Asbestos was a common addition to roofing materials made from 1940 until the product was banned in 1978. As a result, any roof installed before 1978 should be inspected to determine whether it contains asbestos.
Be Smart About Asbestos
If so, roof replacement is essential to protect the health and well-being of building occupants and our environment.
What is an Asbestos Roof?
Asbestos was popular when it hit the market in the 1940s because it was highly heat- and fire–resistant. It made perfect sense to use it in cement products, as well as home insulation and other roofing products as a way to prevent fire damage. Unfortunately, it turned out that once asbestos products begin to break down, their microscopic mineral fibers become airborne, penetrate the lungs and cause cancer, as well as other respiratory issues. They can also be swallowed if they enter the mouth and throat.
Once that information came to light, namely as the result of serious health side effects present in insulation and roofing contractors who worked with asbestos materials, asbestos products were outlawed entirely in 1978.
However, there are plenty of older homes that still have asbestos products as part of their structural contents, and licensed contractors are the only ones who should replace them to prevent unnecessary exposure and potential harm.
Why Should I Replace an Asbestos Roof that Still Works?
The good news about asbestos roofing materials is they were durable. The bad news is that even small breakdowns in the materials or their structure (such as a leak, crack, or penetration) release the toxic particles, which can cause respiratory issues for yourself and other building occupants. Your health and safety are the first priorities.
Another factor worth considering if you have an old or historic home is that resale value may suffer if you don’t replace the roof. Most homeowners aren’t interested in replacing the roof in a new home, so replacing it now may expedite – or increase the total sales price – when you’re ready to sell your home or business.
Only Use Licensed Professionals with Adequate Safety Equipment
As you can imagine, it requires great care to remove and clean up an asbestos roof replacement. Workers are covered from head-to-toe and wear top-dollar masks with respirators. The site must be meticulously controlled and contained to trap and isolate asbestos materials and scraps, so they are appropriately disposed of at designated toxic waste dump sites.
Steps required for removing and replacing an asbestos roof include:
- Pulling the proper building permits and adhering to local regulations. The state of California has very clear regulations regarding the removal and replacement of asbestos products. It also requires pulling a special permit, which is signed off at various stages by a local building inspector.
- Wearing the right safety gear. Workers are vulnerable to inhaling asbestos particles, so we take extra special precautions, including wearing an asbestos-proof respirator, to ensure our safety on the job site.
- Sealing or encapsulating the asbestos. We do this with a combination of designated sealants that are applied to keep the disruption of asbestos particles to a minimum while we’re cutting away and removing roofing parts.
- Covering the materials. Plastic sheeting is used as an additional barrier to protect any released particles from getting into the interior air space and/or the environment. We also wet down all of the materials to prohibit asbestos particles from being airborne. Once removed, we bag them up for disposal at specific, licensed locations.
As you can imagine, there is no point in repairing an asbestos roof. The risk is too high, and odds are your 40+–year-old asbestos roof is in dire need of replacement anyway.
Schedule an Inspection If You Suspect Your Roof Has Asbestos
If your roof was installed after 1978, there is no need to worry. It’s unlikely to contain asbestos. If, however, you suspect your home or commercial building has an asbestos roof, we recommend contacting a local, licensed roofing professional and schedule an inspection.
Then you’ll know for sure whether or not it’s time to move forward with a replacement. And, if not, it’s still worth your while because an annual roof inspection is part of sound, roof maintenance protocol.