Asbestos Siding: To Remove or Cover

If you’ve discovered your home has asbestos siding, you may be wondering whether to remove it or cover it up with vinyl siding. There are a few crucial things to take into account when making this decision. Read on to find out exactly what asbestos siding is and how you should handle it.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos itself is a combination of 6 types of natural occurring minerals made up of fine, durable fibers that are resistant to heat, fire and chemicals. In the past, many homes were built with asbestos because it was a “miracle” mineral that didn’t burn. It was eventually found to lead to many dangerous diseases, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Asbestos is most dangerous when it’s friable, and it typically becomes friable if it’s damaged in some way. Once small fibers are in the air and can be inhaled, the fibers get into the lining of the lungs, causing disease.

What is Asbestos Siding?

Asbestos siding is made of composite cement mixed with asbestos fibers. It’s fragile and is prone to cracking or breaking when nailed, which can release the asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos siding is most dangerous when it’s damaged. Damage can occur from erosion, repair work, or drilling that has disturbed the siding.

It has become common to place layers of foam insulation over asbestos siding and cover it with vinyl siding. However, since installing vinyl siding can disrupt the asbestos from drilling, screwing or nailing into it, it’s often best to remove it first. Disrupting the siding can create an exposure hazard that wasn’t there before. It’s pricier to remove the asbestos siding first, but will pay off in the long run, keeping your home and family safe and healthy.

Removing Asbestos Siding

Given the dangers of asbestos, it’s typically best to find a properly licensed contractor in your area to inspect and remove your asbestos siding. If there’s no damage to the siding, and you want to do it on your own, make sure to follow these guidelines to ensure you and your home are safe.

Post signs: To ensure friends, neighbours or any other passersby aren’t exposed to asbestos, post warning signs around your home. Place 6-mil plastic sheeting along the side of the house to catch any debris.

Suit up: Make sure to wear disposable coveralls (with a hood), goggles, rubber gloves, rubber boots, and respirators with HEPA filters.

Prep the siding: Before and during removal, it’s key to wet the asbestos siding and debris with water. Hose down about 10 square feet of siding at a time.

Protect your home: Keep all windows and doors shut when you’re removing your siding, and do not throw or drop removed asbestos siding. Work on removing the siding from the top down, carefully taking out the nails so the siding doesn’t break. Never bring asbestos contaminated clothing, boots, or tools into your home.