How to check if I have an asbestos garage roof

As we have mentioned many times before, asbestos – during its peak period of use during the 20th century up until 1999 – was not just heavily used, but also widely used.

The construction sector was one area in which asbestos saw especially extensive use for such purposes as lagging, insulation, ceiling tiles, and textured wall coatings. As a result of this long history of the material’s use, to this day, significant numbers of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings up and down the UK still contain asbestos.

But even if you are already aware of many of these areas within a property that have historically often contained asbestos, there is another part of the home where asbestos can be present, and that you might have overlooked: the garage, or more specifically, the roof.

During the 1960s and ‘70s in particular, asbestos cement was frequently used as a garage roofing material. So, could this be the case at your own property – and if so, what steps should you take in relation to any asbestos garage roofing you have?

How can I check if my garage roof is asbestos?

What is asbestos and how dangerous is it?

The term ‘asbestos’ refers to a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. There are six types of asbestos in all – actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, tremolite (all of which belong to the amphibole family of asbestos minerals), and chrysotile (which is the only serpentine type of asbestos).

Today, the very word ‘asbestos’ is practically synonymous with health risk; breathing in or ingesting the substance can lead over decades to the development of very serious and often fatal diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, and asbestosis.

However, it only became widely known that asbestos was so dangerous over the course of the 20th century. In the meantime, the material was heavily used across industries such as construction, shipbuilding, and textiles, prized for its relative affordability, availability, strength, and fire resistance.

As we referenced above, there can be a long latency period for the development of asbestos-related disease – potentially many decades after exposure to the substance. This helps to explain why, even so many decades after the banning of asbestos, there are still around 5,000 asbestos-related deaths a year in the UK.

However, it is also important to add some context to the above frequently quoted facts and statistics. First, it should probably be acknowledged that almost everyone in the UK has probably come into contact with asbestos, in one way or another, over the years – and even where any such exposure occurred, the effect is likely to be minimal.

In terms of levels of danger, some distinction can also be made across the aforementioned types of asbestos. The most dangerous of the above-named forms of asbestos is crocidolite, which was one of the first to be banned. The one that poses the lowest health risk is chrysolite, which was fortunately the type that saw most frequent use in building materials.

However, with entities like the World Health Organization (WHO) having warned that no single level of asbestos exposure can be considered “safe”, it is still crucial to be vigilant about the possibility of your garage roofing having been made from asbestos, regardless of which type may been used.

Why was asbestos used for garage roofs?

Prior to the importation and use of asbestos being banned in the UK in 1999, the material was popular for use in garage roofs, for similar reasons to its popularity in the wider construction sector.

Basically, it was a material that was highly affordable, easy to obtain, capable of lasting for decades, and strong enough to stand up to punishing weather conditions.

So, for tradespeople in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s in particular, it was an obvious choice to install an asbestos roof when they needed to fit roofing to a domestic garage.

By the 1990s, as the terrible long-term effects that asbestos exposure could have for people’s health were becoming more and more apparent, pressure intensified to ban asbestos, which finally happened in November of the last year of that decade.

To this day, however, most of those 20th-century asbestos garage roofs remain in place – and their age is beginning to show. This underlines the importance of being alert to the possibility of your own residential garage’s roofing comprising asbestos, and the steps you will need to take in response to this.

How can I tell if my garage roof is asbestos?

You may be wondering then, how do I know if my garage roof really does consist of asbestos?

The short answer is that you can’t tell whether your garage roof is asbestos, simply by looking at it with the naked eye. In all cases, even if you suspect that your garage roof is asbestos, you will still need to arrange for professional scientific analysis of the material, in order to make sure.

However, there are two factors that might give you particular reason to at least suspect your garage roof is made from asbestos. Those are:

  • Date – As we mentioned above, asbestos was finally banned in all its forms in the UK in 1999. So, if your garage roof was installed in the year 2000 or later, it shouldn’t contain asbestos.If your garage roof dates from before the year 2000, however, there is a strong chance of it being an asbestos roof. Bear in mind as well, though, that manufacturers did begin to phase out the use of asbestos as early as the 1980s. So, knowing a specific date can be helpful for assessing the probability of your garage roof being an asbestos one.
  • Surface – You might have read elsewhere that the use of corrugated roofing panels can be a sign that a given roof contains asbestos. However, both asbestos roofs and cement fibre roofs frequently come in the form of corrugated roofing panels, which was a choice made to help ensure greater strength.Furthermore, corrugated asbestos roofs and corrugated cement fibre roofs tend to look almost identical to the untrained eye. So, your garage roofing being corrugated may not indicate much on its own.

    asbestos garage roof

    However, if you take a look at the surface of the roofing material – whether it is in the form of corrugated or flat sheets – you might notice some small dimples or slight craters. This effect arises due to the manner in which the asbestos was woven through the material. So, if you see this, it could be another indicator that you should suspect the roof to be made from asbestos.

What can I do about an asbestos garage roof?

If you now suspect or believe that your garage roof is indeed asbestos, what are some of the safe and responsible steps you can take to deal with it?

Should you remove it yourself?

We would always strongly recommend that you do not attempt to remove the asbestos roofing on your garage yourself. It can be an extremely risky endeavour to try to handle asbestos. Moreover, with even the youngest asbestos roofs now being decades old, the years of wear and tear could make the material highly susceptible to breaking.

If the material does sustain damage in your handling of it, this can cause the release of asbestos fibres into the air – meaning you, or someone else nearby, could easily breathe them in.

At the very least, we would urge you to seek advice on how to deal with your garage’s asbestos roof from skilled, informed, and experienced professionals.

Contact an accredited asbestos surveyor

To build on and reiterate what we said above, if you do suspect your garage roof is an asbestos one, the best thing you can do is reach out to an accredited asbestos surveyor.

Reputable and accredited providers of asbestos surveying services, such as Oracle Solutions, have the know-how and experience to advise you on the situation with your garage roof.

Although removal of the asbestos roof might be a possibility in certain circumstances, you may ultimately decide – as a result of your discussions with a company like ours – that it would actually be a better idea to leave the garage roof in place. This is frequently done in cases where the asbestos (or suspected asbestos) is in good condition and has not sustained any damage.

Do not disturb the material

This might seem an obvious enough point to make on the basis of what we have said in this article so far; however, it really is crucial to take care around your garage roof if you know or suspect it to consist of asbestos. This is especially important advice in the case of older asbestos roofs, which may be more prone to breaking in the event of being touched, than their newer counterparts.

As we have mentioned previously, any disturbance to the asbestos could lead to its fibres being released into the air. Those fibres could subsequently be breathed in and become lodged in someone’s lungs – your lungs, or those of someone nearby – with all the associated health risks.

The risks of exposure will obviously be particularly great if you attempt to remove the asbestos roof yourself. If this is what you are considering doing, you must take your time, and absolute care, to avoid breaking, dropping, or otherwise damaging the material. If you aren’t confident that you will be 100% successful in achieving this, you should contact a professional.

Be careful when accessing your garage

If you open your garage door – or the garage side door – too quickly, this can cause a fast change in air pressure inside the garage. This, in turn, creates a ‘vacuum effect’ that can lead to the circulation of any asbestos fibres from the roofing panels.

So, you are advised to allow time for the air to settle, and to take care whenever you open your garage doors.

Take care when moving items in the garage

Even when you’re picking up and moving items in your garage, you will need to be careful, given the risk of bumping into the walls and roof. Such bumps can cause vibrations in the roofing panels that lead to the release of asbestos fibres.

For the same reason, we would also advise against you parking your car in the garage if you know or suspect the roofing material consists of asbestos.

How much does it cost to remove or replace an asbestos garage roof?

As we detailed in a previous guide on our website to the costs of removing an asbestos roof, the amount that you can expect to pay will depend on the size, pitch, and accessibility of the roof. Any other asbestos being present nearby – such as in the guttering, downpipes, side sheeting, or internal roof lining – will also impact on the cost of removal and replacement work.

On average, the removal of an asbestos cement garage roof tends to cost around £50 per square metre. As for the cost of not just removing but also replacing the roof, this will depend on the material that is used to replace it.

Final thoughts

It is important to be mindful and alert to the possibility of your garage roof being asbestos, especially if it was installed prior to the year 2000.

There are a few signs that might indicate whether your garage roof is likely to contain asbestos, but we would urge you to contact an accredited asbestos surveyor to help you determine whether this is definitely the case. Even if your garage roof does turn out to be asbestos, if it is in good condition, you might be able to leave the roof safely in place.

Ultimately, every situation has to be assessed on its own terms – which is one more reason why you might enquire to our own professionals at Oracle Solutions. Simply send us an email or give us a call to seek out our advice and guidance, and to request a competitive quote for our asbestos services.

Photo of Brendan Coleman

Written by Brendan Coleman

Brendan Coleman, with decades of experience in the asbestos industry, is a dedicated Quality Manager. Certified as a surveyor and analyst, he is adept in operations and quality management with a keen focus on HSE compliance. His expertise is pivotal in maintaining high safety and efficiency standards. Brendan ensures our UKAS accreditation requirements are consistently met and exceeded, upholding stringent standards in asbestos remediation. His commitment to enhancing quality and customer satisfaction makes him an essential advisor in asbestos management.