Asbestos was used in over 3000 products it was in just about everything you could imagine, asbestos was so widely used because its ability to resist acids, electricity, fire and it was extremely flexible and it was very cheap. Asbestos was known as the wonder mineral because it had so many applications. Australia was one of the biggest users of asbestos per capita in the world so it is no surprise that it could be found just about anywhere in older houses.

But asbestos isn’t just asbestos what we are talking about here is asbestos containing materials or ACM’s, so it is basically a normal product that seems harmless that has had asbestos added to it. It was added to “enhance “the product and make it more versatile.

Now that we have established that we are really talking about ACM’s there is another factor to consider, this relates to the two categories of ACM’s. Friable and non-friable and the definitions are explained like this:

Non friable ACM

Non-friable means, when dry may not be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure (for example materials containing asbestos that have been mixed with cement or other hard bonding materials).

Friable ACM

Friable means when dry, or as the result of a work process, may be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure.

So, what does that mean to me as person purchasing an older home? Basically, it means that older homes can contain friable and non-friable ACM’s. Ok so what next you ask? Obviously friable ACM’s are much more hazardous to be around and can in some cases be ten times the cost to remove this can add up fast especially when all of the internal linings of a home can be classified as friable!

So how are you going to know?

Well the easiest and cheapest way to know is to get the experts in and have an asbestos report completed on the home in the pre purchase process. You will need a qualified and licenced asbestos inspector, most building pre purchase inspections will not include asbestos in any great detail because most pre purchase building inspectors aren’t insured for asbestos liability so they will only make small mentions of asbestos in the home. This is a real trap for the trusting public and one that can end in you buying a home that could have around one hundred thousand dollars in additional costs to remove friable asbestos. Look at it this way if you are going to be spending a few hundred thousand dollars on a family home, investment property or a renovator surely a few hundred dollars on a comprehensive asbestos inspection with some samples is a solid investment.

So where can ACM’s be in houses built before 1990?

The family homes

  • Asbestos vinyl tiles on floors.
  • Lino flooring, this commonly had an asbestos backing.
  • Compressed fibro flooring sheets.
  • Hessian carpet underlay. This underlay was made from recycled hessian sacks that were used to transport raw asbestos in.
  • The roof asbestos containing sheeting and shingles are quite common.
  • Insulation in ceilings, floor cavities and walls.
  • Guttering
  • Downpipes.
  • Vent pipes.
  • Stormwater pipes./li>
  • Sewage pipes.
  • Tilux sheeting, often used in wet areas
  • Wall linings.
  • Cover strips on wall linings.
  • The linings in wardrobes.
  • The linings in linen presses.
  • Ceilings.
  • Textured coatings on ceilings and walls.
  • Bakelite switches and power points.
  • Fencing.
  • The putty in windows
  • Adhesives, glues, and mastics.
  • In electrical fuses.
  • In the backing of electrical meter boxes.
  • Around gas heaters.
  • Flues for gas heaters.
  • Hearths for wood heaters.
  • Around wood heaters for insulating walls.
  • The coatings on swimming pools.
  • In brick letter boxes as a lining.
  • Lagging on pipes.
  • Packers in the frame and on stumps.
  • Garden edging.
  • Retaining walls.
  • Pool pump covers.
  • Drain surrounds.
  • Around electrical wiring on old appliances like ovens, hot water systems.
  • External cladding.
  • External joining and corner strips on cladding.
  • Eaves linings.
  • Ornamental planter boxes.
  • Saunas.

These are all places we commonly find friable and non-friable in older homes every single day there are just as many older homes that are full of asbestos as there are older homes that may only have asbestos in one or two places. Only a trained and skilled asbestos expert will be able to identify all these items. So, the answer to the big question should be clear by now.

Question “What do I need to know about asbestos before I buy an older house?”

Answer “Asbestos can be lurking anywhere, and the only way to Know where is to get an asbestos inspection and report from an expert”