What you need to know about asbestos roofs in Australia

Asbestos has been banned in Australia for almost 20 years now (since 2003), however, while it is no longer being used it is still very much present in homes, buildings and various items in Australia.

Asbestos was used in a variety of different ways, predominantly between the 1950s and 1990s, though it wasn’t entirely banned until 2003.

It was commonly used in the building and construction industry because by its nature, asbestos is incredibly versatile. It is lightweight yet strong, it’s also heat and water resistant, and could be mixed with other materials to strengthen them – such as cement.

This versatility meant that asbestos was used in all sorts of ways, such as asbestos cement sheeting, cement piping, insulation, under tiling and vinyl flooring.

Another common way asbestos was used in building materials was in corrugated cement sheeting. This type of cement sheeting was largely used as a roofing material but was also used for fencing and sometimes cladding too.

In Australia, roofs with corrugated cement sheeting that contains asbestos are still somewhat common and can pose a risk to the health of anyone on or nearby the property. If you suspect that you have an asbestos roof on your property or you know that you do, keep reading to learn more about the risks associated with it and what you should do.

What kinds of asbestos roofing materials are there?

As we mentioned above, the most common asbestos roofing material used in Australia was a corrugated cement sheet. Made from a mixture of cement and asbestos fibres, the corrugation of the sheeting made it ideal for roofing applications because it allowed for efficient water drainage. The strength of asbestos combined with cement meant that it was also very durable and able to withstand all kinds of weather conditions for a long period of time.

One of the most commonly used corrugated cement sheeting was made by James Hardie and was known as “Super 6” cement sheeting and is classified at being non-friable when it is in good condition.

It’s not always possible to tell that a material contains asbestos just by looking at it, but corrugated asbestos sheeting, like super six, is usually grey in colour, and has a fibrous appearance. If it has been painted, then it may not be grey. This type of cement sheeting also tends to be thicker than other types of corrugated roofing materials.

Corrugated cement sheeting tends to deteriorate at a faster rate than other types of cement sheeting, like flat cement sheeting, and this is due to the manufacturing process to create the ridges. 

As the corrugated cement roofing that contains asbestos ages, it can take on a weathered appearance, which is usually a sign of deterioration and a cause of concern. As the cement sheeting is exposed to the outside elements, when it is used on roofs, it means that overtime the asbestos fibres could be disturbed – which is a problem.

Why does it matter if asbestos fibres are disturbed?

Asbestos is one of the reasons why you need to replace your roof. The asbestos fibres in the roof, when swallowed by humans, can cause major health problems including incurable illnesses such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. These illnesses develop when the asbestos fibres get caught in lung tissue. The problem is that the body cannot expel the fibres if they get deep enough in the lung tissue, so the body aims to get rid of the fibres by absorbing them. However, this leads to scarring which can cause these other illnesses.

When asbestos fibres are friable – which means they are easily disturbed – it poses a health risk because it means they can become airborne, which is how they can be ingested.

You may not even realise that you are swallowing the fibres as the they are often unable to be seen by the naked eye.

When asbestos roofing products, like the cement sheeting deteriorates, the likelihood of the asbestos fibres being disturbed and becoming airborne increases.

A variety of activities and actions can cause the fibres to become airborne, including:

  • Weather, such as storms and high winds
  • Washing the roof
  • Cutting into the materials
  • Drilling the materials
  • Using abrasive tools on the roof

Even walking on the roof can cause the fibres to become disturbed.

Do I have to get my asbestos roof removed?

Before you do anything to your asbestos roof, it’s best to have an inspection and subsequent test of the products to confirm the presence of asbestos or any other hazardous materials.

Once you know what you’re dealing with, it makes the next steps a lot easier.

If your suspected asbestos roof is indeed asbestos, you have several options, which are:

  • You could leave the roof as it is. If it’s in good condition and not friable, then you may not need to do anything. However, if you choose this option, you need to monitor the condition to ensure that it does not become a health risk to anyone.
  • You could take steps to care for the roof – this might include sealing the asbestos in by painting it. We don’t recommend this step unless the roof is already being looked after this way. Ultimately, while you’re managing the asbestos risk for now, you’re only delaying the inevitable, which is the final option.
  • You could have the asbestos roof removed and replaced (if you need it to be replaced). Depending on your plans for the structure with the asbestos roof, one of the best courses of action is to have the asbestos roof removed. This removes the risk entirely and you can rest easy knowing that your home or property is free from asbestos.

Manage your asbestos roof with the asbestos experts

If you think you have an asbestos roof on your property, or asbestos anywhere on your property, you should give us a call today.

Here at Asbestos Australia, we’re experts in identifying and removing asbestos from homes, commercial buildings and industrial properties in Melbourne, Victoria, Sydney, New South Wales, Adelaide and South Australia.

Our expertise allows us to safely identify asbestos and ensure that it is handled properly and effectively every time. As Class A & B licensed asbestos removalists, we can help you take care of any job no matter how big or small.

Call today to book your asbestos roof removal.

Tommy Clappers

Tommy Clappers

Tommy Clappers is the Owner and Founder of Asbestos Australia Removalist specialising as a Class A & B Licensed Company with highly trained ticketed staff with over 25+ years in the industry in Friable & Non-Friable Commercial, Industrial & Domestic. He's well-skilled in all types of Asbestos Removal and Hazardous Materials. He's an expert in Encapsulation, Soil Remediation and Industrial Cleaning. He prides himself on creating safer environments for his team and his client's safety and ensuring every removal is safe and clean. He currently resides in Melbourne, Australia.

Posted By: Tommy Clappers

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