Hoping you can shed some light on this concern of mine. I recently went into a bidding war on a century-old home and won─however, it wasn't disclosed until after the deal was signed that the home has asbestos siding. After much internet research, I've seen many different responses, all of which seem to suggest that this product is highly questionable and unstable, and that it can't be altered at all (by cutting, scrubbing or painting) as the asbestos can become airborne and compromise everything. Can you please clarify for me what you know to be true? Should I be purchasing a home in this day and age that has asbestos siding?
First off, don't panic…Asbestos contained in siding, known as "cement asbestos", is far less of a risk than when used in other applications, as the asbestos fibers are bound within the siding's cement composition and can't be easily released into the air. After 20 years as a home inspector, this is not something I have ever seen impact a home's value. Cement asbestos siding is non-organic and so it does not decay and actually holds paint quite well (which, by the way is NOT dangerous contrary to what you have been told!).
As for handling it, you do need to take a few precautions. Cutting asbestos siding is the only danger, which is minimized with use of specialized tools that "shear" rather than cut the shingles. Also, I recommend against installing new siding over top of the existing asbestos material, as the process will damage the latter and cause asbestos fibers to be released. Remember also that while removal of asbestos siding is not regulated, disposal of the material may be so also be sure to check with your local trash collection service to ensure that the material can be disposed of properly.
Finally, I don't believe having cement asbestos siding would negatively impact your home's value. It is not dangerous and while it may not be the most trendy siding product out there, it is super durable and does it's job of protecting your home's structure quite well.
Tom Kraeutler is the host of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show and the Home Improvement Editor for AOL. For more tips, sign up for Tom's free e-newsletter here. Tom's latest book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure, is available in bookstores everywhere and online.