof and eaves materials
  • floor and roof tiles
  • sealants and fillers used to attach brick to plaster
  • spray-on insulation and soundproofing products
  • thermal fireplace surrounds
  • thermal insulation materials
  • vinyl flooring tiles and backing material
  • wall cladding (both interior and exterior)
  • wood stove gaskets

To complicate matters, asbestos materials fall into two distinct categories: friable and non-friable. This has nothing to do with chips. If you encounter asbestos that takes the form of powder because it’s deteriorated or can easily be reduced to powder, crumbled or pulverized by hand, it falls into the friable category. Non-friable asbestos denotes items belonging in the category of large, intact asbestos sections plus stablising products, like bonding materials (cement or rubber) as well as cement sheets and solid products that can’t be reduced to powder manually.


Preparing to remove your asbestos

Hopefully, your home inspection was followed up by a visit from an expert in the field of asbestos material detection and removal if only to verify your suspicions. At that point, your next act should be attending to government rules, regulations and licensing parameters that surround all asbestos removal activities.

The unrestricted version allows you or your crew to extract friable and non-friable material. A restricted license is necessary if you or a crew intend to remove in excess of 10-square metres of non-friable asbestos. If you plan to remove less than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos, you won’t need a license, so check your math twice.


Dressing for success

There’s a reason every authority under the sun warns against touching asbestos with bare hands: it’s toxic. The finer the powder, the more lethal the asbestos, but in-tact pieces can be as dangerous if you spot cracks, holes and other signs of degradation. Just because an area clad with asbestos materials looks pristine, that doesn’t mean it’s safe, so apply due diligence when you inspect. Victoria’s Better Health Channel suggests starting your asbestos removal job by donning protective gear. This list covers safety clothing and equipment.

  • Choose a respirator that’s been properly rated by health authorities to protect your lungs from breathing in asbestos powder as you go about the job of dismantling your contaminated area.
  • Disposable overalls/hazmat suits should be completely sealed; no open seams, holes or vents that can expose your body to fibers or flakes. Professionals recommend buying a size larger so you move around more comfortably.
  • Wear a protective cap if your overall has no attached hood to keep particles out of your hair and ears.
  • Industrial-style gloves—the sort you wear for general construction—should be topped by a pair of disposable gloves to protect your hands—especially if you have cuts or open sores that could absorb asbestos.
  • Safety glasses or goggles should be worn to protect your eyes from flying debris.
  • A pair of gumbies over disposable, protective booties offers a second layer of protection for your feet.


Asbestos Removal Steps

Here are the 12 steps to safely remove.

  1. Arrange plastic drop sheets throughout the target area to collect debris for efficient collection and disposal.
  2. Wet asbestos areas thoroughly so particles stick to surfaces rather than becoming airborne (ergo, the gumbies).
  3. Remove all nails slowly to keep powder disbursal to a minimum.
  4. Use only hand tools to remove asbestos; power tools tend to disburse more particles.
  5. Keep large pieces of asbestos-treated sheets intact to cut back on the amount of asbestos released into the air.
  6. Gently place sections on the ground/floor as they’re removed. If you drop them, you invite particle release.
  7. If you must sweep the area because debris has gotten dense, use a wet mop to do the job.
  8. After removing asbestos materials, vacuum using a HEPA filter that meets Australian Standard 4260. Ordinary vacuums won’t do the job properly and using one could put you at respiratory risk.
  9. Collect and bag drop cloths, vacuum contents and other contaminated materials.
  10. Bag your clothing; seal and mark both bags “asbestos-contaminated contents.”
  11. Do not remove your respirator until you shower.
  12. Dispose of materials at an approved facility. Find the closest by visiting the Environment Protection Authority approved asbestos waste facilities.


Additional cautions

Power tools should not used used during asbestos removal. Don’t use cutting or sanding discs, compressed air systems or high pressure hoses while dismantling asbestos. These types of tools disburse the material. Further, make it standard practice to water down every surface in your construction zone to reduce airborne particle disbursal. Use wet rags and paper towels to wipe surface debris.



Asbestos removal shouldn’t be taken lightly. The asbestos removal procedures should be used as an educational source only. If you suspect asbestos in your home, always contact licensed asbestos removalists. If you have questions contact Pro Asbestos Removal Melbourne and speak to a trained professional.