Is asbestos roofing still a good idea?
Asbestos roofing was a popular roofing material due to its excellent insulating and non-flammable nature. It is however brittle, meaning a well thrown rock from the neighbourhood kids could leave a pretty hole in your roof. But the primary issue surrounding asbestos roofing concerns its health impacts, a topic which gained traction and has seen a drastic reduction in asbestos usage, with more than 50 countries outright banning its use. Although this a article is about roofing we will touch on asbestos manufacturing a bit. So to begin with let us start with the elephant in the room.
Is Asbestos safe?
Yes and No. Let us explain.
The scary news.
Asbestos fibres are extremely dangerous if inhaled causing diseases like Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer, Asbestosis and Pleural Thickening. The scariest aspect of this is the symptoms are evident 20-50 years after inhalation.
This has been seen to affect people in a workspace setting, mainly in the manufacturing and mining of asbestos. Because of the health issues we have seen less production of asbestos sheets for roofing, lowering availability and driving up cost a bit
The better(?) news.
The asbestos used in roofing sheets is white asbestos(chrysotile) which is the least nasty of the 6 forms of the mineral. Asbestos sheets are actually more accurately put asbestos cement sheet with just 10-15% asbestos fibres safely embedded in cement.
Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable. The term "friable" means that the asbestos is easily crumbled by hand, releasing fibres into the air. Asbestos roofing sheets are not friable. Which means as long as Asbestos roofing is undamaged and not worn it wont release its fibres.
On the flip-side that of course means there is a chance of old and degraded asbestos roofing sheets releasing their fibres. But such natural weathering hasn’t been proven to be dangerous.
Pros of asbestos roofing
Asbestos is a good sound and heat insulator.
It is lighter per surface area than tiles.
Requires less timber for trusses compared to tiles.
Cons of asbestos roofing
Asbestos is a declining industry which means at some point finding replacement sheets for maintenance might become difficult and expensive.
The health concerns surrounding asbestos roofing are marginal but scary, there simply are cheaper safer alternatives like metal roofing.
Last but not least it is brittle.
If you think the pros outweigh the cons then do go ahead and use asbestos roofing. Do not do abrasive cleaning or working on asbestos sheets as this could potentially free the fibres, bad idea.
Have more questions? Need a quotation? Feel free to contact us. We will be glad to assist you on any roofing issues.