Asbestos is the biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, as it was used and removed for so many years before we understood how dangerous it is. It was used in homes, public and commercial buildings from the early 1900s and was extremely popular between the 1950s-80s. It wasn’t banned in the UK until 1999, and because it was so popular, any buildings constructed or refurbished during that time is likely to contain asbestos. That’s why in many cases it’s a legal requirement to have an asbestos survey carried out.
When asbestos is broken down, for example during a renovation, tiny fibres are released into the air. If a person isn’t wearing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE), they can breathe these fibres in where they get lodged in the lung tissue. Because the fibres are so tiny, they get pulled deeper into the lung tissue with every breath, eventually causing diseases like asbestosis, COPD and cancer.
Why should I get an asbestos survey or test?
If you’re doing any home improvements to a property that was built before the 21st century, there is a strong likelihood that there is asbestos present somewhere in the house. A common place you’ll find asbestos is in artex ceilings, which are those with a textured look rather than a smooth finish. If you start scraping off the artex finish and there is asbestos in it, you will release the fibres into the air and anyone that’s not wearing the correct PPE will breathe these harmful fibres in.
If you test anywhere that’s likely to have asbestos in it, you can take the appropriate action and get asbestos removal specialists in to remove it to avoid causing harm to you, your family or any other tradespeople.
Are there different types of asbestos tests and surveys?
There are two main ways that you can get your property tested for asbestos: with a do-it-yourself sampling kit, or by having a full asbestos survey.
Asbestos testing kits
Asbestos testing kits allow you to take a small sample of the area you suspect could have asbestos and package it up and send it away to a lab for analysis. The kits cost around £40 from reputable brands, and you can often have the results within 24 hours of sending the sample off. A DIY testing kit can seem like a money-saving option. But you’ll only be testing where you suspect there to be asbestos – and since asbestos was used so widely, you may not test everywhere that it could be present if you don’t have specialist knowledge.
You can also ask an asbestos contractor come to your property to take a sample, which is a safer option as they will be able to tell you whether they suspect there could be asbestos in any other areas you’re planning to renovate. This usually costs between £100-160.
If you’re carrying out a full renovation of your home, it’s well worth getting a comprehensive asbestos survey. The contractor will come to your property and carry out a thorough search, looking for places that you might not have thought of. At the end of the survey, they will produce a report telling you their findings and will advise on the next steps.
A complete asbestos survey usually costs between £400-800.
Will an asbestos test or survey save me money?
Having an asbestos test or survey will definitely save you money in the long term. If you don’t have a test carried out and you disturb asbestos, it could cost you thousands of pounds in damage and will put your renovation project back by months.
More importantly, an asbestos survey or test could save lives. If you disturb asbestos, those tiny fibres will get into yours, your family’s and other tradespeople’s lungs and could cause potentially fatal diseases.