Asbestos in Plaster Walls

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Asbestos plaster in walls & ceilings

Asbestos in plaster building materials (cement) was commonly used between 1940 and 1990 in the construction of many residential and commercial buildings.

As such, it can still be found in many older residential and commercial buildings today.

How to Identify Asbestos in Plaster

Asbestos was added to plaster up until the late 1980’s in order to make walls and ceilings both incredibly fire and heat resistant.

So it is very likely that some older brands of cement could contain asbestos fibers.

Surprisingly, plaster only has to contain 1% asbestos in order to be considered an asbestos containing material (ACM).

Asbestos cement was mostly used in commercial buildings and added to walls that were fire rated such as lift shafts.

Therefore, it’s very uncommon to find homes that contain any asbestos in plaster walls and ceilings.

It can be very difficult to identify if a wall/ceiling contains asbestos just by looking at it.

However, if you know for certain that it is fire rated and was built before 1990, then you should assume it contains asbestos and get a sample of it tested immediately.

This is particularly important if the plaster is damaged, as this is when it is most dangerous as asbestos fibers are easily released into the atmosphere.

Asbestos fibers in old plaster wall
Asbestos fibers in old plaster wall

How to take a sample

Before you take any sample, you must firstly always ensure that you wear protective clothing along with gloves, goggles, and a respirator.

This will protect you from any asbestos fibers that might be released while taking the sample.

You should also seal off the area to prevent anyone else from entering.

Here are some specific instructions for taking a sample if you suspect asbestos in plaster walls or ceilings:-

  1. First, thoroughly dampen the surface of the area you are going to take a sample from with water and a small amount of detergent.
  2. Then, proceed to cut a small square of plaster out of the wall or ceiling (about 1 – 1½ inches), ensuring that you cut right through the depth of the plaster.
  3. Place the sample in a thick airtight clear plastic bag, and then put this into another clear airtight bag (called the double bag method).
  4. Label the sample clearly on the front of the bag with the date and location of where the sample was taken.
  5. Then send the sample onto an accredited asbestos testing company along with details of your address and contact information.
  6. You should receive the results of the test back within a few days.
damaged asbestos wall
Damaged asbestos wall

Removal of Asbestos Plaster

You should never attempt to remove asbestos plaster yourself.

Only those who are appropriately trained should do so.

The HSE states that operatives do not need an asbestos removal license for this type of work, and generally, this work would not need to be notified.

However, the HSE does state that if the work is likely to be extensive and cause significant damage of the material, then notification would be required.

If in any doubt, please seek the advice of a professional company who deal with asbestos removal.


Did you find this article interesting?  Then check out our other interesting articles below.

Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their properties, carrying out an asbestos survey in their building so as not to put employees at risk.

So make sure you contact our Armco office to arrange an asbestos survey, before it’s too late! 

Whether you need an asbestos management survey, or a refurbishment/ demolition survey, contact us on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting https://www.armco.org.uk/

Finally, for all your asbestos training needs call 0161 761 4424 or visit https://www.armcoasbestostraining.co.uk/to book an asbestos awareness training course.

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Published Jun 17, 2019
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