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Split Stone Veneer
Old Asbestos wall Coverings
Every so often we get a question that goes something like this:
“What can I do about the asbestos wall shingles applied to the outside of my 1950's house? I need to understand the relative risks associated with keeping the shingles as-is, refinishing them or replacing them with new siding.”
The issue here is asbestos and the risks of serious lung diseases it can cause. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, “if asbestos fibers are enclosed or tightly bound in a product, for example in asbestos siding or asbestos floor tiles, there are no significant health risks.” This is why leaving the shingles undisturbed and in place on your walls is a safe option. As long as you don’t drill, sand or brush the shingles, the asbestos remains encapsulated and harmless. The challenge is how to maintain this kind of siding without creating airborne asbestos particles. Repainting always involves some kind of sanding or brushing to remove the loose paint. And while this operation can be safely completed on wood, it’s not so easy when working with asbestos shingles. So, what can you do?
It is possible to gently brush off the old paint while keeping the siding damp to prevent dust. You’ll need to where an HEPA respirator, disposable overalls and gloves, then work over tarps placed on the ground to catch the flakes of paint since they’re guaranteed to contain lead. Lead paint wasn’t outlawed until 1978, so it’s sure to be present on siding going back to the 1950's. Let the siding dry, then prime and paint with the best exterior latex you can find.
Covering the old asbestos shingles with new siding may seem like an option too, but it’s not easy to do safely. Asbestos shingles are brittle, and you can’t drive new screws and nails through them without drilling. This would trigger dust and asbestos dust is the problem.
The approach of removing the old shingles and replacing them with new siding is an option that many homeowners have pursued, though probably not as safely as they should. As a homeowner working on your own house, there are no legally binding safety precautions you need to adopt for yourself. That said, you really do need to wear a respirator and a completely sealed set of disposable overalls to stay safe. You also need to dispose of the old shingles as toxic .