It's time to replace your asbestos roofing

22 November 2021

WA Health is urging Western Australian homeowners to replace – not repair – their old asbestos roofs.

Image of a house, zoomed in on the roof.

Most asbestos cement roofs are over 40 years old and have reached the end of their serviceable life.

Of all asbestos building materials, roof sheeting is usually in the poorest condition as it is directly exposed to sun, wind, rain and hail, and often damaged by moss and lichen that grows on its surface. To seal or coat a product the surface first needs to be safely cleaned and this may be virtually impossible for roofs that have not been maintained over time and/or that have significant moss and algal growth penetrating the surface

As asbestos roofs age they weaken, leading to the potential for breakage and even collapse. Furthermore, as the cement matrix breaks down, asbestos fibres are released into the air or washed into the gutters. Gutter waste can become contaminated and needs to be safely removed and disposed.

WA’s Environmental Health Executive Director Dr Michael Lindsay said while WA Health does provide advice about safe methods for ongoing cleaning and maintenance of asbestos roofs on the HealthyWA website, removal is preferred.

“If you If you have an asbestos cement roof, it’s past time to consider removal and replacement. Most asbestos cement roofs are over 40 years old and cleaning and maintaining these roofs can be dangerous.”  Said Dr Lindsay.

Dr Lindsay said “homeowners need to know that any form of power tool or pressure cleaner is prohibited to be used to clean or repair an asbestos cement roof. Use of these can lead to exposure of fibres and contaminate the property and surrounding properties.”

“Over time, asbestos roofs become brittle and more prone to damage. Asbestos contamination spreading from any damage can lead to high clean-up costs, which may not be covered by your household insurance.”

Storm damage, cyclones, high winds and fires, as we have experienced in WA this year, cause extensive damage of roofs, contaminate multiple properties and result in high clean-up costs. Costs can be in hundreds of thousands of dollars for single properties and millions of dollars for larger natural disasters. Natural disasters and extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent in coming years

In addition, Dr Lindsay said tradesmen might refuse to work on asbestos roofs and restrictions on use handling limits the installation of TV aerial, satellite dish or solar panels.

“All good reasons to replace your asbestos roof as soon as practical,” he said.

For more information on asbestos, visit our webpage.