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Buying a House with Asbestos Ceilings

Mention the word asbestos and people are understandably concerned, and buying a house with asbestos ceilings can also be a worry. An increasingly number of mortgage lenders are insisting on asbestos surveys being carried out on properties and there are occasions where these surveys identify asbestos containing materials. It is most common for houses built prior to 1999 to contain asbestos materials in textured wall coatings, waste water goods, water takes and heating appliances. Some homes may also contain asbestos insulation board tiles either stuck to or suspended from the ceiling.

Asbestos was used in various forms of coating and construction panels in ceilings. This page explains 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.


An example of asbestos containing Artex on a ceiling

Asbestos in Artex ceilings

The most common form of asbestos in ceilings is Artex, a type of decorative textured wall coating. It was commonly applied in swirls and stipples but may also be smooth and was applied to various materials including plasterboard and lath and plaster. 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. 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 1999 and a textured coating was applied, it’s possible that the Artex contains asbestos. The only sure way to know if a textured coating contains asbestos is to have the coating asbestos sampled. If the result shows that the asbestos is present you may wish to obtain an asbestos removal quotation.


Asbestos in Lath and Plaster ceilings

Lath and plaster was used for constructing partition walls and ceilings 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. At the time it was a cheaper way of building walls than the conventional method of block or brick.

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


Asbestos cement in 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.


AIB panel photo

An example of Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) panels stuck to a ceiling in a house

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. It was usually stuck to the ceiling in panels with adhesive or suspended.

The asbestos mineral used in AIB panels would later be discovered to be extremely hazardous if broken as it is extremely friable. It is known to cause life-limiting illnesses in humans. 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.


Should I refrain from Buying a House with Asbestos Ceilings?

Generally, there is no reason you should stop buying a house with asbestos ceilings as long as you are aware of what is contained in the house and that there will be a cost for removing the asbestos. We recommend that you have samples taken of any suspected asbestos containing materials (or a full asbestos survey) before you exchange contracts as you may need to re-negotiate a purchase price to allow for the cost of removing the asbestos containing materials.


Further information

For further information on Buying a House with Asbestos Ceilings and the associated removal costs, please contact us.