Property owners or potential buyers of a property that was built or was renovated at any time before the 1970s or 1980s can be fairly certain there is a strong likelihood that asbestos material could have been used and is still present. There are some basic tips for spotting the deadly material.

It was only up to a few decades ago that commercial reluctance to admit to asbestos awareness of its capacity for causing the fatal asbestosis or mesothelioma diseases, many types of building products and insulation materials were used in homes containing asbestos. These included cement, insulation, floor tiles, ceiling tiles and textured paints.

White asbestos (chrysotile) was probably the most common and widely used of the mineral group, and if undisturbed, will not release the deadly fibres. Asbestos fibres embed themselves within the pleural linings, and after a long gestation period of 15 – 50 years, asbestos symptoms will first appear, signalling a rapid decline of health.

It may not always be straightforward to remove part of the building fabric for analysis, but there are a few basic pinpointers that may be employed to help with confirming its presence.

Asbestos cement

Asbestos cement may be strongly suspected if present outside of a premises, especially if it has survived for a number of years and if the material is moulded into shape, excepting some half round pipe covers and column covers. Asbestos cement was used up until as late as 1999 in a variety of different premises and materials. Any building that was constructed or had major refurbishment between the 1950’s and mid 80’s is likely to contain some type of asbestos containing material.

Suspended ceiling

Inside the premises and looking upwards, if there is a “suspended ceiling”, which consists of a metal grid which holds lightweight tiles and was installed earlier than 1980, it’s very likely to contain at least 1 percent asbestos fibres. These tiles are especially dangerous since they can be crumbled by hand pressure alone and may be lifted and removed easily, scattering asbestos-containing dust.


Any interior space built before 1980 will probably contain a low-density asbestos insulation board, which will contain 20 to 30% of the highly dangerous amosite (brown) asbestos.  Insulation boards installed after 1980 would most likely be asbestos free as they were withdrawn in the late 1970s. Asbestos insulation originally came in different forms  and older premises are likely have steam and hot water pipes that are covered with asbestos insulation, blanket or tape.

Textured surfaces

Textured ceilings or walls were once a widespread and popular interior decoration feature. Those paints that did contain asbestos only contained approximately 5% chrysotile (white) asbestos. If the textured paint is in good condition and is not being sandpapered, drilled into or otherwise treated, the harmful fibres will not be released, and it may be simply painted or plastered over ensuring dust is kept to absolute minimum.

Floor tiles

Almost all almost all floor tiles manufactured up until the mid 80’s, contained asbestos! It’s therefore, imperative to seek asbestos advice and ensure that an approved and licensed asbestos removal contractor is contacted  to safely and securely deal with the correct disposal of the lethal tiles or any other suspect material.