Why Asbestos Cement Siding is a Liability
If you have a home with asbestos cement siding, you may be wondering whether or not to remove it. Let’s take a look at asbestos and consider the pros and cons of leaving it intact.
What is Asbestos?
It’s not a synthetic material, but rather one that comes from nature. Some of its more useful properties are sound absorption and resistance to fire, heat, and electricity. Because of its natural properties, it’s been used as insulating material in buildings and electric systems.
With all the bad press going around about asbestos, you might be surprised to learn that its usage is actually thousands of years old. Ancient peoples from Finland to Greece to Persia used it to strengthen ceramic pottery, and the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne is said to have had a tablecloth made from asbestos. Perhaps he liked to frequently enjoy Korean Barbecue…but in any case, you can be sure his table was fire resistant.
Popular Use of Asbestos and Health Concerns
Asbestos started becoming heavily mined around the time of the Industrial Revolution. They were using it in railroad cards, buildings, and get this—clothing (thankfully that last market never really took off).
But around the turn of the 20th century, doctors began to notice that there were some health concerns cropping up in asbestos-mining boom-towns. Deaths related to adversely-affected lungs were popping up all over the world. To keep a long and gruesome story short, the sharp asbestos particles were getting all up in people’s lungs, causing fibrosis and eventually death.
Now despite all these red flags, the useful properties of asbestos made it a still-desirable material for insulating and fireproofing. In the 1980s and 90s, they tried to change the asbestos game by making asbestos cement. The idea was to avoid the problem of crumbling, which in turn led to the dissipation of asbestos particles in the air.
It didn’t quite work out. Turns out asbestos is just naturally crumbly, and when it gets in people’s lungs, the sharp (albeit microscopic) particles can really do some serious damage, causing inflammation, cancer, and mesothelioma—a deadly type of cancer in tissue lining. Wow, that all sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?
So if you have any asbestos in your home, you’ll want to have it dealt with professionally. Whatever you do…DON’T try to remove it yourself by just pulling it off whatever it’s covering. If asbestos is removed in the wrong way, the particles will get into the air and do some serious damage…we’re talking about polluting the air with toxic chemical properties that are harmful to your health.
If you have asbestos in your home, for example, asbestos cement siding, it’s a serious liability that also negatively affects the resale value of your home. Asbestos siding was first used in the United States in the 1900s to reinforce cement shingles, and over the course of the next seven decades, millions of homes were constructed with asbestos cement siding.
After all, it was an affordable option that offered homeowners resistance to heat, insects, and rot, while also being easy to paint. However, studies of lung diseases like lung diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma have surfaced and they all have been connected to asbestos some way or another.
To be fair, even though cases of asbestos-related deaths had been documented, there still wasn’t a huge amount of awareness about the negative effects of asbestos, especially within legislative bodies.
Now, truth be told, if you just let asbestos be, there isn’t too much potential for damage. The problems start when you’re removing, cutting, or damaging the siding so that the particles are released into the air.
Deal With It
Unfortunately, if you know anything about homes and home improvement, you know that the odds of any given part of your home just staying untouched forever is pretty low. Asbestos cement siding can also negatively impact the resale value of your home because of the way it looks. Unlike wood, which can be sanded down, repainted, and refinished, asbestos siding cannot.
It’s difficult to find replacement siding for worn-down areas, and many people consider it inherently unattractive. So you’ll definitely want to remove or deal with any asbestos you have in, on, or around your home.
If asbestos is in the interior of your home, like on the ceiling, you should consider having a qualified team remove it, because it’s hard to just cover that up with another layer of ceiling. For one thing, it will severely reduce the interior height of your rooms. It’s also important to realize that your ceiling is an area that could frequently be cut open or disturbed by electrical and aesthetic work.
When it comes to the outsides of your home, removing the asbestos may not necessarily be the most feasible option. You’ll probably have to get some permits for the work to be done, which will take more time and money.
How to Deal With It
If it’s not within your budget to remove it, there are other alternatives for dealing with it. For example, you could cover the asbestos with an outer layer of foam insulating material, and another layer of vinyl siding on top of that—an option will prevent particles from getting up into the air.
In fact, this method of dealing with asbestos siding is the preferred method of the Environmental Protection Agency. That said, covering it up with a new layer of siding is an affordable, environmentally sound alternative to dealing with it. However, if it’s within your budget, you may want to remove the siding entirely.
What if I Want to Do it Myself?
In some states, you’re allowed to remove it yourself, but if that’s the route you choose to go, make sure you adhere to the steps—even though it’s a relatively simple task. You’ll need a Tyvek suit and gloves, along with a respirator that’s rated for asbestos work and toxic dust. Before removing asbestos siding, you’ll want to take extreme care to avoid breaking asbestos into small pieces.
Usually, the siding is installed with nails, so you’ll have to carefully pry off each piece whole and intact, using something like a crowbar. Once you’ve removed the pieces, they need to be put in a heavy-duty contractor’s bag but don’t stuff them, because the siding is heavy.
In terms of disposing of the bags once they’re filled, you’ll need to see what the local laws are in your state. Of course, you’ll probably want to throw out the Tyvek suit and even the clothes your wore while doing the job.
Now you may be one of those handy, adventurous types that feel up to the challenge of removing the asbestos siding, but hopefully outlining that whole process impressed upon you how delicate it really is.
If That Seems Like Too Much Work…(it is)
Again, your best bet is to work with a siding company that has experience with this issue. Whether they remove it entirely or cover it up with a new exterior, you’re going to want to do something about the asbestos cement siding on the side of your home.
Even though it isn’t so harmful if left untouched, odds are that the exterior of your home will be touched by something over the course of its lifespan, whether that’s an errant baseball, a car, a tree branch or an unknowing contractor.
Moreover, asbestos siding has a low aesthetic appeal and negatively impacts your home’s resale value, so dealing with it as soon as possible is a good way to avoid the liability caused by its presence.
Replace Your Asbestos Cement Siding
After learning about the danger of asbestos siding and the liability it causes, now’s the time to remove it for good. As you learned from reading this article, the best way to deal with asbestos cement siding is to remove it and replace it with vinyl siding. At Feldco, you’ll be satisfied with exceptional long-lasting and high-quality vinyl siding that gives you high energy efficiency.
In addition, you will appreciate our business because we are local and we’ve served over 400,000 customers across the Midwest. Lastly, our professional installers are factory-trained to ensure that your siding will be professionally installed no matter how big the project. Speak to a product specialist and get a free quote today.