How To Remove Asbestos Siding

Asbestos siding

If you plan to remove asbestos siding from your home yourself, you will need to do some research first: It's nasty stuff. Asbestos is a bundle of naturally occurring fibrous minerals found in metamorphic rocks and soils. Its fibers are long and thin, and easily separated from one another. As long as the asbestos remains undisturbed, there is no way for the fibers to be released into the air and inhaled. But once the fibers are released, they become problematic: Exposure causes diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers.

Before we get to specific directions, here are a few things you should know:

Exposure. Asbestos is resistant to heat, chemicals, and electricity, which is why it has been used as an insulating material in shingles, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, insulation, cement pipe and many other products (see a sample list of asbestos-containing products here). As long as the asbestos remains undisturbed, it is not problematic. However, all it takes is one small break for fibers to be released into the air and breathed in. The scary part is that health investigators have found asbestos-related diseases and poisoning cases in individuals with only brief exposures. In other words, one microscopic fiber can have devastating consequences.

Abatement Contractors. As a homeowner, you can remove asbestos siding from your home yourself. In some states, however, it is illegal to hire anyone other than a state-certified asbestos abatement contractor to perform or assist with removal. They have specialized equipment and extensive training on the removal of asbestos siding and materials according to your state's guidelines.

Removal workers wear respirators, goggles, coveralls, gloves and boots that are designed to shield the technician from harmful particles in the air, and that protective gear is disposed of after each project. They use surfactants that keep the asbestos wet so that if a break should occur, fewer fibers will escape. Also, the area in which they work in is covered in plastic, and workers cannot leave the area without discarding their protective garments. Each of these techniques is governed by specific regulations that may vary from state to state.

Permits. Permit requirements for a homeowner to remove asbestos siding vary widely from state to state. You must apply for and receive all the necessary permits and obey all the regulatory requirements. A good place to start researching is at your local zoning/building agency and health department. Please keep in mind that if you live in a state that does not closely regulate asbestos disposal by homeowners, it is still in your best interest to remove it properly.

Homeowner's Guide to Asbestos Siding Removal

The equipment and techniques required to remove asbestos yourself make for hard work, and the removal must be done properly. The protective clothing is hot and cumbersome and must be worn at all times. Moreover, the work can become very humid due to the water sprayed. The heavy gear can put additional stress on the heart and lungs, while the eyewear reduces visibility while you work.

Other dangers exist. Water will be used, which can create potentially hazardous conditions around wiring and electrical power. Therefore, this wiring should be covered prior to starting. 

Once you have made the necessary preparations the work can begin. Let me once again express the importance of safety throughout this process. It is best to clear the area before any work begins. Remove asbestos siding by following these steps:

  1. Set a large piece of plastic on the ground around the perimeter of the home. This will catch the material that is being removed and make disposal easier.
  2. Begin spraying a small area of siding with water to loosen it. The water should be mixed with a small amount of household dish detergent to help the process. Do not put more than one half of a cup into a sprayer that attaches to a garden hose. More than that will result in too many bubbles and a huge mess!
  3. Begin removing the siding in the area that is wet. This should be done by extracting the nails first in an attempt to keep the pieces intact. If the siding does begin to break and fall apart, add more water to avoid the risk of more breakage and exposure to fibers. Place the removed siding on the plastic laid around the perimeter of the home. Continue in this manner for the remainder of the siding.
  4. Keeping the siding on the plastic sheeting, carefully gather all the pieces that were removed. Seal the plastic and place it into 6 mil asbestos bags, which can be obtained at any home improvement store. Close the bags by twisting the end and then wrapping it with duct tape. An asbestos warning label must be affixed to the exterior of the bags. Place all clothing worn as well as materials (such as wash rags) that were used into these bags as well.
  5. Gather all the bags and take them to an authorized disposal site. This is the only place where the asbestos can be processed. Upon request, your state will provide a list of facilities that are near you.

The Definitive Guide. Washington State's Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has an excellent step by step guide on home asbestos siding removal.

After reading this article, you may feel overwhelmed. The process to remove the siding yourself is quite complicated and I do recommend that you hire a certified professional to do this work. However, if you are set on doing the removal yourself, please print out How To Properly Remove Asbestos-Board Siding, and follow its recommendations.


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