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Buying a House with Asbestos Ceilings? What you need to know

Mention the word asbestos and people are understandably concerned, and buying a house with asbestos ceilings can also be a worry. More and more mortgage lenders are insisting on asbestos surveys being carried out on properties and there are occasions where these surveys identify asbestos containing materials.

Asbestos was used in various forms of coating and construction panels in ceilings. This page aims to explain some of the most common forms of asbestos in ceilings and provide information on the options available to homeowners should they require removal or management of asbestos containing materials in a property.


Asbestos in Artex

The most common form of asbestos in ceilings is Artex. Artex is the tradename for a textured coating produced by a British company called Artex Limited.

Artex was mixed with white asbestos (Chrysotile) until the late 1980’s to help to thicken the material and make it stronger once it had dried.

Left alone, Artex poses very little risk to health. However, if broken or sanded, asbestos fibres can be released which are potentially hazard to human health. If your house was decorated or built prior to 1990 and as textured coating was applied, it’s very likely that the artex contains asbestos. However, the only sure way to know if a textured costing contains asbestos is to have it tested.


Asbestos in Lath and Plaster

Lath and plaster was used for constructing partition walls in buildings – usually homes – prior to the introduction of drywall and plasterboard. It consisted of strips of timber which were covered by a coat of plaster. It was a cheaper way of building walls than the conventional method of block or brick.

Unfortunately, many companies mixed asbestos into the plaster to make it stronger.


Asbestos cement ceiling panels

Asbestos cement ceiling panels were a common form of panel used until the 1980s and were particularly popular after WW2. The panels could be affixed directly to joists and then either painted, wallpapered or covered with a textured coating.

Asbestos cement ceiling panels are made from the same materials used on asbestos corrugated roof panels seen on many garages and outbuilding in the UK.


Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) ceiling panels

Just as with asbestos cement panels, Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) offered a quick way to construct a ceiling and also had the added benefits of being a good thermal insulator. However, the asbestos mineral used in AIB panels would later be discovered to be extremely hazardous if broken. Therefore, AIB should only ever be removed by a licensed asbestos contractor.


Sprayed asbestos cement coatings (limpet and flock)

Sprayed coatings were applied by mixing asbestos (usually chrysotile) with Portland cement. The asbestos was added to make the cement thicker and to improve its bonding properties. The mixture was then sprayed onto ceilings using a large gun. This type of ceiling covering looks like cotton wall but is hard when touched.


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