22nd Nov 2022 -

The dangers of asbestos have been known for over 100 years, but it was still commonplace within the building industry until 1985 in the UK, before being wholly banned in 1999. To this day, much of the asbestos insulation installed in buildings before that year remains. While undisturbed asbestos is not usually harmful, home and building owners will naturally want to know if they have asbestos products within their property. In this guide from Building Materials Nationwide, we’ll take a look at the various insulation products that could contain asbestos, and how they can be identified within your property.

The Asbestos Essentials

It’s absolutely vital that if you suspect you have asbestos insulation within your home or business, you hire a skilled professional to inspect, analyse, and potentially remove it. Disturbing and inhaling asbestos fibres can cause grave long term health issues, and it is not a risk that anyone should take. Asbestos removal professionals have training, knowledge, and fully protective equipment, allowing them to remove it without risking their own safety. Do not take a chance with asbestos insulation.

Asbestos Insulation

There was a variety of asbestos-containing insulation materials used within the UK in the twentieth century. It was used for its natural heat resistance and fireproof nature, often being mixed in with other substances to be used as insulation.

There were several forms of asbestos insulation that were used. Loose-fill asbestos insulation, sometimes called blown-in, is a loose fluffy material made from pure asbestos. Vermiculite insulation is a type of loose-fill insulation that was commonly made with high levels of asbestos. Slabs containing asbestos insulation were also available. Spray-on asbestos insulation was used to protect structures from fire.

What is Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation?

Loose-fill asbestos has been used to insulate industrial and domestic buildings across the UK throughout much of the twentieth century. It was commonly used as loft and roof insulation, installed loose within a loft space. It was also sometimes used to fill wall cavities. This can be a significant health risk, as it is completely loose and close to 100% asbestos.

What Are Asbestos Insulating Boards

Asbestos insulating board (AIB) was a fireproofing material that was commonly used in buildings. Some applications included ceiling tiles, soffit undersides, fireproofing in doors, and partition walls. Asbestos insulating boards are not as dangerous as some other asbestos insulation products but still pose a real threat to safety.

What Was Asbestos Loft and Roof Insulation?

Both loose-fill asbestos insulation and asbestos block insulation were used within lofts and roofs. Asbestos blocks were used throughout buildings, such as in walls and basements. Asbestos blankets were also used, installed as batts. This was flexible insulation, that could be cut to size.

What is Asbestos Pipe Insulation?

Asbestos insulation wrappings were used around pipes, ducts, and other plumbing features within buildings. Some of these pipe insulation types were made from asbestos paper, which can crumble and turn to dust over time, making them even more dangerous.

Asbestos with a face mask and protective goggles.

What Does Asbestos Insulation Look Like?

Some asbestos-containing insulation substances have visual giveaways. Loose-fill asbestos insulation is loose and fluffy, often with a blue-grey or white colour. It will typically be found within lofts in a building. Spray-coated asbestos that was used as a fire repellant is usually white or grey, with an uneven and rough surface.

However, many asbestos products have no such distinctive look. Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) products will not have any clear visual tells, and you should always refer to an expert if you have any concerns. Similarly, asbestos pipe insulation is often flaky, but otherwise can be painted any colour. You should refer to an expert if you have any worries about pipe insulation in your property. Older insulation boards will also need to be tested for asbestos, to ensure your property is safe.

Vermiculite is made of small pebble-like chunks. Modern vermiculite does not contain asbestos but older versions may. If you suspect you have vermiculite insulation within your property you should get it tested by a professional rather than go near it.

There are six different types of asbestos, all of which are dangerous. This means that there are many different colours and looks to asbestos, so you may see blue, grey, or yellow asbestos. You should never make assumptions or take risks when it comes to asbestos, instead get a qualified professional to examine any suspect insulation within your home.

How to Tell the Difference Between Asbestos and Cellulose Insulation

Both loose-fill asbestos and wet spray cellulose insulation are quite different, with cellulose made from card, hemp, newspaper and other materials. However, in practice they look quite similar, certainly far too similar for an untrained eye to take a risk. Like vermiculite, loose-fill insulation in your loft may well be fine, but unless you have records showing it to be dry cellulose, you shouldn’t take the risk, and should seek out a trained professional.

How to Get Rid of Asbestos Insulation

Within the UK, there is a wide range of asbestos abatement services, that can professionally and safely remove asbestos within your property. Often these services will also perform asbestos surveys, allowing you to determine the presence of asbestos within your property without putting yourself at risk. All commercial properties are required to have an asbestos management plan in place, but no such regulation exists within residential properties. You can also request an asbestos survey when buying a house, to find out if there are any asbestos insulation products within it. In some cases, it may be recommended to leave asbestos where it is, or to cover it with a protecting coating. This will depend on the levels of asbestos and the risk to a building resident.

Our Range of Insulation

At Building Materials Nationwide we stock a large range of insulation, that can be safely used within a house or commercial property. We have insulation boards, slabs, rolls, and batts from leading manufacturers. If looking to replace asbestos-containing insulation, we offer a wide range of thermal insulation that can be used throughout a building.

Shop for safe insulation products today.

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