Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Asbestos Issue

​I've had a few questions about the house, are we in it yet? Are we renovating it yet? The big answer to both those questions is....No!

Don't get me wrong, we're super keen to be doing both, but we have a bit of an asbestos issue that needs to be dealt with first.

Asbestos (for those of you who don't know) is a natural mineral that was use in a lot of building products from the 1940s through to the 1980s. It has the potential to cause health problems when fibres are inhaled and the body doesn't manage to get rid of them naturally. If fibres remain in your lungs then long term (40+ years) you may end up with all types of nasty lung related diseases (i.e. cancer or a lot of scaring from your body attempting to cover the fibres and as a result slowly reducing your lung capacity)'s pretty nasty stuff.

HOWEVER, Asbestos is usually pretty safe to be around provided it's not disturbed and there is no chance it will create any dust. There is a catch to this though...

Asbestos comes in two main forms:

BONDED Asbestos - This is a bonded material, like fibro or cement sheeting (which contains asbestos), in this form asbestos is pretty safe unless you want to go cutting into walls etc. General advice is if there is a crack, seal the edge with paint or a glue to stop dust and you're good to go. Removal of this sort of asbestos can frequently be undertaken by a renovator if it's in small amounts (under 10m2) and disposed of appropriately but it depends on your local rules etc. To pay a professional you could be looking at $25-30 per sqm.

FRIABLE Asbestos - This is a loosely bound material not commonly found in domestic houses, and usually used more for insulation. This type of material is considered highly dangerous as it turns to dust very easily and can't be 'made safe' the same way that bonded material can. To remove it you must have a license and it generally costs $90-100 per sqm. Mostly because it requires extra safety precautions like wet entries and vacuum seals.
So, now for the pop quiz...guess which type of asbestos our new home is full of?

If you guessed FRIABLE, you'd be right!

We knew we were 'at risk' of finding asbestos in the home and had asked for a rough idea of locations to look as part of our building and pest. The downside of asbestos is that you can't be sure unless you get a lab sample. We had someone out to test all the possible surfaces (bathroom and build out verandah) but he advised that the kitchen and two bedrooms also looked like asbestos to him. Turns out he was right, and those areas are friable.
Terrible news for us, the quotes we've had for removal are all coming in around the $20k mark...yeah that's not a typo, $20,000!!

Now of course, we have the option of not removing anything, and in particular, leaving the few areas of bonded asbestos that we have alone, but it will cost more to remove each room separately than it will to get it all done at once. Like ripping of a terribly expensive bandaid. However, the fact that we have the more dangerous FRIABLE asbestos means I won't be comfortable until it's all gone. Especially when we wanted to remove kitchen cupboards (attached the to wall) and a wardrobe (attached to the wall) and doing so can't be done without disturbing the asbestos.

On top of that, in each of the 3 affected rooms there are actually holes in the wall from the previous owners (who obviously had no idea) that can't be left open and exposed as they are. Living in those rooms wouldn't be safe at the moment, so basically we can't do anything on the house until we get it out. It also means now we'll have to resheet and plaster 3 rooms, something we obviously weren't planning to do otherwise!

So that's it, it's all got to come out and we've got to find the money to do so. Very difficult when settlement was only last week and we basically put every last dollar we had into buying the place. We're investigating new credit options, balance transfers, those sorts of things and hopefully will be able to borrow the $20k we need with only a few percent interest over the next 10-12 months. Then our focus will obviously be on getting rid of that debt before we focus on our home loan (thank goodness for interest only and offset accounts!)

I was going to attach some pictures of what the asbestos ridden rooms look like, but have decided I'll keep this post full of information and photo free (which everyone hates I know!) and add a full post on the 'before' photos of our house for next time.

By the way, if anyone has any recommendations for asbestos removal in Brisbane, let me know!

(I've read countless websites to get on top of our issue, but if you want more info this is a good one:


  1. Oh how horrid!!! Renovating is hard enough without complications like that. Good luck with it all, and look forward to hearing updates :)

  2. I am devo for you, It's the last thing new home owners want to hear. I have Asbestos in our place too, but only in the roof, not in the insulation, so I am really hoping it's the bonded kind.

    But it also means that for any sort of expansion plans we had in mind to put in another bathroom, we'd have to throw in another $10-$20K on top of the costs. BUMMER...

    Still, congratulations on owning a home though. I am sure it doesn't feel like it now, but when it's all settled, you'd be so pleased you own a piece of Aussie land. :)