If you invest in real estate and buy older homes, odds are at some point in your investing career that you’ll encounter a house with asbestos siding. Asbestos siding was a popular building material from the early part of the 20th century until the late 1960s/early 1970s (although it was still sold in a few markets in the US until the early 1980s).
Common type of asbestos siding
Above is an example of a very common type of asbestos siding.
Asbestos siding is a very durable, fire-resistant siding that can be manufactured in a variety of sizes, profiles, and textures, thus its popularity as a siding material for decades. The only problem with asbestos siding? Well, asbestos fibers can cause cancer if inhaled, which isn’t the best feature to have in a building material that’s regularly cut, handled, nailed, etc.
So asbestos siding obviously isn’t used anymore, and its presence is definitely something to consider when buying a house if it has asbestos siding. One thing to note, though, is that there are a lot of misconceptions about asbestos siding in general, especially in relation to asbestos siding removal.
One common misconception is that asbestos must be removed, and that removing it is very expensive and dangerous. Tackling the first piece of that, asbestos siding poses absolutely no health risk of the siding is intact and in place. Touching intact asbestos siding poses no health risk. Handling intact asbestos siding poses no health risk.
Asbestos siding only poses a health risk when it’s broken up and the fibers become airborne. If that doesn’t happen, it poses no risk. If you have asbestos siding on the exterior of your house and it’s not broken, chipped, and falling off the wall (and often it’s not, as it’s not uncommon to find asbestos siding that’s 50+ years old but still in perfect condition), you don’t necessarily have to remove it.
Some buyers might be scared off by asbestos siding, while others aren’t bothered a bit. Yes, in a perfect world you’d prefer not to have to deal with the issue, but it’s not necessarily an imminent health risk that you must address.
The second part of the common misconception mentioned above is that asbestos siding removal is very expensive and/or dangerous if you attempt to remove it yourself. If you hire a professional asbestos abatement company to remove exterior asbestos siding, yes, it can be very expensive, as contractors must have special licensing to handle asbestos removal of any sort
But for exterior siding removal, it’s not necessary that you hire an asbestos abatement company. In most states, homeowners are allowed by law to remove asbestos siding from their own residence without any licensing. As far as disposal, again, it depends on the state by state, but in many states, you can legally dispose of asbestos siding in landfills.
The removal of the siding itself is a simple task, and can definitely be done safely by a homeowner. The process is exactly the same as what an asbestos abatement company would do when removing siding, so doing it yourself is absolutely not cutting corners or risky to your health, as long as you take some straightforward precautions.
This isn’t meant to be a complete guide to the asbestos siding removal itself, but the process is straightforward. Buy a Tyvek suit and gloves and clothing that you’ll dispose of later when done. Use a good respirator when actually removing the siding. Wet all siding down thoroughly before removing it, and be careful not to break pieces when removing them from the wall. Carefully place each piece of siding in a heavy-duty contractor bag. When the bag is full (the siding is heavy, so don’t overfill the bag), seal it, then place that big into another contractor bag, so that all siding is double-bagged and each bag is sealed properly.
That’s really all there is to it, and that’s mostly what a professional company will do. Please note that this only applies to exterior asbestos siding, and not removing any asbestos materials from the interior of a house. That is a job for the professionals, if you have asbestos tile inside to remove, asbestos in drywall joint compound, etc., as it’s very important in that case to have equipment that captures all of the particles in the air that are inevitably released.
With exterior asbestos siding, though, you can carefully remove it so that no particles are ever released, which simplifies the process greatly and removes the need for tenting and equipment to capture all particles in the air.
All in all, if you’re considering removing asbestos siding from your home, do some research first, as far as whether to not you actually need to remove it, and whether or not you’re comfortable tackling the job yourself.