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Can you demolish a house with asbestos?

by | May 2, 2024 | Advice & inspiration, Building basics & regulations, Knockdown rebuild

By now, we all know the serious health issues that are associated with asbestos. Most of us understand how delicate a process it is to remove asbestos and that spreading the fibres can make people very sick and can even be fatal. So, what does this mean if you’re planning a knockdown rebuild, but discover the house you’re planning to knock down has asbestos? Can you even demolish a house with asbestos?

The answer is, usually, yes, however, you must do it right. Let’s take a look at the process of demolishing a house with asbestos, including how it works and how to approach a knockdown rebuild project when dealing with an asbestos house.

Why was asbestos used in the first place?

If your home was built between 1940 and 1990, there is a decent chance that asbestos cement was used in the building of your home. Any home built before 1990 should be checked for asbestos, but there are cases where asbestos was used even later than that. Unfortunately, the serious health and safety issues that come with this deadly material weren’t understood until much later and asbestos was widely used due to it being fire resistant, strong and water-resistant. Since the nationwide ban on asbestos in 2003, removing asbestos materials is a booming industry that’s thriving to this day.

Remember: asbestos removal is very dangerous when performed incorrectly. We highly recommend it be performed by a professional rather than trying to do it yourself. Even qualified builders and demolition contractors hire someone else to perform this task because it is such a specialised skill.

Where can asbestos be found?

Asbestos was a popular choice for ceiling insulation but can be found within the walls, under tiling, within piping and in old fixtures such as fireplaces. You’ll need to hire a professional assessor to determine what in your home contains asbestos.

What forms of Asbestos are there?

It’s important to be aware there are two distinct forms of asbestos and it’s crucial you know which you are dealing with. There are two forms of asbestos:

  • Friable asbestos: This is the most dangerous of the two forms as the fibres are exposed. Most commonly used as insulation and found in ceilings, this type of asbestos removal work has to be performed by a professional.
  • Non-friable asbestos: This refers to asbestos that is contained within another material, like cement. Though still potentially dangerous to remove, it is safer than friable asbestos, as the fibres are more contained.

Is there any situation where I can remove asbestos myself?

Legally, yes you can remove asbestos. Whether this is a great idea depends on your skill level, however, you can remove less than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos yourself. This varies a lot depending on where you are, with some states banning any asbestos removal by non-professionals.

We strongly advise you don’t perform this task yourself even if it is legal. There are serious health and safety risks if you get it wrong.

What are the legal and safety considerations around asbestos?

Due to how dangerous asbestos removal works can be, there are many regulations that need to be followed to ensure the safety of both the contractors performing the task and everyone else.

Home demolition regulations around asbestos removal

The law states that any asbestos needs to be removed BEFORE the house demolition begins unless there is a good reason this cannot be done. Most likely, the only reason someone would be allowed to demolish a house without removing asbestos first would be due to an emergency situation. The situations tend to fall into one of the following categories:

  • The building is structurally unsound.
  • There’s a chance the building could collapse at any time

Basically, the removal work would have to be more risky than knocking down the house without removing the asbestos, and in the vast majority of projects, that won’t be the case.

What permits and approvals are needed?

All removal work of an asbestos amount of more than 10 square metres must be performed by a licensed asbestos removalist with a current A or B license.

Once the job is finished, your removalist should provide you with a certificate stating your property is now asbestos free.

What is the pre-demolition asbestos assessment process?

The first step in the assessment process is finding out whether you have asbestos on your property. The best way to do this is to have a licensed asbestos assessor come to your home.

You can’t really tell whether a product contains asbestos just by looking at it (especially if you’re an amateur), so you will need to call in a professional to find out whether your home has any asbestos products.

What is the asbestos removal process?

When removing asbestos, it’s important to take the following steps:

Planning: Identify where the asbestos is and the type of asbestos you’re dealing with.

Using the correct protective gear: Protective gear is essential when it comes to safely disposing

Removal work: When removing asbestos from the premises, it’s crucial to double-wrap the material and label it clearly.

Decontamination: Once the asbestos removal work is complete, the site needs to be decontaminated. This involves removing all airborne asbestos fibres and asbestos waste

Disposal: Asbestos cannot just be dumped anywhere for obvious reasons. All removed asbestos needs to be disposed of in an approved location.

This is just a brief outline of what’s involved in asbestos removal and shouldn’t be used as a how-to guide.

How much will asbestos removal cost?

There’s no getting around the fact that asbestos removal can be a pricey addition to your costs. Removing asbestos is going to set you back anyway between $1,900-$20,000 with some of the key determining factors being:

  • Amount of asbestos
  • Complexity of work
  • The time it’ll take to perform.

Something that’s easy to access, like a fence in the open, will be much cheaper than having to remove friable asbestos throughout your entire home. It’s all necessary though, so, unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of choice about removing the asbestos before your demolition.

How will this change the home demolition process?

Asbestos removal is a time-consuming process and will make your overall demolition work take longer. A lot of this extra time will be dedicated to sorting out the removal work. Usually, asbestos removal will be performed at least a few days before demolition work is due to begin.

Buildi is here to help you throughout your knockdown rebuild process.

A knockdown rebuild is a big project but with the right guidance, the entire process can be smoother. Buildi knows the construction industry inside out and is here to provide this inside knowledge to the consumers. We can help you find the best builder for your project and guide you through the entire process, sitting in on meetings, helping you stay on schedule and making sure you avoid some of the big mistakes many homeowners make. Get in touch today to discuss your upcoming project.

Book your free, impartial consultation with Buildi today!

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