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Think of your worst nightmare during a home improvement or renovation project. Were you thinking about the possibility of finding asbestos? If not, you probably should have been.
Asbestos in any kind of property can cause huge problems. This hazardous material is something you must deal with carefully, but what’s the best way to handle asbestos removal? Also, in terms of its effect on your budget, what’s the average asbestos removal cost UK wide?
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to six naturally occurring minerals. Each of them comprises thin, needle-like fibres with various shared characteristics. These minerals are all soft and flexible, as well as being impressively resistant to heat, electricity and rust.
There are natural asbestos deposits all around the world. In the case of renovation or home improvement, you’re most likely to come across the following types:
- White Asbestos (Chrysotile) – The most common form of asbestos used in construction pre-1999. This asbestos has a strong yet flexible structure and a white/grey appearance.
- Brown Asbestos (Amosite) – As the name suggests, this form of the mineral has a brown colouring. Brown asbestos was used in many buildings as thermal insulation or pipe lagging.
Asbestos.com is a great source of further information. You can learn about the various asbestos minerals, their former uses and how to identify them.
How Likely Are You to Find Asbestos?
If you’re working on a property built in the year 2000 or later, you shouldn’t find any asbestos. All asbestos materials got banned from use in the UK in 1999. In older properties, though, the risk of finding the material is significant.
Its heat-resistant, insulating qualities led to asbestos being widely used in construction. The following are just some of the places where you might find it:
- Pipe lagging
- Loose fill insulation
- Textured decorative coatings, like Artex
- Toilet seats and cisterns
- Floor or ceiling tiles
- Partition walls
- Gutters and downpipes
Why is Asbestos so Dangerous?
If you find asbestos, it’s crucial to understand the risks it poses. When asbestos gets damaged, disturbed or deteriorates, fibres get released into the air. If you inhale those fibres, they can lead to a range of serious illnesses, including:
- Asbestosis – Serious scarring to the lungs. Asbestosis generally only develops after sustained, heavy exposure to asbestos. The scarring causes increasing shortness of breath, and in cases may be fatal.
- Asbestos-related lung cancer – Exposure to asbestos can cause the same cancerous mutations in the lungs as smoking.
- Mesothelioma – Specific cancer affecting the lining of the lungs and surrounding areas. It is exclusively related to asbestos exposure – and by the time it’s diagnosed, it’s almost always fatal.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 20 tradesmen per week die due to asbestos. That level of risk explains why it’s vital for you to understand your options when it comes to asbestos removal.
Asbestos Removal – What Are Your Options?
If you suspect there’s asbestos in a property you’re working on, get an asbestos survey done. A qualified surveyor can ascertain if (and where) asbestos is present in the property. This survey also identifies the type of asbestos present and its current condition. The options you have for dealing with it depends on whether the asbestos is damaged or has deteriorated.
You shouldn’t try to remove asbestos yourself, not least since it may be illegal to do so. Even if it’s not, improper handling of any asbestos material can be very dangerous. Your options are to hire a professional to remove the asbestos, or to arrange to have it encapsulated. This is when asbestos gets sealed off or otherwise made safe.
Encapsulation is only an option if the asbestos hasn’t yet deteriorated. It’s either boxed away or covered with a coating or sealant, to prevent the future release of fibres.
Asbestos Removal Costs UK
The cost of dealing with asbestos in your property comes in two parts. You have to pay for a professional asbestos survey and then pay to either have the materials removed or encapsulated.
Asbestos Survey Costs
The cost of an asbestos survey depends on a number of factors. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Where you live
- The size of your property
- How many samples a surveyor has to test
- Which contractor you employ for the job.
Unless you’re very fortunate, expect to pay at least £160 for a proper asbestos survey. The current UK average cost stands at around £250. To find out more, or to get an average cost for your local area, you can check out this handy guide from Wise Tradesmen.
Asbestos Encapsulation Costs
If your survey reveals encapsulation is an option, this is often the cheapest way to go. How much any project will cost depends on the property, your location, and the extent of the asbestos. A good rule of thumb is to expect to pay at least £8 per square metre of encapsulation.
Asbestos Removal Costs
Having asbestos removed costs more than having it encapsulated. It’s often the only option, though, as damaged or deteriorated asbestos can’t always be made safe in situ. Removal also deals with the issue permanently, whereas encapsulation is sometimes only a stop-gap solution.
Once again, many factors determine the cost of asbestos removal including its type, how dangerous its condition is and how much of it there is. Different contractors also charge at different rates, so it pays to shop around when getting quotes.
In general, asbestos removal gets priced by the square metre. On average, you can expect to pay around £50 per square metre. However, areas that are harder to reach will be more expensive.
The table of real quotes provided at job-prices.co.uk is a great resource for discovering how much real projects often cost.
Finding asbestos is a DIYer or tradesman’s worst nightmare. This hazardous material is a significant health risk, needing to be dealt with carefully. If you find asbestos, you’ll need a qualified professional to handle it.
If you have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment, and share this post on social media if you think your friends need to learn more about asbestos removal.