Asbestos spray coatings and problems with its removal

In this blog, we’ll examine asbestos spray coatings and some of the problems you can face when it is being removed.

Asbestos spray coatings were phased out in the mid-1970s, so it’s old now and deteriorating.

They have a very high asbestos content. It was mixed with Portland cement binder, to stick asbestos fibres together. It was up to 85% pure asbestos and you can clearly see the fibres.

In our industry it’s one of the worst materials to come across because it has a low density and is soft and will release asbestos fibres very easily for minimal disturbance in its raw state.

Where were asbestos spray coatings used?

Predominately, it was used in fire protection to beams and on ceilings and it was even sprayed onto asbestos in factories and warehouses. It was used a lot in factories as it provided fire protection and sound proofing. Theatres also used it on their ceilings and structural elements. You may also find the ceiling and beams of car parks are sprayed with asbestos when they have apartments or hotels above them.

How were asbestos spray coatings applied?

The application was a horrible process. At the time the workers did not wear PPE and used a larger sprayer. It was a very messy job as the spray would not just be hitting the elements it was aimed at – it would contaminate the surrounding walls, floors, windows and cavities.

Is it difficult to remove?

Spray coating is one of the worst products to remove and manage because it gets into everything and has a high asbestos content and can be easily damaged.

How are asbestos spray coatings removed?

This work always needs to be done by a licensed contractor. The contractor uses an injection suppression method to remove it. The injection needle saturates the spray coating all the way down to the surface level.

Once the removal takes place, the whole material will be removed wet. If you come across a section that is dry, the asbestos fibre count will be high.

At the same time, you have to be careful this process doesn’t create an asbestos slurry. You really do need an experienced removal team who have done spray coating before to manage this properly as it can go wrong very quickly and very badly. Even the enclosure construction needs to be much more rigorous.

The removal team need to consider the structure of the building, the structure of the surface that the asbestos has been applied to and the end goal of the client. By this we mean what is the client going to be able to do in the area following the asbestos removal because we cannot guarantee it will be 100% clean. Sometimes, there will be areas of the building you cannot guarantee are 100% clean without demolition work.

There is a difference between scraping a flat smooth concrete surface where the sprayed insulation comes off like a dream versus a pitted concrete with loads of gaps in it and the spray has gone everywhere. These things need to be considered because the difference between the time frames of these projects and their costs are huge.

If you spray the coating with encapsulant paint this can bring the spray coating down because of the extra weight on it. Imagine employing a contractor to encapsulate a ceiling for you, they do that for you, walk away and then a couple of weeks later it falls down. What would that do to your business? You need to have these considerations.

In summary

It is only when you are completely demolishing a building, and you can remove every element of the building, that you can guarantee you have removed it all. If you are refurbing a building you are not going to want to go as far as this.

You need to remember the key discussion points:

  • What is the end goal?
  • What does the client want?
  • The cost of removal versus the cost of refurbishment and a lifetime of managing the material
  • Does the removal project meet their requirements for their building use at the time?
  • How long are they planning to use that building for?

If your asbestos spray coating is deteriorating, you need to get it under control and managed.

The key thing is to get people on board who know exactly what they are doing with spray coating.

We’re a professional asbestos consultancy helping businesses deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos testing, and asbestos removal. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation

If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or email [email protected]

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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