What Home Buyers Need to Know About Asbestos?

31 Jul, 2022

Buying a new home is one of the most important decisions many of us make. It is a huge financial decision and one that we want to make as pain free and risk free as possible.

Most people are aware of the more common issues associated with a new home such as mould, rot, borer, structural damage and faulty services. But did you consider the potential asbestos risks within your new home?

Where is it Found?

Asbestos was used extensively in the building industry throughout the 20th century. Buildings constructed prior to 2000 are likely to contain asbestos materials. However, the final ban on the importation of asbestos into New Zealand was not enforced until 2016. Therefore it is worth considering all buildings when discussing potential asbestos risks.

In a typical residential construction, asbestos containing materials are likely to be found throughout the house in particular, roofing, exterior soffits and cladding, internal wall and ceiling linings, flooring, decorative finishes. Although this is not an exhaustive list, some builders may have used asbestos materials in other areas as well.

Classification of Material

When dealing with asbestos products you are likely to hear the terms friable and non-friable or Class A and Class B products. In this instance, the term friable or Class A means the asbestos material is in a powder form or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder form simply by using hand pressure when dry. On the other hand, non-friable or Class B asbestos materials are usually in a bonded form and are generally much more stable.

Needless to say, friable materials can be more dangerous than non-friable and need to be managed closely. The additional training and control measures required to remove friable, Class A materials mean the cost is generally more.

The condition of the material?

Usually people’s first thoughts when it comes to asbestos materials in their homes is to remove it. However, this may not actually be the case. When asbestos containing materials are in good condition and remain undisturbed, they are safe. In fact, as we discussed earlier, they are a very good building material. The problems with asbestos arise when the material is in a poor condition. When asbestos materials are in a poor condition their potential to release fibres into the air increases and the more likely you are to inhale the fibres.

How can I find out if my new home contains asbestos?

Asbestos fibres are so small that they can not be seen by the naked eye. Therefore, the only way to know if a material contains asbestos is to collect a small sample of the material, usually the size of a 5 cent piece, and analyse the sample at an accredited laboratory. The laboratory will then use microscopic analysis to determine the type of asbestos present.

The most effective way to determine if your new home contains asbestos is to have an asbestos survey carried out. The survey will aim to identify the asbestos containing materials present and assign a risk score to each material. This score measures how likely the material is to release fibres in the air.

To get the most effective survey, it is always recommended to use a licensed asbestos assessor to carry out the survey. By ensuring the surveyor is licensed, you are reassured that they have undertaken the required training and Worksafe New Zealand has issued a licence to them.

Hazard Management has a team of licensed asbestos assessor who specialise in asbestos surveys. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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