The Dangers of Asbestos in Older Buildings
Author Grace Hatman.
Asbestos is a known carcinogenic mineral that was used extensively in a number of industries in the UK for decades. One of the industries that used asbestos the most heavily was construction. It is important for homeowners and those who work in buildings constructed before asbestos regulations were set to be aware of the risks of exposure and dangers of asbestos to human health.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral that can be mined and used for a number of industrial purposes. It has been used, in fact, for millennia. Asbestos is lightweight but strong and flexible; it resists heat and fire; and asbestos resists most chemical reactions. It was used heavily in the UK and in other countries anywhere there was a need for heat- and fire-proofing, like in and around stoves and boilers and in insulation. It was also used heavily in the construction of buildings and ships.
Why Asbestos is so Harmful
The small, needle-pointed fibers that make up asbestos can easily become detached and enter the air. As part of the dust these fibers can be inhaled from the air and accidentally consumed when they settle on surfaces. The fibers get stuck in tissues in the body and can cause damage that lead to very serious illnesses in some people:
· Mesothelioma – an aggressive cancer that affects the tissues around the lungs, mesothelioma is almost always caused by asbestos exposure
· Lung cancer – asbestos can cause lung cancer and other cancers in addition to mesothelioma
· Asbestosis – a scarring of lung tissue that is not cancer but is progressive and ultimately fatal
Where Asbestos is Found in Buildings
Asbestos use in the UK was banned to various degrees and by type between 1985 and 1999. Buildings constructed from the late 1800s through the mid-1980s may contain asbestos today, in spite of the ban. Not all buildings have been abated and asbestos can still be found in many of the construction materials in homes, schools, office buildings, and other buildings that people live and work in every day. In these buildings asbestos may be found in:
· Joint compounds.
· Flooring tiles and adhesive.
· Ceiling tiles.
· Roofing materials.
· Decorative plasters and textured paints
· Boilers, heaters, and stoves.
Although asbestos has been banned from use in the UK, there is still a risk of exposure and illness caused by this mineral and the materials in which it has been incorporated. Some of the people most at risk are those that may work around it: construction workers, HVAC technicians, maintenance workers, painters, teachers, plumbers, electricians, pipefitters, boilermakers, and joiners.
Anyone who lives in a building constructed during the period in which asbestos was in use could also be at risk of exposure. In many cases the asbestos is well contained. When it is contained asbestos does not give off dangerous fibers, but when that material is damaged or the asbestos becomes exposed it poses a risk.
One of the most common situations in which a resident may be at risk of asbestos exposure is during home renovation or remodeling work. Breaking through walls and insulation, moving pipes and changing electrical work can cause old asbestos to become exposed, putting anyone in the building at risk.
To stay safe in the face of old asbestos it is important to be aware of the dangers. Workers should know their rights to a safe workplace and demand training and safety equipment. Homeowners must contact asbestos professionals before doing any remodeling work. These abatement professionals can safely test for asbestos and either remove or contain it. Awareness is crucial for staying safe in a country where asbestos is still a risk to public health.
New stained glass for Pendower Hall
Heritage & Design Ltd has been asked to design new stained glass panels for the main staircase at the historic Pendower Hall in Newcastle. This is particularly challenging as Pendower Hall is Grade II listed so any design must meet, not only the client's brief, but also the approval of the local authority within their delegated remit over the property.
The design is in its early stages but 10 new panels, all around 1m high, will be created to sit along side the original two remaining panels so the final design needs to both contrast and combine at the same time.
Keep looking for further updates.
Rising damp in Swansea
Having surveyed a few houses in and around Swansea, Cardiff, Barry and Chepstow now, the instances of rising damp appear to be rife. However I find that most ground floors have been replaced with concrete, external walls have been 'water-proofed' inside and outside and absolutely no thought given by the damp-proofing company to how the property is supposed to function after it has been sealed.
Moisture is absorbed from various sources and the most important feature of a traditional structure, apart from supporting the upper floors and roof obviously, is to allow moisture to evaporate. Where it doesn't, it saturates and appears internally as dampness so, if you are thinking about inviting a damp-proofing specialist to your home because he's free or cheap, think again, because no matter what guarantees he provides, he has no interest in solving the various different issues which may be responsible.
Damp proofing, so-called independent, experts seldom even look outside, where 99% of the defects which contribute to dampness are. A professional survey from a reputable building surveying practice like Heritage & Design Ltd will examine your property, inside and outside, and identify all contributing factors, present them in an easy to read format in plain English and set out recommendations for repairs in order of priority in accordance with BS 7913:2013 - Guide to the conservation of historic buildings, which should really have been called a guide to the 'repair of traditional buildings' instead.
This British standard sets out the principles and guidelines that building surveyors should employ when inspecting solid-walled structures and describes "best practice in the management and treatment of 'historic' buildings. It applies to 'historic' buildings with and without statutory protection."
It is always interesting to find snippets of past lives however a recent survey of a terraced house in Glasgow revealed large-scale posters from 1930's being used as underlay below carpets. These depicted the British Empire Exhibition 1924 amongst other adverts and timetable posters.
I have somehow found myself in a dance competition to be held at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea this Saturday, 19th May, where my wife and I will be dancing a waltz. So far we have managed to raise almost £600 for Cancer Research but more would be greatly received for this worth-while cause. After only 8 weeks tuition (less a few missed through work) by the very patient Mario DeMarco at DeMarco Dance Studio in Swansea, we are taking part in the Ultra Ballroom competition.
Tickets are available but we have some which we will give away free to anyone interested in attending to see us suffer at this black-tie event.
Donations can be made via Alisons Justgiving page where any contribution is welcome.
The Parliamentary Review 2018
Heritage & Design Ltd has been asked to contribute to this years Parliamentary Review to showcase our best practice as a learning tool to the public and private sector. The main aims of the Review are "to demonstrate how organisations/individuals have become oustanding leaders in their fields and how they have responded to challenges within the industry, sharing best practice as a template for reform".
We work hard to offer the best service possible to clients and provide clarity and honesty at all times so it is reassuring that this has been recognised.
We all have to have a roof over our heads don't we? Most of us are lucky that we have, but is it a house or a home?
A house provides shelter for us and our family but a home provides much more. Walking towards your house/home after working all day, is it an attractive prospect or is it just somewhere to get out of the rain and sit down? The reason I ask is that so often you get the wrong advice usually from people who benefit out of it.
I have recently moved to Swansea where there are some lovely little terraced cottages - my wife and I have bought one - with stone walls, a slated roof (someone was given bad advice and put tiles on ours!), chimneys, timber sash and casement windows, flagstone path, good quality timber door, etc., etc. But I see whole rows which have been covered in beige cement roughcast, whole streets of them, all the same.
Hardly any chimneys remain in some streets with uPVC windows and doors, concrete paths, totally devoid of their original character. A terrace near to us was stripped of its old cement render and the stonework exposed. I had high hopes of it being repointed in lime mortar and shining but, no, beige cement roughcast accompanied the uPVC windows and removal of the chimney stack so we now have a faceless roughcast box in its place.
Why does this happen?
The local authority has some responsibility for this by allowing or not preventing these changes. And it's not just the aesthetic and historic value, these features have an intrinsic value and usefulness. Chimneys, even if there isn't a useable fireplace, can provide ventilation. This is vital for human health, reduces condensation and the risk of some chest complaints, improves air quality and the movement of air in the chimney will help keep it dry.
Sash and casement windows are known as being draughty but this again is good for you and your home, maybe no so good for your heating bills though. Maybe you should expect to be wearing a jumper indoors in the winter and not flip-flops and shorts like my son used to. Old windows can be draught-proofed and double glazed units can be fitted to the same frames however double-glazing salesmen are NEVER going to offer you that option.
If you have a limited budget, as most of us have, it is cheaper to refurbish, repair, mend, decorate, fix, etc., than it is to replace, short and long-term. There is as much value and a great deal more social history in your terraced cottage than there is in the Colosseum or Buckingham Palace so, how about taking some free advice and please consider the consequences of removing something that helps make your house into a home. Or even calling for some advice or to discuss a survey.
Damp proofing work not necesssary
I was contacted by a client who was buying an A-listed basement flat within Edinburgh World Heritage Site to say they had a mortgage retention for £12,500 +vat for damp proofing works after recommendations by a national damp proofing company who diagnosed rising damp! After a consultation with me they had a better understanding of the real issues and the detrimental effect of the proposed works, especially as it appears damp proofing works had been done before this which will be contributing to the conditions.
Our bank asked specifically for a report made by a damp and timber specialist who would be able to carry the works afterwards...
...We followed your advice and have now our mortgage offer, which is not subject to any damp works, yay! The damp specialist report recommended +£12,500 ExclVAT damp proofing works and ugly silicon injection !
We are still waiting for the sellers previous damp works documentation and are worried to discover what might have been done... The home report questionnaire indeed stated that ceramic air bricks had been placed to the base of the walls but not sure that was it...
Cecile and Pascal
An email from a disgruntled householder who asked for an 'independent' survey from a Property Care Association affiliated company that I just had to publish. This is typical of the unethical closed-shop and bad practices of these companies and their greed for money.
"homeowners really do need to do their homework"
I came across your site after having a damp survey done by a member of the PCA and to be honest it was a joke. I paid for an independent damp surveyor company to have a look and it was just condensation. The PCA company told me I had rising damp and yes they want to inject chemicals into my beautiful facing brickwork. I rang the PCA as I wanted to understand whether it was best practice for one of their accredited companies to use a damp meter on the outside wall and test for moisture on facing brickwork. I was told yes the company would know what they are doing and if that is what they feel is warranted then that is okay!!!!!! CROOKS.
I am furious to say the least, the last piece of correspondence from this con damp proofing company informed me that the surveyor used his little damp meter on the exterior of the building and detected damp there which is why I need the chemical damp proof course! Crikey I might be a woman but really – outside.
Yes of course feel free to put my email on your website, homeowners really do need to do their homework, I am so pleased I did.
Heritage and Design Ltd will have a base in the South of Wales from the end of October 2017. What this will mean to interested parties in Scotland and the north is that you may have to wait a while for a survey however it will mean that you, in Wales, the Midlands, the South West, London and most of the Home Counties will benefit from good advice for your old houses whether it is to answer an on-going problem with damp, assess a property you are thinking about buying, providing advice about a property you have just bought or want to renovate or you want a comprehensive building survey (previously known as 'full building' or 'structural' survey) which will answer any and all questions you may have about the property.
Welcome note from me.
I am new to bloging, I talk a lot and write a lot but sharing daily exploits I usually avoid. Let's see how this develops. Your help is much appreciated.