Buying A House: Could Your Siding Contain Asbestos?

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Buying A House: Could Your Siding Contain Asbestos?

26 January 2016
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Articles

If you're looking to buy a home that was built during the mid-twentieth century, you might be concerned about the presence of asbestos in the home, as asbestos was added to many different types of building material. Asbestos is dangerous; it causes many health problems, especially impacting the lungs and respiratory passages. A common place to find asbestos is in the siding of your home. Here is what you need to know about buying a home that might have asbestos in the siding. 

Is it really asbestos?

Asbestos was added to a specific type of siding "shingles" that were made from asbestos fiber and mixed cement. These siding shingles overlap in a similar pattern to asphalt roofing shingles and are usually painted an assortment of colors, as asbestos holds paint color very well. These siding shingles therefore have the look of a plaster wall, but in small sections. Sometimes, homeowners may have upgraded the exterior of the home by adding vinyl siding or aluminum siding over the top of the old asbestos shingles. When buying a home built before 1980, take a look under the siding to make sure there isn't a hidden layer of cement siding underneath.

If you notice these cement-fiber shingles on your prospective house, you could still be in the clear. Cement fiber siding shingles do not all contain asbestos--this type of siding is still in use today. Call a siding contractor or a housing code inspector to test the shingles to make sure they're asbestos free. 

What do you do when the siding test comes back positive for asbestos?

If the test comes back positive, it's time to call in the pros. Sometimes, an inspector will decide that removing the asbestos will be more harmful than leaving it in place, as asbestos only become harmful when it is disturbed. Safety inspectors might advise you to leave the siding in place and cover it over with safer siding, sealing the asbestos in.

However, if you are planing on fixing up your house, cutting into walls, or doing any exterior renovation work, the siding has to go because there is the chance of disturbing the asbestos fibers. If you have not yet closed on your prospective house, you can lower your offer to help absorb the cost of remediation. It's important to get the siding issue resolved and passed off by building code authorities before you move in, because most home insurance policies will not cover injuries that come from asbestos. Sometimes, your home insurance may not even cover the house until the asbestos is resolved.

You might be tempted to take a hammer to the old siding shingles as soon as you close on the deal to buy the new house. However, this is not a DIY job, as tearing off the old shingles yourself will release the harmful fibers into the air, exposing you to potential health problems. Most communities require that asbestos containing material be handled by a specialist. In fact, your siding contractor may not have the correct safety equipment to handle the job. Contact your city for advisement on safe handling and removal practices, and don't forget to ask about the cost of disposal. 

You might feel discouraged when you discover the house you're thinking of buying needs extra time and money in order to eliminate the risk posed by asbestos siding. However, even though the siding itself might be a headache, if you contact a siding company, such as Lifetime Exteriors, and the correct safety officials, you should still have prompt access to your dream home, which will now be safe enough for everyone to enjoy.