Asbestos Information Page

Sources, problems, health impact, using at work, identification and disposal of asbestos

Asbestos in the Home

Remember that asbestos does not present a problem if it is in a good state of repair. If you suspect that your property contains asbestos and are concerned, seek specialist advice. If you are confident in your ability to identify asbestos containing material it would be advisable to:

  • Conduct a survey to locate all possible sources of asbestos.
  • Carefully check that any asbestos has not been damaged and that there is no dust arising from it.
  • If surfaces are unpainted, paint them to prevent any dust from escaping. Use emulsion paint for insulating board and alkali resistant primer for asbestos cement. Do not rub down surfaces before painting.
  • Make a note of these possible sources of asbestos for future reference and check the condition of this material periodically.

If damaged asbestos containing material is encountered in the home, seek specialist advice. Work involving asbestos cement does not require a licence. Therefore it is legal for householders to perform asbestos repair or removal work in their own home. However, it is uncomfortable, physically demanding and potentially dangerous work. Please note that work involving other types of asbestos is usually more hazardous, requires more stringent precautions and must be performed by a suitably licensed specialist.

If householders intend to work with asbestos cement, then the following precautions are advised to minimise the risk from generating asbestos dust:

  • Prepare the work area by removing any unnecessary items and cover the floor and surfaces with disposable polythene sheeting.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke and keep other people away from the work area.
  • Wear protective clothing that should include a disposable coverall with hood (wear legs over footwear), rubber or disposable gloves, disposable facemask approved for use with asbestos (follow the user instructions carefully), and footwear that can be easily cleaned such as rubber boots.
  • Turn off any heating or cooling systems and seal vents with duct tap
  • Damp down the asbestos by using a plant sprayer or a hosepipe with a fine mist of water. Add some detergent to the water if possible. Do not soak the area, as this will make cleaning up more difficult. Never use a jet/pressure washer. If a dry area is exposed during work, wet it immediately.
  • Remove asbestos in complete sheets taking care not to break it up and release fibres.
  • Never sand down or wire-brush asbestos and do not use power tools.
  • If fixings are difficult to undo, try to cut them off rather than break the asbestos.
  • Double wrap the asbestos in strong polythene sheeting or bags and seal with tape as you go along. Label clearly as asbestos. Do not allow the asbestos waste to pile up and do not put into the dustbin.
  • After repairs have been carried out, mop and wipe the area with a disposable damp cloth. Never use a vacuum cleaner, as this will just spread dust around.
  • Place contaminated cloths, polythene sheeting and protective clothing in a strong polythene bag while they are still damp and seal the bag with tape. Dispose of these as asbestos waste.

Further information about asbestos may be found on the Health & Safety Executive website.

Last Updated: 25 March 2021