Does Your House Have Asbestos Cement (AC) Roofing Sheet?
If your house is being cladded with AC sheeting whether it is on you wall, ceiling, roofing or fencing, you need to start monitoring its condition. Check whether it has been weathered or deteriorated.
The poor condition of the sheeting will bring disaster to you and your surrounding environment. An incident related to the AC sheeting happened to one of the popular shopping centres in Canberra. The asbestos assessor found the eaves there in poor condition, and the roof of the building was deteriorated. The assessor added that asbestos contamination in the surrounding areas including footpath, street and park, was likely to happen if there was a fire, high winds or thunderstorm.
Why Can AC be a Disaster?
AC is one of the products of asbestos. The asbestos-containing material (ACM) is a dangerous substance. It is a mineral, which occurs naturally. It is made out of tiny fibres. The fibres have unique qualities, such as durable, fire resistant, also resistant to other chemical reactions. Years ago, asbestos became the perfect material to be used in various residential, commercial and industrial settings. Its strength and heat resistance quickly made asbestos become the most popular material in the roofing industry.
These days, ACM is categorised as a toxic mineral. It has induced various diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancers. Many people lost their lives due to the fibre exposure. The qualities that made the material so preferable are also very dangerous to human’s health. Its tiny size can only be observed under a microscope, makes the fibres easy to enter the lungs as they are inhaled. Once the fibres get into the lungs, they remain inside. The fibres are hard to be broken down or expelled because they have solid durability.
The AC does not consist of 100% asbestos, but it still contains at least 10-15% asbestos. That is why it still poses a hazard to health. The amount of ACM looks small but that is not the main concern. It is the size of its fibre that is dangerous to human. Its tiny size that poses the risk to the body.
The cement sheeting has a minimal risk if it is fully intact. However, as it gets older and is continuously exposed to the sun and rain, the surface is often got eroded and causes the life-threatening fibres uncovered. This condition will put everyone near the material to be at risk.
Where Can You Find Asbestos Cement Sheeting in Homes?
The AC sheeting also known as fibro can be found in various building materials, including:
- Exterior wall cladding
- Floor tiles backing
- Water pipes
- Domestic heater and hot water pipes insulation
Until the 1960s, there were around 25% of all new residential buildings in Australia that are cladded with asbestos cement. The fibro was used mainly in roofing as well as façade. Many homes built before 1990 contain AC materials, specifically in the eaves, ceilings, external and internal wall cladding and fences.
Why Does Asbestos Cement Roofing Sheet Erodes and Becomes Brittle?
When the fibro sheeting is covered by lichen, moss and grass, it can finally cause the material to get brittle and break up.
The fibro is also prone to weathering process. As the sheet is continuously exposed to the sun, rain and harsh weather, it can get deteriorated and weathered and later it will easily be disintegrated as the cement-bonding agent gets broken down.
How to Save the Fibro Sheeting?
If you see the presence of lichen, grass or moss on your roofing, it is a good idea to clean the roof. But remember to handle the work carefully because a wrong procedure of the cleaning may damage the surface and generate the fibres into the air.
Things that you Must Not do when cleaning the roofing sheet containing ACMs:
- Do Not washes the surface using a high-pressure sprayer.
- Do Not clean off the sheeting using compressed air.
- Do Not clean using a rough material, such as wire brushes, stiff broom, metal scrapers, sandpaper, etc.
If the lichen or moss were hard to be removed, it would be better to leave them to prevent any serious damage to the roof.
Another method you can apply to your weathered or minor damaged roofing sheet is sealing or coating. Seal the minor crack with a sealant to prevent the fibres from being released into the air. Painting can be applied to a weathered sheeting to protect the material from exposure of the sun and rain. Do remember that if you apply sealing and coating, you need to monitor the fibro continuously to see any appearance of serious damage.
When Does the Fibro Sheeting Need to be Removed?
If the sheeting is broken due to natural disasters like a hailstorm, or an accident, the only possible solution is removal. However, if you plan to do removal, remember to engage a licensed professional who has followed training and earned a certification to ensure a safe removal procedure.