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Do you need an asbestos survey?

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Heather

Last updated Thursday 2nd September 2021

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Asbestos might feel like a thing of the past, but for homeowners of properties built before 2000, it can still rear its ugly head. That’s because asbestos only became a prohibited substance after 1999 in the UK. If your home predates this ban, it may still be present in your home. However, don’t panic, because this is where asbestos surveys come in.

At Resi, our aftercare team helps our customers start their build safely, and part of their job is to advise on the potential presence of asbestos. We caught up with them to learn more about what an asbestos survey is and when you might need one for your home.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that crystallises to form fibres. Because these fibres don’t dissolve in water, evaporate, and because they’re also resistant to heat, fire, chemical and biological degradation, it was often used in construction.

When whole and intact, asbestos is not considered harmful. However, when damaged, asbestos can release small fibres that are easily breathed in or swallowed. If ingested, this can lead to a condition known as asbestosis that can make a person more vulnerable to certain types of cancer.

Asbestos comes in two varieties - serpentine and amphiboles. Serpentine, also known as chrysotile or white asbestos, is generally less harmful than its cousin amphibole, which can also be known as blue or brown asbestos. Amphibole varieties of asbestos have been banned since 1985, while white asbestos was added to prohibition in 1999 and is generally the most commonly present type of asbestos.

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When you need an asbestos survey

Unlike commercial properties, domestic homeowners aren’t required by law to check for asbestos. However, given the health risks the substance poses, many choose to do so.

Scenarios where you’ll likely want an asbestos survey to take place...

  • You’re buying a new property that was built pre-2000
  • If you plan on carrying out any refurbishment or demolition work
  • If a utility company is carrying out works, they may ask for one
  • If you plan on letting your property
  • If you want to move your property into a pension

On the whole, asbestos tends to be an issue if you plan on disturbing the materials in your home, or you want to understand what effect asbestos may have on the value of your property.

Remember: if you want to become a landlord, you’ll be held to higher standards and will be legally required to be aware of any asbestos in ‘common areas’, this includes stairways, roof space, and car parking areas.

What does an asbestos survey involve?

Asbestos surveys are carried out by specialists who have been trained to identify asbestos containing material, also known as ACMs. They’ll assess any material which might reasonably be assumed to contain asbestos.

Over the course of their investigation, they’ll perform three key tasks.

  • Identify if asbestos is present and where in the property it is located
  • Assess the feasibility of access to this material, what condition it is in, and whether there is evidence the asbestos has undergone any previous treatment
  • Pinpoint what precise type of asbestos is present, either by sampling or a visual inspection, should the asbestos be out of reach

After the survey, you’ll be provided with a report that will detail everything your surveyor uncovered. This should help you to understand what further action you need to take.

What happens if asbestos is present?

If your survey does undercover the presence of asbestos, don’t panic. Not all asbestos needs to be dealt with immediately. If the material is in good condition, with no visible damage, and it’s located in a hard to reach area, then removal might not be necessary and you can simply monitor the situation. However, if you discover that the asbestos in your home has suffered from wear and tear, developing loose fibres, and could be easily reached by residents, then it will be highly recommended you secure its removal.

You’ll also need to flag any present asbestos to any tradesperson who will be working in the affected areas.

Learn more about asbestos surveys and find surveyors in your area.

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