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How to Identify Asbestos in Your Home or Workplace

Before asbestos was banned in NZ, a huge number of products were imported that contained asbestos – over 3000 of them. Here’s a list of how to identify asbestos in the most common places: 

Before NZ banned asbestos, it was commonly used in building products in NZ. It is an excellent fire retardant, it’s cheap and easily available, so many manufacturers included it in their building materials. This means that any home or commercial building constructed in NZ before the 1990’s will likely have some form of asbestos in it. 

How can you tell, without testing, if your popcorn ceiling has asbestos? The short answer is, you can’t, and it’s dangerous to assume it’s not. There are some common items that will almost certainly contain asbestos.

How to identify asbestos in roofing and guttering

If you have a grey textured roof that has a wavy corrugation, slightly larger than galvanised steel corrugations, then it’s probably asbestos concrete roofing sheets. The gutter and sidings will look like they are made from a similar material.

How to identify asbestos in pipe lagging?

Especially in older homes, asbestos lagging was used as insulation around piping. If you think you have it, it generally is a grey, thick rope-like material wound around a pipe, or like a plaster cast you’d get on a limb. 

How to identify asbestos in stippled, popcorn, or sprayed ceilings?

There’s a huge variety of ceiling types that contain asbestos. Someone in the 1960’s decided that a textured ceiling looked good, and a generation of homes were doused in ugly asbestos ceilings. There’s no way to tell if they are asbestos for sure other than testing it, but if the ceiling was installed before the 1990’s, it probably has asbestos.

How to identify asbestos in felting or loose fill insulation?

Grey and fluffy, this loose fill is sprayed over every available surface in a ceiling or wall space. There are two main types of insulation that contain asbestos. Vermiculite insulation looks like greyish brown or gold pebbles but is very lightweight. There is also a type of asbestos insulation which is loose, lumpy looking, fluffy and granular. 

If you can identify fiberglass, cellulose, or paper-backed insulation in your ceiling or walls, that is not asbestos. Asbestos is loose fill.

How to identify asbestos in ceiling tiles?

Cheap ceiling tiles were installed in warehouses, schools, hospitals, and universities in the 1950’s to 1980’s. A great many of these contain asbestos. Similar to popcorn ceilings, there are a huge number of different styles of ceiling tiles containing asbestos. There’s no hard and fast rule to identify them; get them tested to be sure.

How to identify asbestos in floor tiles and vinyl linoleum?

Asbestos was used in flooring materials to make them super durable. Schools, hospitals, universities and homes were all victims to these flooring types. These harmful floor coverings came in every colour, texture and style, making it impossible to easily identify.

How to identify asbestos in cladding and siding?

This tile style cladding can be textured or smooth and is naturally white or grey (although it is usually painted over as part of its maintenance). It’s quite fragile, so can be broken by a stray cricket ball. Left in place and maintained well, asbestos cladding is safe, but if it gets broken or starts to degrade, it’s time to get the experts in to replace it.

Miscellaneous asbestos items

There were so many different products, it’s hard to know what does or doesn’t contain asbestos. Common items that contain asbestos include:

  • Water tanks
  • Fire blankets
  • Ironing boards
  • Toilet cisterns
  • Window panels
  • Window flashings
  • Fireplace surrounds
  • Fence panels

Anything pre 1990 that needed to be insulated or fire proof may contain this toxic mineral.

Panic! I have asbestos! What do I do?

First step: Don’t panic.

Second step: If you don’t know for sure if it’s asbestos, get it tested. Often, there is no way of knowing if it’s harmful or some other completely benign material until you test it. Call us on 0800 101 234 or email us at to find out how to obtain a sample and get the material tested.

Third step: Even if you know it’s asbestos, it shouldn’t present a problem. It’s not a big deal unless you’re intending to carry out renovations, there’s a fire, an earthquake, or some form of damage to the product. You only need to worry if it’s been disturbed and the fibres come loose. If it’s intact and you’re not intending on removing it, it’s nothing to worry about.

If you need asbestos removed in the Canterbury, Nelson/ Marlborough or Wellington regions, contact us today. We have skilled, qualified workers who will remove asbestos from your home or business. Your asbestos will be removed safely, following health and safety guidelines, ensuring the health of your family or employees. 

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