What Does Asbestos Look Like (& How to Identify It)

Asbestos is a dangerous material that was used regularly in buildings between the 1940s to the 1990s, although its popularity had begun to wane by the mid-1980s due to health concerns. It is the leading killer in the workplace, causing approximately 170 deaths annually from asbestos-related illnesses such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. If you are considering renovation or demolition work on a building that was built during this time, it is essential you know how to identify asbestos and what you should do if it is found. Here, we try and answer some of your key questions. 

Where Can Asbestos Be Found?

Asbestos was a common building material used throughout the twentieth century. As such, if you own a building built before the nineties, it is almost certain that it contains some variety of asbestos. It was popular due to its fire, heat, and chemical resistant properties, meaning that it can often be found in pipe and boiler lagging (fibrolite), water tanks, gaskets and ropes for wood burners, and wall cladding. It was also known to have strengthening properties, so it may also be found in cement products like pipes, flues and roofing. Also, to further fireproof the building, it was often added to textured decorative coatings and flat and stippled plaster. Even vinyl flooring and its backing can have the material hidden within it. 

Old textiles may contain asbestos, as can mastics and sealants. Damp-proof courses may also contain it to varying degrees.  

What does Asbestos Look like in New Zealand?

Most of the raw asbestos used in New Zealand was blue, brown or white. However, raw asbestos was rarely used in the building industry – it was mainly mixed with other materials. This means identifying asbestos is extremely difficult just from a visual inspection. The only safe way to know for sure if this hazardous product is present is to have it professionally tested. 

If you believe there is any chance your property may contain asbestos, you must have it checked to make sure that it is in a safe condition and is not posing a serious health hazard. If you have any renovation or demolition work planned then you must make sure that any asbestos is removed, as disturbing it will release deadly fibres into the atmosphere. 

If you want professional help with how to identify asbestos then please get in touch. We will professionally analyse your building and, if needed, safely remove and dispose of any hazardous materials for you.