Can I remove asbestos myself before executing a house demolition?

Can I remove asbestos myself?

DIY asbestos removal is not recommended and in some states is not legal. In the ACT, all asbestos removal work must be carried out by a licensed asbestosremovalist. In all other states and territories, a non-licensed person is allowed to remove non-friable asbestos as long as the area is no bigger than 10m²

If you do decide to remove 10m² or less of non-friable asbestos… Do-it-yourself DIY WORK

  • A non-licensed person undertaking non-friable asbestos removal work must be considered to be a competent person. This means that the person must have completed training, have industry experience and have the right equipment for the task.
  • Just because a non-licensed person is allowed to carry out work at this scale, it can still be dangerous to human health.
  • As a guide, 10m² is the size of one wall of an average sized bathroom (or four sheets of asbestos cement wall sheeting). Asbestos removal tasks usually involve larger areas, so in most cases a licensed asbestos removalist will be required.
  • Most of the common insurance policies will not take responsibility for any work relating to asbestos. It is important to be aware of this and remember that as a DIY renovator or non-licensed removalist, you could be liable to pay very expensive clean-up costs.

All asbestos must be removed prior to any house or structure excavation demolition. 

Where am I likely to find asbestos?
Building products made from asbestos were considered very versatile and were easily moulded, shaped, cut, drilled and painted. This made them a popular choice and their use was widespread, including in many homes and workplaces. Australia was one of the highest users per capita in the world up until the mid-1980s. Approximately one third of all homes built in Australia contain asbestos products.

Outside the house
Externally, asbestos products were commonly used for roof sheeting and capping, guttering, gables, eaves/soffits, water pipes and flues, wall sheeting, flexible building boards and imitation (false) brick cladding. They were also used in fencing material and in the construction of carports, garages, bungalows, outhouses, garden surrounds and sheds.

Inside the house
Asbestos products were often used inside houses as wall sheeting, particularly in wet areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, toilet and laundry, and were also commonly used as ceiling sheeting. Asbestos was also used in plaster patching compounds, textured paint, switchboards and vinyl floor tiles and sheeting.
Asbestos can be found in some older forms of insulation used in domestic heaters and stoves. Asbestos felt was used as a backing for many vinyl and linoleum sheet floorings and can easily become loose when the floor covering is damaged or removed.

What is the difference between non-friable and friable asbestos?

​Non-friable asbestos (also known as bonded asbestos) means that the asbestos fibres in the product are held within a solid matrix (e.g. cement in asbestos cement sheeting) and are less likely to become airborne, unless the product is damaged or has deteriorated. Asbestos fences, roofs, vinyl floor tiles and asbestos cement sheeting are examples of non-friable asbestos products.

Friable asbestos products contain loosely packed asbestos fibres and can be crushed easily in the hand. Examples of friable asbestos products include asbestos rope, insulation, pipe lagging and fire blankets. It is important to remember that over time, non- friable materials may become friable as the bonding agents holding asbestos fibres in place deteriorate.

How can I tell if it is asbestos?

Confirming that materials contain asbestos may require talking to or hiring a professional. There is no conclusive on-site test for the presence of asbestos. Asbestos content can only be determined through laboratory testing following sampling. However, the age of the building or refurbishment may be used as an indication.
If the property was constructed before 1990 it is likely it will contain some form of asbestos.
If you are unsure whether the materials you are planning to remove contain asbestos, it is best to assume asbestos is present until it can be confirmed or ruled out.

Professionals who can assist with identifying asbestos around the home include:

  • occupational hygienists who have experience with asbestos
  • licensed asbestos removalists and assessors
  • individuals who have undertaken a recognised training course in asbestos identification.

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