Asbestos Artex Ceilings & Textured Coatings
You’ve probably heard of asbestos. It’s a fibrous substance that is hazardous to health. Anyone who comes into contact with asbestos and damages it, or even disturbs it, can be exposed. Asbestos has microscopic fibres, which when disturbed, disseminate in the air. People unknowingly inhale these fibres, which then cause severe damage to their health in the long-run.
There was a time when asbestos was used extensively in a number of products, buildings and structures. This was because asbestos has a number of remarkable properties. Asbestos was proven to be heat-resistant, and could also resist electrical currents and absorb sound in spaces between its fibres. This meant it was used in sound proofing applications as well.
These properties made it the ideal candidate for construction of residential, office and industrial buildings.
Is Asbestos in Artex Dangerous?
Many of the buildings and properties that use Artex and similar textured coatings may possibly contain asbestos. Artex coatings have been used on walls and ceilings to provide an uplifting look to the interior. If left undamaged and in good condition, the materials used may last for a long time. They don’t pose any threat if well maintained.
If you’re planning on some renovation work or fixing any damage to the ceiling or wall yourself, think again. Even drilling in the walls to hang a family photo may be dangerous – the drilling will create holes but will release fibres of asbestos in the process if the wall has Artex coating or contains asbestos.
Asbestos was used in textured coatings like Artex
Asbestos was widely used in textured coatings. Artex and similar coatings were used to create an amazing decorative finish on walls and ceilings. This application of asbestos was particularly notable in the 1970s and 1980s.
General awareness of the harmful effects of asbestos was not widespread for most of the last century. It was not until the year 2000 that the dangers and health risks of using asbestos were widely known by everyone. As a result, the use of asbestos was banned from construction in the UK in 1999.
The damage was however, already done. This was because most of the buildings already had asbestos installed in them. Artex was one of the products used in these buildings. You can still find asbestos containing materials on walls and ceilings of residential building throughout the UK.
The European Commission back in 2009 felt that the government was not doing enough to safeguard people from the threat of asbestos. As a result, in 2012, the Control of Asbestos Regulations was put in place. These regulations include the “duty to manage” asbestos.
Essentially, it means that people who own and work in non-domestic properties built before 2000 must have an understanding of the risks that asbestos poses. They must also take appropriate measures to manage the said risks of asbestos. This law doesn’t apply to domestic properties, but the people residing in these buildings are equally at great risk. The owners and residents living in these properties need to manage asbestos risks, regardless of whether it’s part of the law.
When was asbestos used in Artex?
The asbestos concentration in walls and ceilings of are 3-5%. Large quantities of chrysotile or white asbestos were still present in the UK buildings long after the ban in 1999. There have been instances where Artex coatings applied as late as 2008 still had asbestos. The fibres were well contained in the matrix, but posed a threat when released by sanding down or scraping off old coatings.
If a contractor carries out the removal of plaster board and artex together, a lesser amount of fibres are released into the surroundings. The process needs to be controlled and supervised by a trained professional.
Are you at risk from the Artex used in your home?
Artex coatings do contain asbestos but in minute amounts. The asbestos fibres inside the coatings have been bonded strongly and are not released unless disturbed. The coating of Artex on the ceiling is rarely damaged when the rooms of a building are occupied. If the Artex is in the right condition i.e. not damaged, you don’t have to worry.
Don’t disturb the asbestos in Artex
Asbestos contained in textured coatings like Artex can be disturbed when it is drilled into, scraped, scratched or knocked down. Re-plastering and or removing the plasterboard with Artex can also cause the disturbance.
Don’t forget, unless its fibres are in the air you breathe, asbestos is not a threat. Unless refurbishment and other activities take place, there is no immediate threat. However, the products and areas of walls and ceilings that have asbestos, still need to be maintained.
Can you be sure that Artex in your home contains asbestos?
Any building built or refurbished before 2000 may contain asbestos. The only way to make sure that you have asbestos in any part of your building, including walls, ceiling and textured coatings, is to get it tested.
Have a sample of artex extracted by a professional surveyor, and get it tested for asbestos from a certified laboratory.
Refurbishment and demolition surveys are needed if any renovation or construction is to be carried out. This is also true for maintenance. Any areas that are particularly disturbed will come up in the survey. Asbestos, if found, will need to be removed before the commencement of any sort of work.
Can you identify asbestos on your ceilings or walls?
Asbestos can often be difficult to detect. This is because it is often mixed with other materials when used in making Artex and similar textured coatings. You can’t see or smell asbestos fibres.
How do you remove Artex yourself?
It is not recommended that you do any repair work that involves dealing with asbestos yourself. The repair work, even if non-licensed, needs prior training. You need to be absolutely certain that you can handle asbestos containing materials and that you can dispose of them in the right way. There are preventative and protective measures to be followed when dealing with Artex that has asbestos.
These measures include wearing protective equipment including goggles, monitoring and supervising the premises and the work constantly and carrying out medical surveillance. It is, therefore, best that licensed contractors carry out asbestos removal even if it is on a small-scale.
There are HSE task sheets that serve as guidance when removing artex and other asbestos containing materials. These guidelines also chalk out strategies to minimise the risk while you work with asbestos and artex.
Never take chances with asbestos
Never take chances with asbestos because it can be lethal if handled incorrectly. If you’re looking to have your home refurbished, make sure that there is no asbestos in it. If there is asbestos in the home, make sure that you do not disturb it while refurbishing.
The areas you want updating in the house need to have samples tested from the lab for the presence of asbestos. Next, you need to decide how to cover the textured coating. Will re-boarding be a good option or will removing the ceiling work, or will skimming over it be best? If the Artex is in good condition, you can apply the sealant easily. You can even skim over it with a new layer of plaster if needed. This can even help with encapsulating asbestos in the Artex, causing it to be less disturbed.
Sanding, grinding or chipping is not recommended. This is because even small particles of asbestos in Artex are dangerous for your health if not handled properly. Whatever you do, don’t use a wallpaper stripper to skim over it. That will cause fibres to spread everywhere. Not cleaning the area afterwards is another mistake that you want to avoid. Clean the floor, window frames, doors as well as the skirting.
If you don’t clean up the material left afterwards, it will become airborne and pose a serious threat to you and your family.
A surveyor and a professional asbestos removal company will help you figure out how to remove Artex in the best possible way. A professional for the job will know how to remove Artex and other coatings, clean up afterwards and use the right safety precautions during the job. They’ll know how to properly dispose of the Artex coating refuse and the asbestos in it so you don’t have a lawsuit on your hands.
If you still need a small area with Artex removed…
Know that Artex removal is not entirely free of risk, especially if it contains asbestos. Steaming or gelling will require specific training before it can be removed. You will also need to notify the enforcing authority before you carry out the work.
You can follow the guidelines given in the following excerpt from the HSE guide on DIY Artex removal. This is for small-scale removal and not recommended if you’re not trained well. You need to follow precautionary measures in any case.
Firstly, reduce the number of people present. Close the doors that lead to areas where artex is being removed from. Have notices and tape in place, so that people are forewarned. Make sure there is enough light.
You must have protective coveralls, preferably disposable, that come with a hood. Use a strap-on rubber boots as laced boots are hard to decontaminate. Have respiratory protective equipment by your side to ensure no fibres penetrate through. Use recommended goggles and gloves.
Start by removing the furniture and fittings from the area. Use a 500-gauge polythene sheet covering to protect it from being contaminated by asbestos fibres. Fasten the 500-gauge polythene sheet — using duct tape — to any non-asbestos surface nearby.
Next, wet and pick up any loose Artex coating pieces and place them in an asbestos waste bag. Gently brush the penetrating fluid in the Artex or any other coating. You can also use steam to loosen the Artex coating after dampening it. When you have loosened it, very gently, scrape the coating into a dustpan.
Empty the contents of the pan into an asbestos waste bag. Seal the surface that you just stripped with a high-quality sealant. Paint over it, if needed.
Use a class H vacuum cleaner or damp rags (whichever is available), to clean up the area and remove the debris left over. Put all disposable equipment into the asbestos waste bag. This includes any debris, used rags, paintbrush, polythene sheet or other items used.
Tape the plastic bag closed with duct tape after you put the asbestos waste bag into it.
Inspect the area to see if cleaning was done properly. Get clearance air sampling done if it is needed. Finally, get the owner of the premises to check off the job. Check it off yourself if you are the owner.
What does the law say about asbestos?
All building and reconstruction work is required by law to have a refurbishment and demolition survey. This includes inspections of the areas that will be demolished and reconstructed. This is to evaluate whether asbestos is present in the building or not. You should let contractors know beforehand if there is any asbestos containing materials within or on your property.
The duties given under section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 are applied. These are to protect the householders from any construction risk, including that of asbestos, during the duration of time when construction is being done in their home.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012) briefly touched upon earlier, is also applicable if contractors are hired. The contractors, themselves, have the duty to protect the occupants of the property.
The regulations involved are as follows:
- Regulation 11: prevention of exposure to asbestos.
- Regulation 15: making prior arrangements to deal with any emergencies, accidents and incidents.
- Regulation 16: duty to prevent asbestos from spreading.
A Final Reminder
If asbestos is left untouched and undamaged, there is no risk to your health. If you’re getting your artex ceiling or wall removed, it is best to seek professional help first. Seek out surveyors, contractors and contact HSE officials whenever you decide on remodelling or maintaining your building. If you don’t know whether you have asbestos in your building, be sure to get a survey done before.
These precautionary measures are needed to mitigate the risks of asbestos exposure. You don’t want to be exposed to asbestos even by mistake. Asbestos has been linked to lung cancer and a number of other life-threatening diseases. These can take years to develop and it is important to nip the threat right in the bud. The diseases associated with this harmful substance often have no cure. Proceeding with caution with asbestos is the always best policy.