cover over asbestos siding?

tminnJune 14, 2009

We are looking to buy an older home that has cement asbestos siding. It looks pretty ugly so we would like to cover over it with hardiboard once we buy it, but would like other people's opinions regarding this...We know we would have to disclose it should we ever sell it--which won't happen for 20-30 years. Any other problems you foresee with this idea?

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I think it depends on how you cover it. The problem with asbestos happens when it is dispersed in the air and is breathed in. If it is "buried" so that the need to disturb it in the future is eliminated, it should be fine.

Perhaps our recent experience will give you a perspective. Our house was built in 1985, just around the time when asbestos in vinyl flooring was outlawed. We wanted to replace the kitchen vinyl floor when we bought the house in 1991. We were told that, since the possible asbestos contents of the flooring could not be ascertained, no one would remove it, except perhaps professional asbestos removal technicians, and that would be costly. We therefore decided to put new vinyl flooring directly on top of the old floor, and it was pasted ONLY in the perimeter.

We recently replaced that vinyl flooring after about 15 years. This time, the flooring we had installed was removed and, before a new vinyl floor was installed, a new subfloor comprised of thin plywood was installed over the old floor that possibly contains asbestos. Therefore, in the future, if we or the next owner wants to replace the floor, they can remove the existing new floor and lay a new floor over that plywood. The possible asbestos containing vinyl is "buried" beneath that plywood subfloor.

Using that experience as an example, I think you would be okay if you covered your asbestos siding with something on which you could then install your new siding, effectively "burying" the asbestos so that, if in the future someone wants to replace the new siding that you installed, they can do that without disturbing the asbestos.

The only other alternative is professional asbestos removal, which would cost you several thousand $$. I believe there are many older homes in which asbestos is effectively buried and harmless. I do know that if the asbestos is exposed, it will affect the sale of a house. We experienced that back in 1986. We sold a house that was built in 1930. The steam pipes in the cellar were covered with asbestos insulation. We never thought about it in the 10 years we lived there. But when it came time to sell it, the buyer's inspector said don't buy it unless the asbestos is professionally removed. We did that. I cost us a lot of money, but it saved the sale. But I believe that situation differs from yours and the vinyl floor I cited earlier because the asbestos was exposed and particles of the stuff could become airborne and harmful if inhaled.

Good luck with your decision.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 8:30PM
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The asbestos in the cemented asbestos siding is already contained. If the siding were removed and the tiles pulverized, or at least smashed into small pieces, then there might be a problem. We have it on our house and unfortunately have not been able to reside over it yet. (But it is a very good fire defense as friends of ours found out when a wild fire burned right up to the house. Without the old asbestos siding, they would have lost the house).

You should be able to reside over it, although it does crack and/or break off easily if you nail or drill into it. Since we have yet to reside, I can't speak to how easily or without problem the residing would be. But I personally would not worry about the asbestos and it is also on outside. (The problem might be if you were going to remove the asbestos tiles before residing and need to find a means of disposal). If the company who resides has no problem, I certainly wouldn't worry about it if it were me.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 12:09AM
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You can also look into removing the siding yourself. Around here (NC) I can take a short class on asbestos removal and do the work myself. They seem to mostly care about how the debris is packaged and labeled for the land fill.

I am also a fan of cement/asbestos siding and its fire proof properties. Luckily, most of the old house I am remodeling won't need a lot of siding work so the exterior walls can stay the way they are.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 11:05AM
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I have a foursquare sided in asbestos shingles. My house was caught on fire and was only saved due to those shingles so I'm inclined to leave them be but I totally hear you on appearance.

I'm not sure I'd side over them for the fact they can be brittle and I would guess quite a bit might crack and break in the process of installation. Have you asked if an installer would even side over the shingles with the breakage issue or were you planning a DIY project?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 10:03PM
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