In the world of hazardous materials consulting, we see an extensive number of ways in which asbestos can be hidden or concealed in renovations and refurbishments ("encapsulated" some would say). Often the asbestos materials are not labelled as being there, which creates great potential for future unintended disturbance of asbestos. As an asbestos assessor we get these type of calls regularly, usually on a Friday afternoon! Here I will discuss some of the more common scenarios we find where asbestos has been previously concealed and come up "unexpectedly".
External wall cladding - This was a very common renovation for the old fibro houses, cover the ugly asbestos with some fresh vinyl cladding. This practice still occurs, though SafeWork NSW have released guidance notes warning of the activity (find it in HazCheks resources). This often leads to contractors unknowingly drilling into the material undertaking air conditioning, plumbing or electrical work. If you have this type of cladding or you are looking at purchasing a property with this cladding, look under the bottom external walls of the house for evidence of fibre cement linings behind the vinyl cladding.
Gyprock over asbestos - I've had a few of these recently. This is the result of budget renovations to "freshen up" an older home or office and will usually go unnoticed until it comes to renovation or demolition work. Walls and/or ceilings are covered by fixing gyprock directly onto the asbestos fibre cement sheets. The best place to first look is in the ceiling space, make sure what you see from above is what you suspect from below!
Suspended ceiling grid - This is more for the commercial and office spaces. I always wonder what's above a ceiling grid, it's whole purpose is to cover what's above. While there is often nothing to write home about, you may also find disturbed asbestos ceilings, debris, vermiculite, lagged pipework etc. In some instances loose asbestos dust and debris can be present directly on top of the ceiling grid. This is a particular risk when trades access the ceiling space for repairs and maintenance. Ensure you have a current asbestos survey that has accessed the ceiling spaces.
Multiple floor coverings - This particularly relates to asbestos vinyl floor coverings, including vinyl floor tiles (asbestos can be in the tile or the adhesive) and old linoleum (asbestos is in the papery backing). It is common to have new vinyl, or vinyl planks overtop of old asbestos vinyl. These areas may also be concealed by carpet. Always check your flooring layers.
Take note of these scenarios and don't be the next person calling me of a Friday afternoon. If you suspect asbestos is present at your property, or you require an inspection contact HazChek to discuss.