The problem with asbestos
Asbestos was a popular construction material, commonly found in houses, hospitals, schools, offices and industrial buildings until it was banned in the year 2000. Unless disturbed, there is often no reason to remove asbestos. It is fire-resistant and works well as an insulation material, however, the removal of asbestos is highly problematic. It also requires buildings to be vacated, resulting in the costly relocation of staff and equipment.
As a roof is subject to the British weather, exposure to the elements can cause damage. Any risk of exposure to asbestos needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. If the fibres are released into the air and inhaled, they can cause lung damage and serious disease – asbestosis being one of the most common illnesses. Asbestos exposure has been linked to 5,000 deaths a year, which includes an average of 20 tradespeople per week.
Repairing an asbestos roof
In the first instance, you will need to assess the condition of the asbestos fibre cement roof, observing health and safety guidance. If the roofing system has been damaged to the extent that fibres are exposed, you will need to use a specialist asbestos removal service. It’s important to limit people’s exposure to the area, ideally, this would be covered and sealed off, but an asbestos specialist will advise accordingly.
If the damage is limited to washers, bolts and some types of seals, you might be able to replace these without disturbing the asbestos. If the areas of wear and tear are around rooflights, then you might also be able to repair these without any asbestos disturbance. Giromax Rooflight Repair is highly resistant to UV and extreme weather, including a tough elastometric coating, which allows for rooflight movement.
Over-cladding is another option, albeit a costlier solution. You will need to bear in mind the weight load cladding will add to the roof, in addition to potential snow load. Metal roofing sheets are usually placed over the affected asbestos cement roof, encapsulating the substrate within. Planning permission is required for over-cladding, and a structural survey is recommended to determine the roof strength and integrity before proceeding.
Recoating an asbestos roof
One cost-effective solution that does not require planning approval is to paint the asbestos fibre cement roof with a suitable coating. In many ways, this is the simplest solution, as you are less likely to disturb the asbestos or affect the roof integrity. It’s a popular option for health and safety inspectors, as there are fewer risks associated with the application of a coating, when compared with over-cladding. It’s important, however, to use the right product.
Our Giromax® Roofcoat system sticks to the asbestos and seals in the dangerous fibres while still wet. This product is a moisture tolerant and breathable formula, which ensures the topcoat has a uniform finish. Giromax® Roofcoat could extend the lifespan of the roof by another 20 years. Repainting asbestos fibre cement roofing systems also ensures business continuity, as employees won’t need to relocate while the work is being carried out.