Dealing with asbestos in the home

What to do if you find asbestos in your home.

If you think you might have asbestos in your home contact a health protection officer at your local district health board. They will advise you.

On this page:

What to do if you find asbestos in your home

If there is asbestos or asbestos-containing material (confirmed by laboratory analysis) in your home or the soil around your home, talk with your health protection officer.

The possible options are:

  • leaving it as it is, disturbing it as little as possible
  • sealing, encapsulating or enclosing it
  • removing it.

Asbestos-containing material on decorative ceilings, walls or flooring is not likely to be a health risk unless it is damaged, deteriorating or crumbly. If the asbestos-containing material is poorly bonded, damaged or deteriorating, fibres may be released into the air. This asbestos- containing material should be sealed, encapsulated, enclosed or removed.

Sealing, encapsulation and enclosing

Sealing is done by applying paint to the surface. When hardened, this stops the release of loose asbestos dust.

Encapsulation is when asbestos-containing material is coated with a material that soaks through the asbestos-containing material and hardens, stopping the release of loose asbestos fibres.

Enclosing is when a construction is placed around the asbestos-containing material (like a false wall or plasterboard ceiling) to contain the asbestos.

External cladding

External cladding (including roof tiles made of asbestos) should not cause any concern if it is not damaged. Even if the cladding is deteriorating, we recommend that it be sealed rather than removed or replaced. The process of removal will disturb the asbestos, releasing high-risk concentrations of fibres into the air and endangering the health of everyone in the locality. If left in place, the amount of fibres released poses a negligible health risk. However, if you have asbestos- containing roofing, be aware that the ceiling space under the roof may have high concentrations of asbestos dust, particularly if the roofing is weathered and brittle.

Using an approved commercial sealant may stop the release of fibres. Both waterbased (emulsion) coatings and solventbased coatings may be used. They can be pigmented or clear. Not all paint and surface coatings are suitable. Some may increase fire risks, so you should consult the paint manufacturer to find out more about the suitability of the product.

Do not use power tools or high-pressure water blasting on external cladding as this will release large amounts of fibres, which are a health risk as a mist or dust and when they dry.

Removal

We strongly advise that you seek the help of a WorkSafe New Zealand licensed asbestos removalist to remove any asbestos containing material from your home as exposure to asbestos fibres is a danger to health.

A licensed removalist will take the necessary precautions and follow good work practices, as required by the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016.

You can find the names of licensed asbestos removalists on WorkSafe New Zealand’s website.  

If you still intend to remove asbestos from your home yourself, make sure you follow the advice in the our booklet Removing Asbestos from Your Home.

For more information about removing asbestos in or around your home, you can also read the Approved Code of Practice: Management and Removal of Asbestos, available from WorkSafe.

For asbestos in soil around your home, you can also read the New Zealand Guidelines for Assessing and Managing Asbestos in Soil: technical manual, available from BRANZ.

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