Before 1999, when the then government banned its use in new buildings, asbestos cement sheets were a popular variety of garage roofing, especially throughout the 1960s and 1970s. They provided a number of benefits, from durability to versatility and cost-effectiveness, not to mention their insulating as well as fire and weather-proofing properties.
These roofing sheets consist of a mix of cement with between 10 and 15% of asbestos, typically a white variety called chrysotile. On roofs, asbestos can be found in panels, gutters, felt or the whole roof.
A full governmental ban on all asbestos became law at the turn of the millennium. This included white asbestos or chrysotile, following a partial ban in 1985 on the importation of blue and brown versions. This was due to the deadly nature of the material when its fibres are inhaled, and the clear links with mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer, all of which are potentially fatal; asbestos is considered to pose such a threat to human health that it is no longer used in the UK.
But, given its popularity at one time, it’s not uncommon to find asbestos in garage roofs on any properties built before 1999. Happily, however, this is an issue with a number of possible solutions.
How To Tell If Your Garage Roof Contains Asbestos
If you suspect your garage roof may have asbestos, there’s only one way of confirming this for sure: have the materials sampled and tested by a professional asbestos company. When trying to decide whether you do indeed need an asbestos survey, bear in mind that it is impossible to tell if a material contains asbestos just by looking at it, however there are some potentially tell-tale signs or indications that it may do, including:
#1 Corrugated roofing panels
This is an indication and not a definite certainty – asbestos roofing sheets are often corrugated, although asbestos-free cement roofing sheets can have this format too.
#2 Garages built pre-1999
With any garage roof built before 1999, there’s a chance it could contain asbestos, especially for those structures completed in the 1960s and 1970s, when its use was most prevalent.
#3 Moss or lichen growth
A large amount of moss or lichen is typical of an asbestos garage roof, although again this isn’t always the case. However, the more moss there is, the older a roof is likelier to be, and the likelier it is that asbestos could be present.
#4 Cracks and breaks in the roof panels
A key distinguishing factor, though not a certain one, when it comes to establishing whether asbestos is present in a garage roof is the way it has aged over time. Roof panels made up of just concrete are likelier to appear crumbly, while those containing asbestos are more likely to show cracks. So if you notice cracks in your garage’s roof panels, this is a potential indicator of asbestos.
#5 Small surface dimples or craters
If your corrugated roofing sheets feature small dimples, craters or similar patterns, this is another sign that the material may be present.
If you spot any of the indicators mentioned above, arrange an asbestos survey by an accredited asbestos company as soon as possible.
How to deal with an asbestos-containing garage roof
If an asbestos survey and testing confirm that your garage roof does indeed contain asbestos, there are a number of options available to you. Choosing the best one depends on a number of factors including the age and condition of your roofing panels. But it generally boils down to a choice between removing and replacing, or encapsulating, the roof:
#1 Removing and replacing the roof
This option is typically the best way forward if refurbishment or demolition work is planned, it is starting to leak or sometimes, if the roof is damaged and, for example, if it has cracks or holes or shows any other signs of having previously been disturbed and is not suitable for encapsulation.
A specialist asbestos removal company will need to take away the roof carefully so that it doesn’t cause any health hazards during the removal process, where it may release dangerous asbestos fibres. You can then fit a replacement and more modern garage roof.
If you’re having building work done at the same time, the asbestos company will need to take away the asbestos garage roof before that can begin.
#2 Encapsulating the roof
Encapsulating an asbestos garage roof is usually recommended on a case-by-case basis and is generally carried out if it is more dangerous to remove the asbestos-containing roof materials than to leave it in situ, or where the asbestos has not been disturbed and so is in good enough condition to leave in place.
Encapsulating stops fibres from being released if the roof deteriorates or becomes damaged over time.
The process involves sealing the roof to prevent the release of asbestos-containing materials.
#3 Leave it in-situ with an asbestos management plan in place
If the absestos-containing materials are in good condition and there are no planned works then they can be left in-situ and managed with an asbestos management plan and regular re-inspection surveys.
Will an asbestos-containing garage roof affect the value of my property?
Having asbestos in your garage roof certainly won’t do your home’s value any favours. That’s especially true if the roof hasn’t been encapsulated, particularly if it has been damaged, disturbing the asbestos and posing a potential health risk.
It’s not compulsory to order an asbestos survey when purchasing a new property. However, many do, and property surveyors will always notice a potentially asbestos-containing garage roof, meaning it will probably be flagged up during a house sale, and could even mean you have to take money off the sale price to cover future costs, or, worse, the deal could fall through completely. So this is another reason to remove or encapsulate a garage roof containing asbestos.
Looking for garage roof removal or encapsulation?
Based in Worthing, West Sussex and with offices across the UK, Crucial Environmental is a UKAS-accredited asbestos company with extensive experience of dealing with asbestos-containing garage roofs. So if you suspect your garage roof may contain the lethal substance, we cover the south-east from Southampton to Worthing, Brighton and Portsmouth, as well as the South West and the Midlands, providing everything from initial asbestos testing to refurbishment and demolition surveys plus asbestos removal and encapsulation services. Get in touch today to learn more.