Sunday, 25 January 2015

Don't mess with asbestos cause asbestos don't mess...

Asbestos - even just saying it can freak some people out.  And it is true that it can be dangerous and countless families have had to deal with loved ones falling prey to lung disease and cancer.  But it seems when it comes to dealing with asbestos there are two schools of thought - those that say get rid of it, and those (who seem to be in a greater abundance) who say leave it where it is and don't mess with it.


But I decided that we needed to at least know what we were dealing with. Being a century old house (in parts), most was probably constructed before asbestos was used as a building material. But with various (and somewhat dodgy) additions I figured there was a pretty high chance of at least some asbestos being present.  And all my research showed that you really can't tell what is or isn't asbestos just by looking at it.  





So I contacted a company called Airsafe to come out and test for us.  The process itself was very quick and the vendor kindly let them in to drill small holes in the walls even before settlement.  We received a report which spelt out which areas had asbestos and what the options are for dealing with it. 


Quality of these pictures aren't great as I scanned them on my phone app, but asbestos was found in laundry and in the kitchen behind the splashback

Describes the types of asbestos (ours was bonded)

So for non friable asbestos it is possible to leave in place providing it is in good condition.

So as you can see we did have asbestos present, but luckily not in too many areas, and also it was the "preferable" type of asbestos.  So then what?  I was keen to get rid of it, but many people said just leave it, don't get into it, don't open that can of worms.  

However, given the fact we planned to redo the kitchen, which would involve ripping out cupboards etc on the splashback wall, and also wanted to eventually do up the laundry/bathroom we decided that we needed to get rid of the asbestos.

So the next step was finding someone to remove it.  It is surprising how many "cowboys" are out there offering to remove asbestos for lower prices.  Who knows where they would dispose of it or the safety precautions they would take.  A couple of things I learnt about asbestos removal and I think are quite important - 

1) The removal company needs to notify Workcover (depending on area of asbestos to be removed) which means they need some time to organise when they come to do the job for you.  

2) You have to get a clearance report after removal is complete to prove there are no fibres still hanging around.  This part annoyed me at first, I felt like it was another expense involved and a lot of money to pay for someone to do approximately 5 minutes work.  But when I thought about it properly, it makes sense that if you are going to the effort to have the asbestos removed you should really get the all clear that it is done.  Besides, the reputable companies can't let you back into the areas without the clearance - so you have to cough up!  I used Airsafe again - and the removal company liaised with them to organise when to turn up which was very handy.

On the day of the removal, I felt very sorry for the guys that turned up.  Three men, fully suited up in suits like spacemen, and then had to isolate the areas with heavy black plastic.  And it was a warm day.  So basically they were in plastic suits in a sauna.

I was staying well clear of the kitchen.  They also had a large extractor in case of fibres.

Some of the bagged up asbestos as it was removed.


The kitchen wall post removal of asbestos.

Bathroom/Laundry after removal of asbestos.

Bathroom/Laundry - some parts of the wall were not asbestos fibres so they were not removed
So asbestos was gone.  But obviously - new walls were necessary.  I had actually sort of forgotten about that part.  We had a draughty house for a while there!

In terms of costs - the original report and testing cost us $650, the removal itself (one wall in kitchen approx 6m x 3m, four walls in laundry which is a room about 3 x 2.7m) was around $1750 and the clearance report afterwards (which I think I got a discount on due to using them previously) was about $400.  To be fair, a fairly reasonable cost for peace of mind.  Also I would recommend if you are getting outside contractors to do any work (such as kitchen installation or electricians) that you get asbestos removed, because that was one of the first questions they asked and it was very helpful to be able to show them the testing and removal reports.  So overall - I think definitely worth the effort.





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