What do I need to know about asbestos?
Here at The Relocatable House Company, we have found that when you are planning to relocate or demolish a building, one essential is to make allowances for the discovery of asbestos. Asbestos has been given a bad rap, which means people can be put off if there is a hint of it… but it is easily and safely managed by engaging a certified removal specialist.
Asbestos-carrying materials in themselves are not harmful. The issue comes in when these materials are damaged, cut or removed and dust is created, which sometimes can’t be avoided when a house is shifted.
It’s this dust, with its small fibres, that poses a health risk when they are inhaled. The nature of the fibres means they can get stuck in someone’s lungs, which can lead to difficulty breathing and, in severe cases, lung cancer.
Asbestos-containing building materials became popular among manufacturers and builders during the 1980’s and through to the early 1990’s. They were affordable and boasted good sound absorption, strength, plus resistance to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage.
Materials such as Duroc siding panels and Vermiculite (sparkling) ceilings almost always contain asbestos.
We would recommend always consulting with and using a qualified professional to undertake asbestos removals. Terry O’Keefe from Ashmoor Construction and Richard Laurenson from NZAR are both certified asbestos removal specialists. Terry and Richard came in to The Relocatable House Co. Headquarters recently and shared with us their know-how on the various asbestos scenarios that we all need to be made aware of in houses built before the year 2000:
Here’s what we have learned:
Asbestos can be found in many areas, namely ceilings, wall claddings, floorboards, roof membranes, pipes, old vinyl and even in carpet glue – the only sure way to know is to have a sample taken and tested…so it pays to get a professional to ELIMINATE, ISOLATE and MINIMISE the threat.
An easy way of discovering whether or not a certain material could contain asbestos is to look to see if the screws/nails sit flush with the material, or if they sit out a little bit. Fixings used for attaching materials containing asbestos will always jut out a tad.
If you would like to read more about how asbestos is managed, please visit the Worksafe website and read their “Guidelines for the Management and Removal of Asbestos” HERE. Follow this link (if the link has been changed you can go straight to the Worksafe website and search “Asbestos Removal” (www.business.govt.nz/worksafe).
If you want to learn more about the safety requirements for asbestos removal in general, go to the Occupational Safety and Health section of the Department of Labour’s website (or try this link: http://www.dol.govt.nz/workplace/knowledgebase/item/1392).
These links can help you to understand the special legislation covering asbestos and the handling of products containing asbestos, but it is still best to CONTACT A PROFESSIONAL for further assistance if you believe asbestos is present in a house you may want to shift off your site or if you are purchasing a house for relocation.
If you are SELLING a house for relocation The Relocatable House Co. would ask you whether you know of any asbestos present at our free appraisal.
If you are BUYING a house for relocation, we would highly recommend you doing your research and due diligence up front before signing a Sales &Purchase Agreement. If you choose not to, you could become responsible for the removal of the asbestos if your house mover uncovers and notes the presence of asbestos during their ‘prepping the house’ stage. Once asbestos has been uncovered, the house mover would probably cease work on site and notify all parties concerned. They may only need to cease work in the affected area. You would need to call a certified asbestos removal specialist immediately to enact the 3 rules which are namely ‘eliminate, isolate and minimise’. Once identified and when all the asbestos has been safely removed off site, the house mover would be in a position to continue with the prep work for relocating the house.
On a final note, Councils seem to differ on their stance when it comes to asbestos – some will not let you bring a 2ndhand dwelling into their jurisdiction if it contains asbestos, while others will allow a 2nd hand dwelling to be re-sited in their region if their guidelines are met.
For example, the Auckland City Council states “asbestos or materials containing asbestos are acceptable when the asbestos is bonded in a matrix, or encapsulated with an appropriate coating to ensure that no free particles can escape”.
It is a therefore a good idea to contact your local Council to get their policy on asbestos when you are doing your site research.