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Homeowners: Look, check and prepare

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It's important that home renovators and owner-builders plan the renovation work they do.

Look

If your house was built before 1990, there is a good chance that it contains asbestos. Before carrying out any renovations, maintenance or repairs, it’s important to know where asbestos is likely to be lurking so that you can take the proper precautions before starting any work around your house.

Asbestos containing materials can be:

  • inside and outside your house,
  • in large amounts (e.g. a roof, under vinyl floors) and in small amounts (e.g. the backing board inside an electricity meter box), and
  • in wet areas (e.g. wall sheeting in kitchens, bathrooms and laundries) and dry areas (e.g. wall sheeting in bedrooms and lounge rooms).

Refer to the Downloads section of the right hand column of this website to help you identify typical places where asbestos can be found in houses.

Check

The age of a house and the location a material are good indicators for asbestos. However, if you are not sure whether a building material contains asbestos, assume it does until a sample of the material is tested by an accredited laboratory.

Laboratories that test building materials for asbestos can be found by contacting the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) laboratory. The laboratories can also give you advice on how to correctly take and send a sample. There will be fees involved.

Whether you are planning to do something as minor as putting up a new towel rail in the bathroom or undertaking a major extension in your home, before you get started it's important you get the facts; it's an investment in your health, your family's health and the health of others. Under the Public Health Regulation 2005, you have a responsibility to make sure that you protect your health and the health of your family and neighbours by not releasing asbestos fibres into the air during your work.

You should also speak to your neighbours about the work you are about to do. It is particularly important to explain the safety precautions you will be taking to minimise the chance of asbestos fibres getting into the air.

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Prepare

If materials containing asbestos are in your house and are in good condition, sometimes the safest option is to leave them alone and not disturb them.

Minor work can be done safely by following established safe work practices or methods to prevent hazardous asbestos fibres becoming airborne and reduce the risk of them being inhaled.

There are laws about the removal of non-friable asbestos from your home.

Homeowners and home renovators must hold a certificate obtained under arrangements approved or established by Queensland Health to remove more than 10 square metres of non-friable (also known as bonded) asbestos materials.

There are different law for tradespeople, contractors and business operators working on a domestic property. These businesses can only carry out removal work under the authority of a Class B or Class A asbestos removal licence issued by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.

You are obligated to comply with laws about transporting and disposing of asbestos. Contact your local council for more advice about where you can dispose of asbestos waste. An alternative is to employ a licensed asbestos waste contractor to remove this on your behalf.

Friable asbestos must only be removed by holders of an 'A' class licence.

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