DIY Inspections

Which Buildings Contain ACMs?

The age of the building or information obtained may provide strong evidence that no ACMs are present, however, ACMs containing Crocidolite and Amosite are more likely to be present in buildings constructed or refurbished before 1987.

Chrysotile was not banned until 1999 so buildings constructed up to this point have the potential to contain ACMs (although due to regulations in place very few ACMs containing Chrysotile were used in the 1990’s).

Building plans and specifications, if available, should detail materials used in its construction, however, alternative materials to those specified were sometimes used and not recorded, the replacement materials may have contained asbestos. ACMs were more widely used in non-domestic buildings and in particular where heating pipes were of a considerable size or length or in areas of high heat or fire risk and in multi floored buildings where fire protection was required between floors.

It should always presumed that a material contains asbestos unless there is strong evidence to suggest it does not. Some materials obviously does not contain asbestos such as glass, solid wooden fixtures and fittings, brick, stone, metal, marble, slate etc.

Conducting an Inspection

The person conducting the inspection should be able to demonstrate that they are suitably trained, qualified or experienced, to the level of which will depend mainly on the size and technical detail of the building/area. Asbestos Awareness Training may provide an adequate level of knowledge to enable a simple and accountable inspection to be carried out.

After inspecting any available records, drawings, plans etc and liaising with people who may have information about the building, a plan for the inspections should be devised. The plan should ensure that the building or areas concerned are systematically inspected and the findings recorded. It should take into account circumstances that may interrupt the inspection i.e. locked or non-accessible areas sensitive areas or areas of high risk etc.

In some instances it may not be possible for the inspection to be completed in a single period.
When conducting the inspection every room/area/cupboard etc should accessed and assessed, non-accessible areas should be recorded as presumed to contain asbestos or recorded as strongly presumed to contain asbestos where adjacent accessed areas do contain asbestos.

As a general rule of thumb any area needing protection from or the containment of fire/heat or moisture/liquid, heat or sound insulation, transportation of waste materials (liquid and fumes) or where an external application of a rigid material is required (soffit board etc) then there is the potential that an ACM has been used.
It is advisable to devise a system for the inspection i.e. start at the floor and work up to the ceiling, recording each section before moving to the next. The blank report download will assist in recording all the information required for the inspection.
Free Blank report download.

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The information below is to be used as a general guide but should cover most eventualities

Floors - Are there plastic floor tiles present? Do you know what year they were laid? (Older floor tiles tend to be smaller in size than more modern ones and are more brittle). Floor tiles may be overlaid with carpet or carpet tiles or other flooring products If so and they can be easily lifted without causing damage, are there floor tiles under? Do stairs have nosing strip using the type of material as the floor tiles?

Skirting Board - Is this made from a similar type of material as the flooring?

Walls - Gently tapping walls with a light blunt instrument will indicate the wall being solid or not (a low non resonating thud indicates a solid wall (usually constructed from bricks, blocks, stone etc) whereas a louder resonating noise indicates a void, this may either be a timber stud wall or may indicate a solid wall with a lining. Are the walls covered with a textured coating? Are the joints of the walls boarding material visible or cloaked? (Plasterboard usually has a level plaster skim, making the joints invisible). Are there boxings to the wall? If so, what material is it constructed from? What is it protecting/covering and does it have a lining? Is there a rising duct? Can its cover be removed and what material is it made from? (ONLY ACCESS BOXINGS AND DUCTS THAT ARE DESIGNED TO BE ACCESED AND IF THE ACCESS PANEL IS NOT MADE FROM AN ACM OR IF MADE FROM AN ACM IT IS FULLY SEALED).

Electric Distribution Equipment - Unless safe to inspect or the installation of new trip switch is evident presume electric distribution boards, fuse boxes and switch gear to contain asbestos fuse flash pads.

Radiators and Pipe Work- If radiators are attached to the wall, are there protective boarding behind them? Are there radiator supply pipes or other pipes visible and if so are they insulated? Are the radiators electric powered? Electric radiators purchased/installed before the mid 1990’s should be presumed to contain asbestos unless the manufacturers’ technical specification details prove otherwise. Are the radiators within a boxed housing and if so have they been lined with a fire proof material?

Doors - Are they marked as fire doors? (If it is an internal flush door (no visible panels) and feels heavy when moved it is likely to be a fire door) If so do they have a visible lining board, is it a non-asbestos materials and is it in a good condition? Is it a partially or fully glazed fire door? If so are the glazing beads non-asbestos? Doors that do not protect a fire escape route are less likely to have fire protection.

Stainless Steel Sinks - Do the sinks have bitumen pads under the bowl and draining surface?

Baths - Older bath panels were sometimes made from flat asbestos cement.

Windows - Windows themselves are very rarely constructed from ACMs, although glazing beads should be inspected where the window is glazed with reinforced glass or solid panels as they were sometimes made from an AIB material. The panels should also be inspected. Window boards (the internal board between the window and the internal wall) are sometimes made from a hard black composite material containing asbestos. Are there any other materials surrounding the window (boxing etc)?

Ceiling - Is the ceiling fixed or suspended in a frame matrix with loose tiles? If fixed is it a smooth plaster finish or secured tiles/panels (screwed or nailed)? Does the ceiling have supporting joists or stanchions and do they have a boxing around them? Is there an access hatch in the ceiling, and is the door lined with a fire proof material (on either side of the door)? Is the ceiling covered with a textured coating? If the ceiling is a suspended ceiling what material are the tiles made from and if safe to inspect, what is above the suspended ceiling (i.e. fire break (vertical boarding designed to prevent the spread of fire), other ceiling materials)? Ceilings to cupboards under stairs or stairs in a multi floored building, especial fire escape stairways, were often protected using AIB.

Loft Areas/Roof Voids - Look for sarking (roofing) felt, pipe work lagging, cold water storage tanks, flue pipes, insulation and fire break materials.

Boiler Rooms - Even if the pipe work in here is non-asbestos still check the ceiling, walls and floors for evidence of old hand applied lagging over splash/debris, especially in older boiler rooms. Presume the boiler to contain asbestos unless the manufacturer’s specification states otherwise. Boiler rooms are notoriously used to store incidental items, check to see if any of these are ACMs.

Commercial Kitchens - As well as the above, also check the seals around oven doors and hot plates etc and the linings to burner housings on equipment such deep fat fryers. Check fire blankets.

External Detail - Check walls, rainwater goods, flue and sewerage waste pipes, decorative cladding panels, solid glazing panels, soffit and facia boards, roofing materials etc.

In all instances particular attention should be paid to areas where high temperatures are generated, where there is a greater than normal risk of fire or where there is a need to protect a fire escape route.

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Licenced Materials

Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) were used extensively as building materials from the 1940’s and 50’s through to the mid 1980s. Although some of these materials have been removed over the years, much of it still exists. The following identifies some of the more common types of ACM, their locations and uses. This list has been divided into those materials classed by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) as being licensed (HSE licensed asbestos removal contractor are usually required to carry out work on licensed materials) or non-licensed materials.

Sprayed Insulation Coatings

Application; As fire protection to steel support work and underside of ceilings in buildings as a fire break material.
Location; In ceiling voids, above suspended ceilings, ducts, roof spaces, ceilings over car parks (including open car parking under buildings), boiler/plant rooms, industrial kitchens and other areas with a high fire risk.
Appearance; It has a cotton wool appearance usually light grey or white which makes it easy to identify. It has a low density making it very friable and easily damaged.
Asbestos Content; Sprayed coatings contain mainly brown asbestos but occasionally contain blue and should not be found on buildings constructed after 1985.
Other Information; Care must be taken not to disturb it. Caution should also be taken when accessing areas likely to contain this material as it has a tendency to deteriorate with age and fall away in clumps from its original location. When found in this condition immediate action is required with a fully controlled cleaning and removal program be initiated.

Sprayed Insulation Coatings

Loose Packed Insulation

Application; As fire protection in ceiling voids, to steel work and timber supports, but has been used as an early form of loft insulation.
Location; In ceiling voids, above suspended ceilings, ducts, roof spaces, ceilings over car parks (including open car parking under buildings), boiler/plant rooms, industrial kitchens and other areas with a high fire risk.
Appearance; Similar to that of sprayed coatings but was generally applied ‘dry’ being held together and in place with a wire mesh.
Asbestos Content; Similar quantities of blue and brown asbestos to sprayed lagging.
Other Information; It has a low density making it very friable and easily damaged. It must be treated with caution.


Moulded (Hand applied) and Pre-formed Lagging

Application; Thermal insulation of pipes, boilers and calorifiers.
Location; Mostly found in boiler rooms and under floor heating ducts.
Appearance; Moulded lagging usually has a high gloss paint applied, It may encapsulate single or multiple pipes giving it an uneven shape. Pre-formed usually has a cloth wrap, sometimes painted and sometimes held in place with aluminium straps.
Asbestos Content; Usually between 15 and 85% blue and brown asbestos.
Other Information; Moulded also known as hand lagging was wet mixed and applied by hand, quite often onto a wire mesh and then painted. The liberal method of application often resulted in the mixture being splashed onto walls, ceilings and floors, these over spills were very rarely removed and may still be present.

Pre-formed lagging had the same applications as moulded lagging but was factory manufactured. The pipe insulation was constructed in two halves and usually held in place with a cotton type cloth wrap. As with sprayed coatings, this type of insulation material has a tendency to deteriorate with age and fall away from its original location.

Moulded (Hand applied)
Moulded (Hand applied)

Pre-formed Lagging (in a poor condition)
Pre-formed Lagging (in a poor condition)

Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB)

Application; Mainly used as a fire retardant but was also used for thermal insulation and in areas of high humidity as a moisture barrier.
Location; Boiler rooms as ceiling panels, ceiling tiles in areas of high heat or humidity, firebreak partitions in roof spaces, partition walls, door linings, fire door infill panels, wall protective panels behind heaters and radiators, wall and ceiling linings to heater cupboards, riser duct linings (the duct cover itself or to the inside of the duct cover), external soffit boards and boards to the underside of rain canopies to name a few.
Appearance; In its untreated state it is generally a light grey colour and often has a ‘ripple effect’ surface which is more predominant to one side (usually the unseen side). However when in situ it is often coated with paint or other substances making it difficult to visually identify.
Asbestos Content; Usually contains 40-50% Amosite and in some instances also contains Chrysotile.
Other Information; AIB is semi-compressed and likely to give rise to high levels of airborne asbestos fibre release when damage or during abrasion. As a result of its prolific use during the 1970’s and early 80’s much of this material remains in such buildings as factories, office blocks, schools and to some degree in domestic housing.

Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB)

Asbestos Containing Paper

Application; Generally used as linings to protect against moisture in walls and floors, either installed as a separate item or adhered to another product. Other applications include the wrapping of heating pipes prior to insulating, fire proof laminate to low density non-asbestos boarding and as a medium in the production bitumen roofing materials.
Location; Behind wall panelling, under floor boards, under pre-formed pipe lagging, sarking felt, laminated to low density ceiling boards/tiles (especially in areas of high humidity).
Appearance; Light brown heavy duty paper.
Asbestos Content; May contain up to 100% Chrysotile.
Other Information; The paper when torn may give rise to high fibre release.

Asbestos Containing Paper
Paper Lined Wall Panels.

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Un-Licensed Materials

Asbestos Cement

Application; Profiled or flat sheeting, heater/boiler flue pipes, rain water guttering and down pipes, sewerage and vent pipes, cold water storage tanks, window boards etc.
Location; In addition to those above; roofing and cladding sheets, decorative infill panels i.e solid glazing (usually plastic or enamel coated) fire door linings, service ducts as shuttering.
Appearance; Light grey, dense and brittle.
Asbestos Content; Typically 12-15% mainly Chrysotile. Older products usually, roofing/cladding sheets, may also contain Crocidolite.
Other Information; Probably the most abundant of ACMs. The asbestos is usually firmly bonded into the cement matrix, but may be released when damage is sustained or where deterioration of the cement occurs (i.e. weathering of the external side of roofing sheets).

Asbestos Cement

Asbestos ropes and yarns

Application; Insulation and gaskets, fire proof linings and heat protection.
Location; Gaskets in sectional boilers and pipe work, heavy duty commercial fire curtains, old industrial heat resistant gloves and aprons, fire blankets, electric fuse boxes and distribution boards.
Appearance; White soft twisted rope and woven cloth.
Asbestos Content; Up to 100% Chrysotile. It is regarded as having a high fibre release risk when disturbed.
Other Information; When used as an insulation material i.e. wrapped around heating pipes or for the protection against hot exhaust pipes, ropes and yarns are classed as a licensed material. When used as a gasket material i.e. in between boiler sections, or for non insulation purpose they are classed as non-licensed.

Asbestos ropes and yarns

Bitumen Products

Application; Waterproof coatings, adhesives.
Location; Most commonly found in adhesive for floor tiles and linoleum, roofing felt and bitumen pads under stainless steel sinks.
Appearance; Black, malleable and sticky.
Asbestos Content; Up to 5%
Other Information; Regarded as having a very low fibre release risk

Bitumen Products

Floor Tiles

Application; Hard wearing water resistant and hygienic floor covering.
Location; Found in industrial, commercial and domestic situations where the above qualities are required.
Appearance; Usually 20cmX20cmX.5cm tiles. Come in a variety of single colours or multi-coloured.
Asbestos Content; Tiles used in commercial or industrial locations can contain up to 25% Chrysotile, domestic tiles typically up to 7% Chrysotile.
Other Information; Thermoplastic floor tiles are still very common, asbestos containing tiles can be difficult to distinguish from newer non-asbestos ones. In some instances floor tiles may have an asbestos paper backing.

Floor Tiles

Plastics and resins

Application; Pre-formed and friction products.
Location; W.C. Cisterns (hard black type) and seats, brake and clutch pads, automotive batteries, chemical resistant work surface (usually found in commercial locations).
Appearance; Usually dense factory manufactured products.
Asbestos Content; Plastics usually contain between 1&10% Chrysotile. Resins may contain up to 50% Amosite.
Other Information; Due to their dense nature both plastics and resins are very unlikely to release fibres.

Plastics and resins

Textured Coatings

Application; As a decorative coating.
Location; Ceilings and walls.
Appearance; A variety of textured patterns, usually painted.
Asbestos Content; Up to 7% Chrysotile.
Other Information; Generally considered as having a low fibre release risk however it has been found applied to AIB.

Textured Coatings

The above is not intended to be an exhaustive or definitive list

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