Has Your New Zealand Home Been Tested for Asbestos?

Asbestos isn’t only in old buildings; it was used in homes just a few decades ago. Learn if your New Zealand home needs to be inspected for asbestos here.

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Asbestos is a staple of a variety of different implementations since as far back as the ancient Greeks. As society has evolved and learned to use different methods and combined with advancements in healthcare, it has come to light that asbestos is a very harmful carcinogen. This has prompted mass asbestos testing and asbestos removal over the last several decades.

If your home has a construction date any time in or before the 1980s, there is a good chance that some of the materials include or are completely made of asbestos. Having an asbestos survey becomes vital in this case. 

Whether you conduct asbestos roof testing or work toward total asbestos removal, it is very important to understand the reasons and steps behind asbestos removal in Auckland.

Read on to learn everything there is to know about asbestos, asbestos testing, and asbestos removal.

What Is Asbestos?

The term “asbestos” refers to a group of six naturally-occurring minerals that are fire-resistant. Comprised of fibres that are fire, corrosion, and electricity damage resistant, it was used widely in construction products. It is now regulated – not banned – in the United States and many other countries around the world.

What Was Asbestos Used For?

Asbestos had many uses before its carcinogenic qualities were discovered. Since it has exceptional insulation qualities, it was used in construction materials, as an additive to clothing or paper, and it was even used as a movie prop – the scene in Wizard of Oz with snow falling? That’s asbestos.

It’s also a part of auto parts, cement, and electrical parts and hardware. Due to it being readily available throughout the globe, you can find it in these materials globally.

Where Does It Come From?

Though previously mined throughout North America, it is now mined and exported predominantly by Russia and China, and to some degree Kazakhstan. It is typically found in talc or vermiculite deposits as a contaminant. There a six main types of asbestos, including:

  • Chrysotile (or “white” asbestos)
  • Anthophyllite
  • Actinolite
  • Amosite
  • Tremolite
  • Crocidolite

How Does It Affect Your Health?

Asbestos affects your health predominantly via damage to your respiratory system. It scars soft tissue in the pleural cavity such as your alveoli, which makes breathing difficult. Exposure to airborne asbestos can lead to diseases such as Asbestosis and Mesothelioma among many types of cancer, including:

  • Lung Cancer
  • Oesophageal Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Stomach Cancer
  • Colon Cancer

The scary part about the effects of asbestos exposure is that many of the diseases that it causes don’t show up for several years. For example, Asbestosis has a dormant or latency period of 15 to 20 years. That means you won’t have any idea that you’ve been negatively affected until a time when you’ve probably forgotten that you were ever exposed – if you knew of the exposure in the first place.

It is important to remember that if the item or material made of asbestos is in new or decent condition, it shouldn’t be too much of a worry. It only becomes hazardous when it breaks, degrades, or it has otherwise reached a point where particles become airborne.

Where Is The Asbestos Inside My House?

It can be difficult to identify whether or not something is asbestos material in your home. There are only a couple of ways to find out – call the manufacturer or the installer, or send it to a lab for examination under a microscope. To compound the problem, there are many materials that can contain asbestos in your home, both inside and out.

Let’s take a look at some of the building materials that have asbestos qualities, both inside and outside your home. After that, we’ll take a deeper look at your roofing materials to see if you have asbestos in your roof and if you may need to consider commercial asbestos removal.

Where It Might Be Indoors

There are several types of drywall, insulation, and other common home construction materials that may contain asbestos. The most common culprit is Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB), so here are some ideas about where you might find that along with any other areas of your home that may need an asbestos survey on the inside, including:

  • Vinyl Floor Tiles
  • Interior Wall Insulation
  • Toilet Seat
  • Cistern
  • Asbestos Insulation Board behind Fuse Box 
  • AIB Ceiling Tiles
  • AIB Bath Panels
  • AIB Cupboards or Cabinets
  • AIB Interior Window Panel
  • AIB Partition Wall
  • Pipe Lagging
  • AIB Around Hot Water Heater

To have these areas or items tested, you can either collect samples yourself or hire an asbestos mitigation team or a commercial asbestos removal service to sample it and send it off to the lab.

If any of the asbestos-built materials inside your home degrade to the point of emitting airborne fibres, it is past time to have some asbestos testing done in your home. As mentioned above, you could have a silent killer in the very walls of your home and not even know it until 20 years later.

Where It Might Be Outdoors

Due to its well-known insulation qualities, many construction materials that can withstand the elements are borne from asbestos. This includes siding, insulation, roofing materials, and many other construction materials and hardware. Again, it is important to remember that undamaged asbestos materials are not harmful. 

In New Zealand and Australia, a very common place where you will find asbestos is in the roofing material. Two specific kinds of said material include Super Six and Decramastic Tile. We’ll get into the specifics of both in a bit, but first, let’s take a look at all of the places on the outside of your home where you might encounter asbestos material.

  • Asbestos Cement Panels
  • Asbestos Cement Roof
  • AIB Exterior Window Panels
  • Roofing Felt
  • Soffits made of AIB or Asbestos Cement
  • Gutters or Asbestos Cement Downspouts

As you can see, there is a multitude of places where asbestos can be. It can be both inside and outside of your home, with some of the most dangerous being in or on your roofing materials because they cover the most wide-ranging area and square footage.

As your asbestos roof begins to degrade due to sun exposure, adverse weather, or just age alone, it can become a major health hazard to you and your family. You are, after all, living under a carcinogenic roof.

Should I Consider Asbestos Roof Testing?

If you are not sure what material your roofing is made from and you are not sure of the manufacturer or installer, it might not be a bad idea to have asbestos roof testing conducted on your home.

Many times, a commercial asbestos removal company will do the testing free of charge in order to give you an estimate of what it might cost to have an asbestos roof removal job completed on your home.

What Are Some Examples of Asbestos Roof Material?

Several products on the market once contained asbestos. While the mineral is much less prevalent today, there are several remnants of previously popular roofing materials in New Zealand and Australia that have a large amount of asbestos and asbestos-related components. 

“Super Six” Roofing Tile

Super Six was a popular roofing material because it is fireproof, affordable, and incredibly versatile. However, it is infamous for the amount of asbestos in its makeup.

What Exactly is “Super Six?”

“Super Six” tile is a cement tile that is one of the many popular roofing materials that were used at one point in the mid-to-late 1900s that contains a significant amount of potentially harmful asbestos. Favourable because of its versatility and likeness to corrugated metal roofing, its channels are deeper and wider – providing better precipitation runoff properties and in many cases being more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It also cut down on the loud “ping ping ping” sound of rain on a sheet metal roof, which is a luxury, to say the least. 

What Makes “Super Six” Especially Harmful?

Along with the fact that it has a large amount of potentially harmful asbestos, it also has the special distinction of playing host to several different varieties of asbestos. Three to be exact – chrysotile being the most prevalent along with instances of crocidolite and amosite, depending on the specific material in question.

Environmental Hazards

Along with the asbestos fibres going airborne and posing an inhalation risk to you or your loved ones, there are many other hazards that it presents when it is a predominant component of your roof. Super Six tile is one of the worst culprits. It can cause environmental issues around your house such as:

  • Groundwater Contamination
  • Lawn Contamination
  • Runoff Water Issues
  • Guttering Contamination
  • Soil Contamination

Groundwater Contamination

When rainwater runs off of your Super Six roofing material, it naturally carries asbestos fibres into your groundwater after there has been enough time or acidic precipitation for the roofing to degrade a bit. This can cause widespread problems throughout your community, as it pollutes groundwater with carcinogenic properties.

Lawn Contamination

When asbestos infiltrates your lawn or the landscaping surrounding your home, it can also become contaminated. This may cause discolouration or harm to you or your family or even wildlife if they come into contact with contaminated organic material enough to inhale it or otherwise take it into their bodies. 

Runoff Water Issues

If the runoff from your roof or guttering ends up in a waterway rather than hyperlocal groundwater, you could be contaminating a large swath of land. As the asbestos fibres find their way downstream, they can be inhaled or consumed by all manner of living or organic organisms and cause irreversible damage.

Guttering Contamination

This lends itself to the three other kinds of contamination above. Once asbestos fibres have found their way into your guttering and they have set up residence there, the contamination becomes even more consistent with each weather event. 

Soil Contamination

Asbestos fibres have an extremely long half-life and once they’ve found their way into the soil surrounding your Super Six roof, they are likely to contaminate your soil for a very long time – even after you’ve replaced the roof. This can have negative effects if you decide to plant a garden, or landscape, or if you have pets or children that regularly enjoy frolicking in the dirt. 

Drop Ceiling and Ventilation Hazards

If the asbestos fibres from your Super Six roof somehow find their way into your ventilation or on the underside of your drop ceiling tiles, it can mean a full-on disaster. At that point, the asbestos fibres have infiltrated the very air that you and your family breathe on a daily basis. This can have devastating effects in the future in terms of health and safety. 

Decramastic Tile

Along with Super Six tile, Decramastic tile is another formerly popular roofing material in New Zealand and Australia. All the rage during the 1970s and 1980s, decramastic tile is the same in theory but different in design from Super Six. The idea is for it to look a bit more rustic and blend in with the environment around it.

Many homes that feature decramastic roof tiles today have been painted to further match the surrounding area. However, this hides a sinister truth – as it degrades, it becomes incredibly hazardous to the occupants of the home, the surrounding environment, and the local community at large. 

It holds all of the same contamination hazards as Super Six as listed above, with the added hazard that it tends to start degrading much faster. The bituminous coating that is on the tile to give it texture is comprised predominantly of asbestos, so as weather conditions and other environmental factors begin to break down this texture, it becomes a depot for asbestos distribution. 

How To Get Asbestos Testing Done

As mentioned above, this can be a bit tricky, a there are only two ways of determining whether or not you have an asbestos issue. You can call the manufacturer or installer of each piece of material that you suspect contains asbestos, or you can hire someone to do asbestos testing and send it to a lab. There are also removal services that can begin the work of testing and mitigation for you if you would like. 

How Does Asbestos Testing Work?

First, if you suspect that you have asbestos materials in your home that have been damaged or are otherwise prone to airborne contamination, you should not attempt to test them yourself. While many “big box” hardware stores sell at-home test kits, they involve you collecting samples yourself and therefore risking exposure to the harmful effects of asbestos. 

Instead, you should consider hiring a professional to conduct the testing for you, as they are trained and certified to do so. Therefore, they stand much less of a chance of exposure and will be able to avoid further contamination of the area. 

A professional will also have the personal protective equipment necessary to prevent exposure. In a general sense, they take samples of all of the suspected areas and materials and send the swabs to an independent laboratory for testing. 

They may also conduct air quality testing in certain areas of your home to detect actual airborne asbestos fibres. If you are looking for asbestos roof replacement, this is key because it can detect the severity of the contamination in your attic or crawlspace.

What Does an Asbestos Survey Cost?

If you are in the market for some kind of home improvement such as replacing an asbestos roof, most companies will conduct an inspection and give you a free quote. 

The final cost is usually built into the final cost of the roof replacement in this instance. It varies depending on your location, the severity of the problem, the number of areas to be tested, and a wide variety of other factors. 

How Much Does Asbestos Removal in Auckland Cost?

As mentioned above, there are many different factors that go into calculating the price of asbestos removal in Auckland. Prices vary depending on indoor or outdoor removal, as well. For the purpose of this article, we will touch on indoor removal but focus on asbestos roof removal. 

Some of the biggest factors that influence the cost of asbestos roof replacement include:

  • Square Footage
  • Specific Material to Be Removed
  • Replacement Material
  • Location
  • Time of Year
  • Pitch of the Roof
  • Availability of Replacement Materials
  • Size of Company

Indoor Removal

Indoor asbestos removal is not usually something that a roofing company that you hire can take care of unless they are a multi-faceted contracting business. However, it is just as important to monitor and in some cases, even more. Major culprits include floor tile and linoleum as well as insulation and faux-wood cabinets or trim.

Asbestos Roof Removal

Asbestos roof removal runs on average $32.51 in New Zealand dollars per square foot. This does not factor in the above-mentioned variables such as location, time of year, and availability of materials. It can, however, give you somewhat of a ballpark idea of what having the service done may cost you before you obtain quotes.

Other things to take into consideration include the condition of the underlayment of the roof, any mould mitigation or erosion hazards, and any damage to guttering, soffits, and fascia. 

Asbestos Removal Regulations

Once a commercial asbestos removal service is finished with the job, there are strict regulations in terms of how to dispose of it. Though there are no government agencies that strictly oversee asbestos removal and disposal, the Ministry of Health and Worksafe are working to raise awareness of the issue. 

In order to properly dispose of asbestos, especially in its “friable” state (a term which means that it is damaged and likely to be an airborne contaminant via dust particles), the asbestos mitigation workers will have to find a local authorised asbestos disposal rubbish dump. These facilities have measures in place to ensure that contamination is kept to a minimum.

What About My Business Or Workplace?

The Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 2016 require all business owners as well as residential landowners to at least have an asbestos mitigation plan in place. While there have not been any prosecutions to date, it states that only a professional with licensure can perform asbestos removal or mitigation in a workplace or communal living space.

Employee Rights

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to asbestos, you can add your name to the Worksafe New Zealand Asbestos Exposure Register. If you have been exposed to asbestos, it is not likely that you will notice any ill effects until several years down the road, so it is very important to add your name as soon as you think you may be exposed.

It is within your rights to expect a safe and healthy workspace, so keeping a keen eye on asbestos exposure whether indoors or outdoors is vital.

Can’t I Just Do It Myself?

If you so wish, you can attempt to remove asbestos by yourself. First, you’ll need to verify that it is present by getting an at-home test kit. While this method is not recommended, it is understandable that some people may opt for the thrifty approach to asbestos removal rather than hiring a commercial asbestos removal service or contractor.

If you decide to take on the task by yourself, you’ll need quite a few tools and supplies for the undertaking. You also must contact your local health protection officer, a list of which can be found here. A bare minimum list (not including the cost of the test and lab testing) includes:

  • Eye protection
  • Filtered ventilators
  • Disposable ventilator filters
  • Whole-body cover suit
  • Several thousands Of metres Of plastic sheeting
  • External staging area
  • External equipment removal area
  • Protected transport from your home to the rubbish dump
  • Hazardous waste warning signage
  • All hardware to be used for physical removal

Buying all this material can prove to be costly, so you’ll need to do your homework before setting out to purchase it. You wouldn’t want to buy loads of unnecessary or inadequate gear. This leads to the next topic…

Can You Save Money By Doing It Yourself?

If you can find all of the materials and tools above at a low price or if you already have them lying around, maybe. If you don’t take into account the intensive man hours that it takes to complete, then maybe. However, once you factor in all of the hardware, specialized materials, and personal time required to do it yourself, it is usually smarter (and easier) to let a professional handle the job.

If you are replacing your asbestos roof anyhow, the contractor that you hire to do the job will take all of the necessary steps for you, from the inspection to the testing all the way down to the disposal of the hazardous material.

If you’re still not sold on hiring someone to do the work, you can always get a free quote from a roofing contractor before making your final decision. That way, you can be as thrifty as you would like by not only comparing prices between contractors but also comparing the quote with the price of doing it yourself.

If you decide to do it yourself, be sure to take into consideration the possible medical costs that you may incur in the future if you are exposed to airborne asbestos fibres. Short-term life insurance or heftier health insurance might be another thing to consider, as well. 

How Do I Know If My Home Has Been Tested?

If you are not the person who built the home or if it wasn’t a member of your family or someone that you can directly ask, you should be able to review all previous testing done on the house – from asbestos to radon and all points in between – by asking your realtor or by reviewing the abstract or disclosure form that you signed when you purchased the home. 

If you have any reason for doubt and you are not able to make contact with the previous owner or owners, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, if a commercial asbestos removal company is going to give you a free quote, they might as well come out and do the inspection to at least see what material your roof is derived from. To the trained professional eye, they’ll be able to near universally tell you whether or not you have an asbestos roof.

Another easy way to get an idea as to whether or not you are in need of asbestos roof replacement is by doing some research to find out when the home was built or the last time that the roof was replaced. The era in which this was done can provide some helpful information on what material you have over your head.

Are New Zealanders More Prone To Asbestos Exposure?

To some degree, yes because there is currently not a national strategy to combat the danger of asbestos removal. The occurrence of Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related causes of death are fourth-highest worldwide in New Zealand, behind the United States, The UK, and Australia. 

As mentioned above, the prevalence of roofs that use “Super Six,” decramastic tile, and other asbestos-heavy materials is widespread due to a surge in popularity in decades past. The aesthetics, versatility, and cost-effectiveness of these materials drove the usage of these materials into the mainstream home-building market. 

If your home was built or if the roof was replaced, repaired, or removed prior to the 1990s, there is a significant chance that it has some asbestos properties within it.

Can I Cover Or “Encapsulate” My Asbestos Roof?

Yes, encapsulating your asbestos roof is another option. While it is not as foolproof as a total removal, it can be a cost-effective alternative. This process put simply is a matter of covering and sealing all areas where asbestos fibres may escape and become airborne. One popular method is to cover them with a sturdier metal roof.

The low weight and tight seal that can be created using this material is an oft-used method to encapsulate asbestos in the roof or even the siding of a structure. Using certain hardwoods can work, as well, but they don’t have as long of a shelf life and they don’t provide the same level of protection as metal.

Regardless of whether you decide on asbestos roof removal or asbestos roof encapsulation, getting advice from a professional is advised – if not required – in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand.

Other Common Replacement Materials

If the idea of a metal roof doesn’t strike your fancy, there are some other options for replacement materials. Anything that you’d like to cover your roof will work fine, it’s just a matter of making sure that the asbestos is completely removed. A few ideas include:

  • Asphalt shingles
  • Cedar shake
  • Clay tile
  • Tin
  • Laminate

Don’t Risk Your Health – Call Professionals For Help

Now that you’ve gotten an exhaustive explanation of all things asbestos, asbestos surveys, asbestos removal, and asbestos awareness, you should know by now that calling a professional is far and away the best course of action. 

Instead of cordoning off your own home like a battleground, donning space-age protective equipment, and working around hazardous materials without a licence and only a bit of know-how, call an asbestos roof replacement company.  It will save you time, sweat, and money. Most importantly, they will keep you and your family’s health in top shape.

To get a quote, ask further questions, or check out our other services, contact us today! 

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