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Home renovations have soared in popularity in recent years thanks to shows like The Block. Plenty of young people are bursting with enthusiasm, excited and full of plans to transform their new or existing homes.

Alarmingly, almost one in three Australian homes contain asbestos, and if your home was built before 1985 – it's highly likely to be present. More than 3,000 products used in Australia are known to have contained asbestos. Most of these asbestos products were in the building industry.

So, before you jump into building, renovating, or making DIY improvements around your house or property, it’s important to understand the risks of asbestos and how to avoid exposure. 

What are the risks of asbestos exposure during home renovations?

Exposure to asbestos through building products is most likely to occur during a renovation or demolition when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, removed, or cut. When asbestos fibres enter the air, the dust can enter your lungs and potentially cause serious health problems, such as cancers, pleural diseases or asbestosis. Although these diseases are rare, the consequences are fatal.

Because of these dangers, if you're renovating, doing DIY or planning to renovate, it is essential to hire a licensed asbestos removalist to remove any materials that contain or are likely to contain asbestos and be sure to exercise extreme caution. 

If you believe you might disturb any asbestos-containing products during your renovations, you should have the product tested by an accredited asbestos expert. They can advise you whether the product contains asbestos and how to deal with it safely. You can visit the national Asbestos Safety website for information about the relevant authorities and asbestos removal in your state. 

Related article: How under-40s are driving the next wave of asbestos diseases

Where do you find asbestos in the home?

Asbestos can be found in common building materials, such as insulation, flooring, roofing and even ceiling tiles. It was also used in appliances like ovens and heaters. 

Things you need to look out for before you begin your home renovation are:

  • External cladding
  • Lining behind tiles (laundries, kitchens, and bathrooms)
  • Corrugated roofing and fences
  • Wall cladding
  • Garages, sheds, and bungalows
Asbestos location diagram: A) Exterior Roof sheeting, gutters, downpipes, ridge capping, imitation brick cladding and lining under eaves. B) Bathroom, toilet and laundry Wall and ceiling panels, vinyl floor tiles and backing for wall tiles. C) Kitchen Wall and ceiling panels, backing for splash backs, vinyl floor tiles, backing of vinyl flooring and insulation in stoves. D) Living Areas Wall and ceiling panels, carpet underlay and insulation in domestic heaters E) Garage & Backyard Fences, garden sheds, garages, carports, outdoor toilets, dog kennels, buried and dumped waste materials. F) Other Areas Backing of electrical switchboards, insulation in roof cavities, hot water pipe insulation, textured paint and plaster patching compounds.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

The consequences of asbestos exposure can be deadly. Inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres can cause many different diseases, including mesothelioma, an aggressive, terminal cancer for which there is no cure. There is no amount of exposure to asbestos that is safe. Anyone who is exposed to asbestos is at risk, including anyone in the vicinity of asbestos being disturbed, such as children. 

What should you do if you are planning a renovation?

If you are considering a renovation in a home that was built before 1990, you should factor in the cost of an accredited asbestos inspection and possible removal. There is no way to determine, just from looking, whether asbestos was used in your home. The only way to be sure that asbestos is not present in your home is to arrange for it to be tested. If asbestos is present, you must have it professionally removed by a licensed asbestos removalist before doing any work to your home.

If you've been exposed to any asbestos products at work or home and have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible to claim compensation. Get in touch to speak with one of our expert asbestos lawyers.

We can help with disease exposure claims

Our experienced lawyers have a long history of fighting for the rights of people suffering from asbestos, silica and other dust related illnesses. If you've been diagnosed with a dust disease, you may have a claim for compensation. 

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