JIM: My wife and I are looking at retiring here before long. And we purchased a house that we’re going to be living in and we’re remodeling it. And it’s an older home. It was built in 1946. And we’ve been doing some work remodeling on the inside. But on the outside of the house, it’s had vinyl siding put on it in the last several years. And I had a contractor out doing some work for me and I had him to take a look at what was under the vinyl siding. And he told me that it was lap board. It looked like, to him, it was 6-inch lap board. And I didn’t know if the lap board – if it had asbestos in it or not.
TOM: Well, I think he’s calling – he’s talking about clapboard, which is like a horizontal, 6-inch siding. And typically, that’s made of wood or a composite; it’s not usually that style made of asbestos. In a house that was built in that era, if it did have asbestos it would most likely be an asbestos tile. That’s called a “cement asbestos tile,” because the asbestos is inside of a cement binder.
So, if it’s not a tile, then it’s not likely to be asbestos.
JIM: Actually, what he said – he mentioned lap board – is what he said. I was thinking maybe – I know that they used to make a Masonite …
TOM: But I mean you said that that would have been the original siding, so that would have been since the late 40s?
JIM: Yeah, the house was built in ‘46.
TOM: That wouldn’t be the masonry hardboard siding, not at that age.
JIM: OK, OK. So you don’t think there’s any concern, as far as the siding.
TOM: Well, not unless I know more. Unless I know more. But certainly, I would want to find out what that is. He ought to be able to tell you if it’s a composite material or not.
JIM: OK. Well, I was just concerned about – like I said, he was just doing a little work for me and I asked him just to take a look.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
JIM: And he told me – he said he didn’t think I needed to be concerned about it but I …
TOM: Yeah. You can scrape the surface and see if it’s wood or not or if it’s hardboard or what. It’s pretty easy to tell.
JIM: Yeah, he scraped the surface of it and it just sort of peeled off.
TOM: Well, it might be the paint he took off, too. But it’s not likely based on what you’re telling me, OK? You can test it to be sure but it’s not likely.
Good luck with that project. Thanks, again, for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
If you own an older home, especially one built before the 1980s, there’s a chance it may have asbestos-containing materials, including siding. Asbestos was commonly used in construction due to its fire-resistant and durable properties.
Identifying Asbestos Siding
If you’re curious about whether your home has asbestos siding, here are some steps to help you identify it:
Check the Age of Your Home
Asbestos was commonly used in construction materials until the late 20th century. If your home was built before the 1980s, there’s a higher likelihood of asbestos-containing materials.
Examine the Siding Material
Asbestos siding often comes in the form of cement asbestos tiles. Look for flat, square, or rectangular shingles that are hard and brittle. They might have a slightly textured surface and can range in color.
Consult Professional Inspection
While visual inspection can provide some clues, it’s not foolproof. Consider hiring a licensed asbestos inspector to assess your home. They have the expertise and tools to accurately identify asbestos-containing materials.
Check any available documentation related to your home, such as renovation records or previous inspection reports. If asbestos was used, there might be documentation indicating its presence.
Be Wary of Certain Siding Types
Asbestos siding is often found in specific types, such as cement asbestos tiles or shingles. If you’re uncertain about the material, consult with experts or get a sample tested.
Perform a Professional Asbestos Test
If you’re still unsure, consider collecting a small sample and sending it to a certified asbestos testing laboratory. Professionals can analyze the sample and provide accurate information about the presence of asbestos.
Exercise Caution During Renovations
If you plan to remodel or remove siding, take precautions. Asbestos is harmful when disturbed, releasing fibers into the air. Use proper safety gear, and consider professional removal if asbestos is confirmed.
What to Do if Your Home Has Asbestos Siding
Remember, the mere presence of asbestos doesn’t necessarily pose a risk. It’s when the material is damaged or disturbed that asbestos fibers become airborne and potentially hazardous. If you suspect asbestos in your siding, consult with experts to ensure a safe and informed approach to managing it.
The only time you’ll likely need to be concerned about asbestos exposure, as well as the high expense of removing asbestos siding, is if you’ve decided to remove the siding. In that circumstance, it’s important that the contractors follow all asbestos abatement protocols for removal and disposal.
Benefits of Asbestos Siding
While cement asbestos siding has been largely phased out due to health concerns associated with asbestos exposure, it’s important to note that in the past, it was valued for certain characteristics. However, it’s crucial to balance any potential benefits with the well-established health risks. Here are some historical considerations:
Asbestos siding is known for its fire-resistant properties. It was a popular choice in the mid-20th century because it could help protect homes from fire damage. Since asbestos siding is nonorganic, paint also lasts far longer than it does on wood siding
Asbestos siding is durable and resistant to rot, pests, and weathering. This made it a long-lasting option for homeowners, requiring less maintenance over time.
Asbestos has natural insulating properties, providing some thermal resistance. This quality could contribute to energy efficiency by helping to regulate indoor temperatures.
Asbestos materials can offer sound absorption, potentially reducing exterior noise and creating a quieter indoor environment.
Resistance to Chemicals
Asbestos is resistant to many chemicals, which could protect the siding from damage caused by exposure to various substances.
While these benefits may have contributed to the popularity of asbestos siding in the past, it’s crucial to emphasize that the health risks associated with asbestos exposure far outweigh these advantages. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and inhaling its fibers can lead to serious health conditions, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. As a result, the use of asbestos in construction materials, including siding, has been restricted or banned in many countries.
That said, cement asbestos siding doesn’t not pose a threat unless it is disturbed. This type of asbestos is contained in a cement binder which prevents virtually all asbestos fibers from being released to the air.