People often ask us – is an asbestos survey needed when purchasing a new home? It’s something buyers often wrestle with, even if the current situation may make this seem the least of your worries. Incidentally, you can still move house, even following the announcement of the latest and strictest restrictions, albeit with certain rules and guidance in place.
Is It Likely There is Asbestos Present In My New Home?
The reality is that large quantities of asbestos-containing materials or ACMS were used in the UK in the construction of homes until as recently as 1999, when the then Labour government banned the use of these materials across the country. Indeed, some figures reveal that nearly three-quarters (70%) of British residential properties have some form of asbestos. Other stats suggest around half of all UK homes harbour this potentially lethal substance.
It’s been widely used in the past given its insulating and fire protection qualities, as well as its properties as a strong, cheap building material and resistance to chemicals, water and electricity.
While these materials remain safe if left well alone, once they are disturbed or damaged, the fibres released pose a significant risk to human health. As well as being linked to serious lung diseases such as asbestosis, the substance can lead to two cancer types – mesothelioma (a rare but aggressive illness affecting the lining of the lung) and the nearly always fatal asbestos-related lung cancer.
What’s more, a burst pipe which damages a ceiling or building work could easily disperse asbestos fibres. And most insurance policies won’t pay out just because this material is identified – they will only cover asbestos removal as part of a claim for damage.
Where Is Asbestos Most Likely To Be Present?
Unfortunately, this stuff can show up in a wide variety of different places. The technical director at one firm of chartered surveyors reckons:
- Nearly a third (30%) of asbestos is found in ceiling coatings
- Some 15% of the substance typically displays in boiler flue pipes and ducts
- Some 15% is present is floor tiles
- Fire protection materials such as in internal garage roofs or boiler cupboards hold 5% of UK asbestos
- Some 10% is found in outbuildings
- An additional 15% is seen in places like cold-water storage tanks, eaves, rainwater pipes and gutters
- Cement panel ceilings contain 10% of all asbestos
However, this list isn’t exhaustive. Asbestos can rear its ugly head in roof shingles, textured paint, window and cement panels, air duct coverings and fireplaces.
Is An Asbestos Survey a Legal Requirement When Purchasing a Property?
When looking at whether you need an asbestos survey before buying a house, it’s worth pointing out that residential asbestos testing isn’t a strict legal requirement. That said, there are various reasons why it makes firm sense to commission a survey:
- Above all, a home asbestos survey gives you peace of mind when it comes to knowing whether or not asbestos is present in your home
- In particular, if you’re planning building works which could disturb the asbestos, it’s important that you know whether dangerous fibres are around.
- A family or household member could unwittingly disturb asbestos-containing materials and put their own health at grave risk, as well as that of others living in the property and visitors
- Asbestos testing helps you work out the risks posed by any ACMs found
- An asbestos survey means that you can put the right measures in place to manage those risks
- A residential asbestos survey is a good long-term investment to protect both your household and your property
- If you’re buying somewhere or contemplating doing so, an asbestos survey tells you what you need to know about the presence of the mineral before you commit to the purchase
What if Asbestos is Found on The Property?
If your home asbestos testing identifies the presence of asbestos, an asbestos management plan is provided. It could involve using an expert to remove the substance if the report recommends doing so.
Alternatively, the report from the residential asbestos survey may recommend leaving the stuff where it is, while recording its presence or making it safe with a special coating or covering so it doesn’t get disturbed. (This locks the fibres in place so none of the material can escape.)
Generally speaking, your management plan will only recommend moving asbestos if it’s damaged or crumbling or otherwise deteriorating. Equally, if it’s located somewhere in your home that’s not extensively used, and where the asbestos is unlikely to be damaged, it’s usually safer to leave it untouched.
Looking for a qualified asbestos consultant?
If you need an asbestos survey ahead of buying or selling a home, we can help. At Core Surveys, we have more than a decade and a half’s experience in our industry, along with numerous accreditations. We operate across London and huge swathes of the south-east, as well as in Bristol, Swansea and Cardiff.
We offer a full range of commercial asbestos services, alongside consultancy, asbestos surveys and site remediation services, as well as being able to help with residential asbestos testing. Get in touch today to chat through what you need.