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Any object containing asbestos is dangerous if handled improperly. It can be safe if left alone and undisturbed. As long as it isn’t moved around, it can act as a safe and durable surface and protect a building for many years. The danger comes when asbestos roof tiles are moved or broken. When this happens, the microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne and enter human lungs. 

What is asbestos? 

Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally. It contains soft and flexible fibers. Those fibers resist heat, electricity and corrosion. This makes asbestos very useful but exposure to it can still be highly toxic.

It works well as an insulator. Because of this, manufacturers put it in paper, cement, cloth, plastic and other materials to make them stronger. However, ingesting asbestos can cause terrible damage. It gets trapped in the body permanently. Over the years, it causes inflammation as well as genetic damage. Asbestos exposure can cause the rare and aggressive cancer, Mesothelioma. It can cause other forms of cancer as well. It also causes progressive lung disease, ovarian cancer and laryngeal cancer.

Sometimes it can take decades before symptoms of asbestos exposure related illnesses begin to show. Asbestos related illnesses are usually fatal. 

What makes asbestos roof tiles dangerous?

The danger occurs when someone moves or breaks them.  Then, the microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne and enter human lungs. Or if they can come into contact with skin and eventually find their way into the body.

How do you know if you have asbestos roof tiles?

If any of the following applies to your roof, you probably have asbestos roof tiles:

  • The manufacturing date was prior to the 1980s.
  • Your roof includes mastic or bitumen-based pressed metal tiles.

This is not an exhaustive list. It’s still best to speak with a roofing professional to learn more. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

With the introduction of asphalt-based roofing products in the late 1950s, the EPA discontinued asbestos completely. In 1989, asbestos became illegal. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an asbestos ban and introduced a phase-out rule. 

Still, many buildings have asbestos shingles on their roof. If they are in good condition and left alone, they are usually not a serious problem. 

Can I leave my asbestos roof tiles alone?

Asbestos is harmful when someone breathes it in. If it is not airborne, it is not dangerous. Normally, asbestos in shingles, siding and other home exterior or interior products is encapsulated. This means it is surrounded by a coating of something that prevents it from becoming airborne. As long as your roof and siding materials are in good condition, you should be safe. The EPA recommends that you do not disturb asbestos if possible.

Even though asbestos home materials are durable, they eventually wear down and need replacement. If asbestos roofing and siding materials are damaged, cracked or broken, they become dangerous. Siding, in particular, has a tendency to break faster than roofing tiles. 

If any of the materials in your house have asbestos in them, you should monitor them for signs of wear and tear. A roofing company might be able to advise you on the state of your roof. 

Can I install siding over asbestos?

We hear of some people trying to solve their asbestos problem by putting vinyl siding on top of their deteriorating asbestos siding. The experts at QEI do not recommend this.

  • The process of installing siding is enough to disturb the existing material. This could create a dangerous situation even if the asbestos wasn’t a problem.
  • Installing siding over deteriorating siding might lead to additional problems in your home. It will simply hide the deterioration until it becomes an even bigger, more costly problem. 

What should you do if you suspect asbestos roofing tiles?

The safest, most accurate way to know if your roof tiles have asbestos is to have them sampled and checked by an accredited laboratory. Sometimes, sampling services will quickly advise you on the likelihood of asbestos. They use their experience from many different projects to identify asbestos roofing tiles. 

Sometimes all you need is a photo. A specialist will be able to look at a photo to know if there is asbestos in the tile, shingles, or sheets. 

Roofing shingles containing asbestos are manufactured from a mix of asbestos fibers and hydraulic cement. They were popular for their rigidity, durability and fire resistance. They would not warp or rot and were resistant to damage caused by insects. When asbestos cement was invented, it was already known that asbestos fibers had the potential to cause pulmonary diseases. Many manufacturers may have already known about the potential dangers to health from asbestos cement.

Once you discover you have asbestos roof tiles, take these precautions:

  • Contact a company that offers asbestos sampling and removal services.
  • Send a photo of the roof for advice on the probability that your roof does actually have asbestos. 
    • Just remember that because a roofing specialist says that it’s “likely” you do not have asbestos roof tiles. However, it will help you determine how much more investigation might be necessary.
  • After completing the first two steps, the house or building owner can consult with the sampling and removal company. They should take note of your budgetary and occupancy constraints. 

The next step is removal and replacement

There are methods to safe removal of asbestos roofing. 

  • Seal or cover the asbestos material to make sure none of the fibers are released into the air.
    • Sealing, also known as encapsulation, means to treat the material with a sealant. This will either bind the asbestos fibers together. It will also coat the material.
    • Covering, also known as enclosure, means to put a protective jacket or wrap around the asbestos-containing material. This will prevent the release of harmful fibers.

Make sure you hire a professional that is trained in handling asbestos safely. Once your roof is contained through covering or sealing, you can safely remove and replace your roof. 

When roofing professionals remove an asbestos roof tile, they must first wet them down. Next, they will bag and carry off the roof. This is to make sure that no dangerous fibers are released. After safe removal, the roofing contractor will be able to put new asphalt shingles on your home. 

Contact Quality Exteriors Roofing today to get a free quote! We will be able to tell you the average cost to tear off and replace a roof. Our experts will walk you through the steps it takes to make sure you get the best roof possible and the best price.