What Does Asbestos Look Like?

Asbestos was used prior to 1999 in the UK across construction and many other industry sectors. Asbestos was introduced to construction for many reasons, however one of the most prominent properties was the stabilising and heat resistant effects; and its use was continued in the UK until asbestos alternatives such as cellulose fibre and polyurethane were developed, with a full ban across all asbestos products in 1999.

There is thought to be 6 million tonnes of asbesto in the UK, with the dangers of asbestos estimated to be within up to 1.5 million properties, both commercial and domestic; and while it is impossible for a layman to identify asbestos at first glance, it is possible to identify a potential risk based on a combination of factors.

With the naked eye, it is impossible to identify asbestos, as microscopic fibres can not be seen. However, if you suspect you have asbestos in your building, you must attempt to identify any manufacturer labels and date of manufacture stamps and consult a professional.

Because asbestos was a component across multiple areas of construction, its appearance varies greatly.

What does asbestos look like in roofing?

Asbestos roofing tiles were significantly cheaper than non-asbestos alternatives and therefore any roofing work carried out on your property before 1984, will almost certainly contain asbestos, and there is also a possibility that if the roofing work was carried out between 1984 and 1999 it contains asbestos. It should be remembered that roofing tiles and roofing cement become fragile with age, and therefore it isn’t advisable to attempt to remove without an expert present. See an example of asbestos in roofing below:

What does asbestos look like in vinyls and flooring?

Asbestos was introduced to vinyl flooring largely because of its strength and durability, and therefore any sheet-laid vinyl, or vinyl tiles manufactured prior to 1980, will almost certainly contain asbestos. It should be noted that while it is probable that the vinyl tiles will contain asbestos, because of the bonding process it is unlikely that the fibres will be released, until the finish is ‘broken’. See an example of asbestos in flooring below:

What does asbestos look like in sprayed coating?

Asbestos was sprayed onto many domestic construction components because of its fireproofing benefits. Often sprayed onto loft insulation, steel beams, wall cavities and underneath roofing, sprayed coating is deemed to be one of the most dangerous forms of asbestos. It is also the most likely to contaminate the air as, if the sprayed form of asbestos is disturbed it would release large quantities of asbestos. Sprayed coatings contain as much as 85% of asbestos fibres, and therefore if you believe that your insulation, beams or cavities have been coated with asbestos, it is important to consult an expert. See an example of asbestos in sprayed coating below:

It is important to air on the side of caution when considering if your building or construction project has asbestos within, and therefore, we would recommend booking onto one of our three Asbestos Awareness Courses;
UKATA Asbestos Awareness Training Course, RoSPA Approved Asbestos Awareness Training Course, or IATP Asbestos Awareness Training Course.