Asbestos Roof Removal by Sydney Roof

Asbestos Roof Removal

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a word that will immediately bring a shudder to many Australians who are familiar with its course across our country’s history. With recent court cases and litigations from the families and victims of people suffering from asbestos-related illnesses, it’s an area that has not lacked with media attention, and has had an impact on fear levels for regular homeowners who are unsure as to whether or not they’ll have asbestos – and potentially a health risk – in their homes. Asbestos is common in many older homes as well as commercial buildings.

However, it’s important to gain a full understanding of what asbestos actually is and how it can be treated. Asbestos is not material that is external, such as wall sheeting and carport ceilings, as many people have falsely been led to believe. Instead, asbestos is a material that was historically used to an extensive level on the insides of your home – as sheeting in the bathroom or laundry, and as walls in the kitchen, or even in the ceilings. It’s very common to look around your local neighbourhood and see asbestos products all over the place.

Asbestos itself is a generic term that refers to a variety of fibrous silicate minerals. It was a type of cement that was used to make products such as fibre sheeting, guttering, and downpipes. In its heyday, asbestos was used because of its fire resistance and strong insulation abilities. It also proved to be stable when heated and was a strong material that could withstand increased tension without damage.

There are two broad categories which asbestos-containing materials are defined under – friable and non-friable (another term for this is ‘bonded’). Friable describes asbestos products that are easily reduced to powder if crushed when dry. Friable materials pose the greatest health risk, as the materials, once crushed, have a stronger likelihood of releasing fibres into the airborne environment.

Friable materials are mostly found in fire retardants, sound proofing, insulation, sheet vinyl backing, linoleum floor coverings, and the lining on older heaters, stoves and hot water systems.

Non-friable/bonded asbestos refers to a different group, where asbestos-containing materials are bound in the matrix of the material very firmly. As such, they are less likely to release asbestos fibre into the airborne environment, and therefore pose a reduced risk to health in comparison to friable asbestos products.

Non-friable asbestos-containing materials can be found in asbestos cement products, such as sheeting used for walls, ceilings, and roofs, in the textured paint, and in vinyl floor coverings.

Asbestos sheeting was a popular building material prior to the 1990s – 2 out of 3 homes that were constructed before 1987 are believed to contain asbestos products, which demonstrates the wide reach asbestos had as a popular material used by many builders in new home constructions some decades ago. It was most widely used throughout the home construction industry from the time of 1950 before peaking and beginning to fade in popularity in the late 1980s.

There are a number of asbestos-related diseases that required years of study and research, as these specific diseases take many years to develop. Sadly, asbestos-related illnesses have proven fatal in many cases across the course of time.

Asbestos-related diseases include…

Asbestosis: this is a chronic lung disease. It begins by causing respiratory problems, before developing further into lung cancer.

Mesothelioma: this is a type of cancer of the outer lung lining, or alternatively, the abdominal cavity lining. This asbestos-related disease is most usually contracted by people who have suffered from frequent and repetitive exposure to asbestos, mainly as a result of their occupation, i.e. builders throughout the 1960s and 1970s in particular. There are documented cases of the disease developing from much smaller doses of asbestos as well.

Lung cancer: Although this is a relatively common type of cancer outside of asbestos-related cancers, lung cancer can develop from repeated asbestos exposure as the asbestos fibres are inhaled and come to rest on the lungs.

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Asbestos in Australian History

Asbestos does not have a good name for itself throughout Australian history, for good reason. One of the most well-known names linked to asbestos’s history is James Hardie, the manufacturing company which provided the largest amount of asbestos products to the construction market in the time following World War II. During this time, the Australian fibro home grew in popularity until it became iconic. A drive around many of Sydney’s neighbourhoods will quickly reveal many fibre homes still standing today as remnants of the popular architectural style of the time. This style is called ‘post-war’ and marks a time in Australian home architectural history when fibro became the dominant material used for wall claddings and roofs. As well as providing this sheeting, James Hardie was also manufacturing asbestos-cement pipes and asbestos lagging, which were implemented and built into the industrial landscape very heavily.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s when companies began to notice how dangerous asbestos could be to human health. Although there were warning signs earlier, the industry did its best to ignore them in order to continue business as usual and keep turning a profit. It first began with the miners who were responsible for digging the asbestos from the ground, many of whom succumbed to asbestos-related diseases a number of years after their initial time of exposure. However, one of the issues in identifying the risks asbestos poses as a health hazard is its long latency period between exposure and the appearance of the disease. The 1970s saw enough time pass that the public was finally able to begin to catch on to what was going on, and noticed that the death toll was continuing to rise. This marked the beginning of many compensation battles from victims and their families, and those battles continue in court to this day as a result of these building industry decisions from many decades past.

The first legal battle in Australia came as early as 1939, by the widow of Samuel Jones, who was a former miner and James Hardie employee. This case failed to make its way through court, but it was unearthed once more and brought to public attention years later as court cases began to rise in numbers throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Why was asbestos used on Sydney roofs?

There are a number of reasons as to why asbestos was such a popular product for Sydney roofs throughout the 1950s up to the 1979s. It was, at the time, a very attractive material to builders, for its price, versatility, durability and access qualities. It’s also very resistant to high temperatures which were of great appeal to builders looking for solutions to hot and humid Sydney summers with little respite from the heat. The asbestos fibre provides protection against many different elements, including fire, corrosion, electricity, energy loss, salt water, frost, dust, noise, and acids. At a time when the dangers of working with asbestos and having asbestos in your home were not apparent, it presented itself as a great building material with many advantages.

Asbestos was also a cost effective material. In the post-war era, when many people were recovering from what World War II had done on a financial and emotional level, homes were needed that were not prohibitively expensive in costs to complete.

Asbestos also provided a versatile material that could be used for a wide range of building needs. It was used as spray-on insulation, as rustproofing for steel beams, for soundproofing, as ceiling tiles, for exterior home siding, as roofing shingles, as heat insulation for pipes, furnaces, boilers and ductwork, and as an adhesive for carpet and tiling. There’s a long and extensive list of all of the asbestos’s many uses, but it’s safe to say its flexibility in the application made for a dream product for builders looking to deliver constructions cost-effectively and efficiently.

Lastly, people just were not aware of the health impacts! One of the reasons asbestos has caused so much harm is the long amount of time it takes between initial exposure and disease symptoms to occur. Years can pass before the damage caused by asbestos becomes evident, at which point, tens of thousands of other individuals had already been repeatedly exposed to asbestos products. Still to this day, in 2017, there are many men alive who suffer from asbestos-related lung damage and associated illnesses as a result of their time in the building industry throughout the 1970s.

Once the symptoms began to make themselves apparent, it took time for governments to rule in favour of protecting the health of their citizens, often at times fighting against building industry giants who would vigorously defend themselves against these claims. Unwinding asbestos’s dark and haunted path is no easy task, and litigation continues to this day as more claims come forward and are dealt with through the court systems.

Why you should remove your asbestos roof

Whilst it may be scary to learn about the presence of asbestos in your home, don’t panic. There are ways to deal with asbestos and to remove it from the property in a way that will cause no harm to you, your family or the building industry professionals who carry out the work.

If you believe you have found asbestos in your home, firstly, do not touch it. Disturbing asbestos in any way will produce dust that carries the asbestos fibres. It’s also crucial not to panic – just because asbestos is in your home does not mean it’s time to ring the alarm bells in a hurry. It’s only if the material has been damaged that there’s risk of asbestos fibres floating through the air and causing health damages.

There are a number of options for what to do if you find asbestos in your home. If the materials containing the asbestos products are in a good condition, then the safest option is not to touch them and to leave them by, whilst keeping an eye out for any future damage that may change their safety levels. If you have, for example, an asbestos wall with no visible issues, check on it from time to time, looking for any deterioration, however slight, or damage.

There are now laws in place related to the treatment and removal of asbestos. If you find asbestos in your home and decide to remove it, ensure you have done your research so you know the work will comply with these laws and rules. In fact, it’s highly dangerous for someone who is untrained to remove asbestos from their home, so if you locate asbestos within your home’s building materials and make the decision to go ahead with its removal, it’s time to invest in a highly trained professional. A company or contractor who has made a career out of safe and compliant asbestos material will be able to get the job done with no accidental harm arising to you or to your family’s health.

Why it’s Essential for a Professional to Remove Your Asbestos Roofing

There are many reasons why you should remove asbestos from your home and why it should be a professional who carries out this work. It’s one thing to remove asbestos, but the proper disposal of asbestos requires, even more, knowledge, experience, and capability. Discarding of the asbestos removed from within your home in an unsafe or improper manner cannot only cause health damage but also environmental damage. Experts come equipped with the resources they need to do carry out this disposal process properly and ensure the safety of all involved.

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As well, not only will the asbestos need to be removed properly and thoroughly, but work will also be required to fix and replace the structure where the asbestos was removed. Due to the nature of asbestos, it’s often the case that removal will occur from older buildings. A licensed builder familiar with the level of work and approach to this reconstruction will be able to save you time, stress and money when it comes to ensuring the space is properly restored once the asbestos has been removed.

A contractor who specialises in asbestos removal will ensure that your home, the air, and soil are left asbestos-free and are completely decontaminated. As the health risks of asbestos poisoning can be life threatening, this is not an area where you want to try and carry the process out on your own. Your asbestos removal professional will be able to assess the area and its specific circumstances and decide on the best approach to a complete and trustworthy removal. Asbestos removal professionals are equipped with appropriate protective clothing, complete with protective eyewear and specific breathing apparatuses that allow them to work in the asbestos-contaminated air without inhaling any damaging fibres. They also come equipped with industry-specific waste disposal equipment that is required to ensure no trace of the removed asbestos is left on site as a potential hazard to yourself or the environment.

Local councils and government bodies have their own rulings on how to deal with asbestos removal and rules around its disposal. Instead of trying to navigate this system with your own knowledge, your asbestos removal professional will be able to ensure the asbestos removal process for your home follows these guidelines and complies with local rulings.

Lastly, asbestos removal professionals come professionally trained in industry standards and requirements and know just how serious a task the removal of asbestos is with regards to the health implications and environmental factors that can occur otherwise. They’re up to date with the latest investigations on asbestos and are familiar with proper handling and removal techniques. They’ll be able to take the task on and give you peace of mind, knowing you and your family can rest easy in a home that is asbestos-free.