Asbestos Siding: Is it Safe?
LESLIE: Now we’re talking to Rich in Pennsylvania. And you’ve got some asbestos siding. How can we help?
RICH: Hi, how you doing? So I have a six-year-old house with asbestos siding on it. And a couple things. I’d like to know what I should do with it. But the most – the one thing I want to bring up is that there’s actually a piece that’s inside the house. Apparently, they put on a walkout basement on the back of the house and there’s one or two tiles that actually are inside the house because of the walkout basement. I’d like to know some options in terms of removing it. I do know I would need somebody who’s licensed to remove it. But should I remove it? It’s not like it’s leaking or moving or anything but I’m just – I’m really concerned because I have kids and all that kind of stuff.
TOM: No risk, really, from asbestos exposure if it’s a cement tile. You know, asbestos tile, where the asbestos is contained inside of a cement binder, has to really be crushed or broken to give you a risk. So, in fact, by taking it off the house, if that’s not done properly, you could expose, you know, certainly the air to asbestos fibers and, in turn, you could breathe it.
But really, you know, asbestos has a bit of a bad rap in the sense that it’s not organic, so it doesn’t wear out; it doesn’t rot. It doesn’t look all that good after some time because it tends to sort of grow mildew on it.
But really, Rich, if you paint it, there’s nothing structurally wrong with leaving it. There’s no health effect from leaving it. It’s the type of asbestos inside the house that’s airborne that we’re more concerned about. Generally, in a residence, you’re thinking about air cell asbestos insulation, which is the stuff that kind of looks like white, corrugated cardboard sort of wrapped around heating pipes or loose asbestos wrapping on heating pipes. But the stuff that’s hard tile, like asbestos siding, is not that much of a health risk to be concerned about.
So if you’re thinking about replacing your siding because you’re just tired of it and you want a different look, fine. But I wouldn’t take it off your house because you’re worried about the health effects because I just don’t think there’s a risk there.
RICH: That’s fine. And the piece that’s inside the house, again, so like you – again, not an issue for …
TOM: Yeah, if it’s a tile …
LESLIE: As long as it’s solid.
TOM: If it’s – right, if it’s a tile and it’s cement – it’s cement asbestos is what that’s known as. And not an issue.
RICH: (overlapping voices) Right. And it is inside the house. OK. And I’ve painted over it, just to make sure it’s locked. But, you know, I’m just concerned.
TOM: Yeah, I think you’re …
LESLIE: Just don’t let the kids eat it. (laughter)
TOM: That’s right.
RICH: (laughing) I won’t. (laughing)
TOM: By the way, Rich, I’ll give you one more trick of the trade. If you ever have to replace broken tiles or something like that, they do sell, in the home centers now, these replacement tiles that look like asbestos but they’re not. But the way to get that off of your house, if you ever have to do that, is to take a nail set and punch the nail through the tile. And this way, it’ll sort of lift right off and come out. Don’t try to pry a shingle off because it’ll crack and break. You just punch the nail through. There’s usually three nails in your average piece of asbestos siding and the old one will slip right out. You slip the new one in and you’re good to go.
RICH: Well, interesting. One quick thing, too. Painting. I’ve noticed that paint flakes off of the tile as well.
TOM: Different issue. You’ve got to – if – you may have a lot of coats of paint on that. You’re probably going to have to try to get rid of all that loose paint. I would use a primer next time because you have an uncertain surface there and it’s not sticking properly.
RICH: Thanks so much for your help.
TOM: Rich, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.