I have asbestos soffits. Help!

Are asbestos soffits causing you worry? Here’s our guide to dealing with them responsibly on a budget.

What actually is asbestos?

In days gone by, Asbestos was used heavily in both the construction and automotive industries. The material proved itself to be a very useful, durable and functional. As a result asbestos soffits can still be found in many homes. The term asbestos refers to six unique substances, Chrysotile, Amosite, Crocidolite, Tremolite, Anthophyllite, and Actinolite.

These names do not refer to different minerals. They are broad terms referring to each product’s unique fibres.

When is it dangerous?

An asbestos soffit is safe until disturbed. That’s why many of us live in homes built with asbestos without getting seriously ill. Asbestos is dangerous when its fibres get into the air. This happens by disturbing the asbestos soffit without taking proper precautions, or simply because the asbestos soffits are old and flakey.

Is all asbestos dangerous?

While some types of asbestos may be worse than others, all are dangerous. Leading health agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on cancer, classify all types of asbestos as cancer-causing substances. Some agencies, such as the Health Protection Agency UK view Crocidolite (blue asbestos) and Amosite (brown asbestos) as the most dangerous types.

Mesothelioma death rate since 1980

More statistics at www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/tables/meso01.xlsx

What’s the good news?

Chrysotile is used to make ACB, (Asbestos Cement Board.) This is the most widely used product for asbestos soffits. Studies have proven that exposure to Chrysotile asbestos, (commonly referred to as white asbestos.) can cause a number of serious health conditions, and its use has been banned since the 80’s. However, these studies also show it takes a lot more exposure to Chrysotile than other types of asbestos to develop related diseases, making it safer to work with.

This is great news! Because of this, (and ACB’s hardness making it tougher to break or abraid.) ACB asbestos soffits can be legally removed without licence or the need for expensive respiration equipment. Actually ACB asbestos soffits are quite easy and cheap to remove.

What’s the catch?

AIB! (The other type of asbestos soffit board). It kinda throws a spanner in the works.

AIB stands for Asbestos Insulation Board. It can contain 25-40% asbestos. Amosite was most commonly used, but Crocidolite was also used in older boards, (Remember, The Health Protection Agency UK view Amosite and Crocidolite as the most dangerous). AIB is softer, more porous and less dense than ACB. It can also contain between two and three times more asbestos than ACB, making it more fibrous. This makes it more likely to cause dust if disturbed or aged. If you have AIB you have no choice but to call a specialist.

What should I avoid?

Do not be tempted to hide asbestos soffits. This includes covering up the asbestos soffit, (known as a “Cap” “Clad” or “ Fascia Lining”). Covering asbestos soffits hides the danger. It is extremely common for future trades to drill, cut or break hidden asbestos, releasing fibres into your home.

Another problem with hiding asbestos soffits, is how the new soffit will often get fixed to the existing asbestos soffit. It is highly dangerous to secure any fixing into the original asbestos, as this is a 100% guaranteed method of releasing asbestos dust. The screw or nail used penetrates the asbestos soffit and can also cause fracturing of the asbestos, releasing more dust and leaving loose asbestos in your roof.

Another method we come across is to remove and replace the fascia, but cover up the original asbestos soffit, leaving it hidden inside. This suffers from the same dangers as the “cap”, but with added risk. Force is placed on the fascia to remove it, and the fascia in turn is attached to the asbestos soffit by a groove. This makes breaking the soffit very likely. It also leaves the broken remains in your roof space, and the broken shards hidden in the rubbish.

Cap Hiding Asbestos soffit

Asbestos soffit hidden by a ‘cap’.

Testimonial here from someone who had asbestos soffits and that you removed and replaced them for

Customer Name

So what’s the solution then?

Remove and replace the asbestos soffits. When asbestos soffits are removed properly, the board is completely gone, the work dust can be controlled and the roof can be completely rinsed and cleaned!

How?

Here are our 3 steps to removing Asbestos soffits safely, but as cheaply as possible.

Caution Asbestos Hazard logos
Caution Asbestos Hazard logos

Step 1:

Request a DIY asbestos soffit testing kit by commenting at the bottom of this page. You need to know if it’s ACB or AIB. It’s even possible your suspected asbestos soffit is actually modern cement board, in which case there’s no danger and you’re good to go!

Step 2:

If it’s AIB call a specialist! If ACB, Ask your fascia & soffit installer to explain how they intend to remove the asbestos soffits. This should be supplied in the form of a method statement. It should include a list of PPE to be used, the use of water to hold down potential dust and a method of safely storing the asbestos on site while waiting for collection. If a contractor can’t provide you with these simple explanations, it’s probably time to look elsewhere.

Step 3:

Know where the asbestos waste is going and when it is going to be collected. Not only is this important for environmental and health reasons, but prices will vary.

If you’re unsure of anything, the gov.uk website has a tonne of useful literature on this subject. Feel free to ask a question below, or if you live in the south west contact us and we’ll send Wil over to have a look!