Deadly fibres, a small inconvenience or a way to negotiate a cheaper property price? Find out what you need to know if buying a property with asbestos.
Before I started my research I’ll admit that I thought buying a property with asbestos wasn’t just a bad idea but a complete no-no.
Then I found out how widespread asbestos in Australia actually is. For example, did you know that approximately one third of homes built in Australia contain asbestos product? And, if your house was built before the mid-1980s it is highly likely that it would have some asbestos containing materials?
While this doesn’t make it all OK, it was surprising to know that asbestos isn’t as rare as I, and maybe you, might have thought. So here are some important things to know when deciding whether to buy a property with asbestos.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that was commonly used in building materials because of its ability to withstand heat, erosion and decay and it has fire and water resistant properties too. It can be found in a lot of products, including roof sheeting and capping, guttering, gables, eaves, wall sheeting (flat or a weatherboard style), vinyl sheet flooring, carpet and tile underlays, flexible building boards, imitation brick cladding, fencing, carports and sheds, waterproof membrane, telecommunications pits, some window putty, expansion joints, packing under beams and concrete formwork… told you it was in a lot of products!
Is asbestos dangerous?
Most information says that if the building materials containing asbestos are intact, sealed, and undisturbed and undamaged, then it is safe. However, if there is cracking, damage or anything that could lead to the asbestos particles being released, then this is when it can become a health risk.
How to find out if a property has asbestos?
You won’t know if a building contains asbestos just by looking at it; it needs to be tested. If you do your due diligence and get a building inspection report done on a property you want to buy, it should discover any asbestos, but it’s worth checking with the property inspector you use to make sure they can specifically test for asbestos.
Sample testing by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory is the only way to confirm if asbestos fibres are present.
What to do if a property has asbestos?
Before doing anything you need to check the law in your state. It’s also recommended that you don’t try to remove it yourself. DIY asbestos removal can go horribly wrong and affect the health of you, your family and your neighbours, so the safest way to manage the removal of asbestos is to hire a licensed asbestos removal contractor who can also organise for its safe disposal once removed.
Ultimately, how you deal with asbestos is important but dealing with it is possible. So if you’ve found the house of your dreams asbestos doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Just make sure you:
- Find out if the property has asbestos, how widespread and in what condition.
- If it’s in good condition you mightn’t need to take any action, except painting it occasionally and checking it regularly for signs of wear and tear.
- If it’s not intact, you should find out what the cost will be to remove or repair it, and factor that into any offer you make to buy the property.
- If you also plan to renovate, you’ll need to find out if your renovations will disturb the asbestos as this could add greater cost and time to your remodelling.
For more information visit the Australian Government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency website, and check back next month for our blog post on renovating with asbestos.
Do you think asbestos is a deal breaker? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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