What does asbestos look like?
One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is ‘what does asbestos look like?’. To help answer, we have compiled a comprehensive gallery of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) found in both domestic and commercial properties.
Due to the stabilising and heat resistant capabilities of asbestos, it was frequently used in the construction and building industry until it was banned in 1999. This means that many houses built prior to the year 2000 still contain asbestos materials. Asbestos was used in a wide range of materials, ranging from decorative ceilings to vinyl floor tiles.
How to Identify Asbestos?
In many cases, it can be difficult to conclusively determine whether a material contains asbestos from visual inspection. Some products contain identification marks, which will advise whether the material contains asbestos. For items without identification marks, there are a number of specialist asbestos laboratories that provide testing and analysis services.
In 1984, non-asbestos cement sheets were introduced into the UK market. These sheets look very similar to the asbestos containing sheets, which makes identification difficult. Although an alternative became available, the asbestos sheets were cheaper, so they continued to be widely used until the ban in 1999.
There are six types of asbestos – chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Each has a different appearance and properties, but as asbestos is mixed in with other materials, it is almost impossible to determine the type of asbestos in a product without laboratory testing.
The images below will give you a better understanding of what asbestos looks like, and some of the most common places you are likely to find asbestos containing materials. If you suspect that your property may contain asbestos, we advise that you have an asbestos survey conducted.
Asbestos Images and Gallery
Asbestos in different products and materials
Asbestos is found in a wide range of products and materials, and was also used in its pure form. Whilst asbestos containing products can be difficult to identify from visual inspection alone, we have put together some helpful guidance to help you understand what it may look like in different materials and locations around the home.
What does an asbestos containing wall look like?
Asbestos was used in a number of different materials that were used to create walls, which makes visual identification difficult. Some of the most common types of ACM that were used to create walls include asbestos insulation board (AIB) and cement sheets.
AIB’s were used in both commercial and domestic properties to create walls. In commercial buildings, AIBs were often used in the construction of office walls and dividers. In residential buildings, AIB was often used for bathroom and kitchen walls. Asbestos insulation boards can often be identified due to the distinctive connections between panels, as seen in the photo below. However, similar products were made that do not contain asbestos, so testing may still be required to accurately determine the presence of asbestos.
Asbestos cement sheets were commonly used for outdoor buildings, such as sheds and garages, rather than inside homes. Some sheets were stamped with identifying marks, but unfortunately this practice was not common.
It was also common for asbestos to be used in decorative wall textures, such as artex. These products were also commonly used in ceilings.
External house and building walls can also be created using asbestos materials, such as siding or cladding.
What does asbestos look like in plaster?
Plaster is used in a range of different places throughout a home or commercial building, including walls and ceilings. It can be extremely difficult to identify asbestos in plaster and plasterboard without laboratory testing. Asbestos was added to plaster and drywall products for a number of reasons, ranging from fire proofing to noise absorption. Below is an examples of plaster containing asbestos, which looks much like non-asbestos plaster.
What do asbestos floors look like?
Asbestos was commonly used in vinyl flooring. This commonly consisted of both vinyl fleet flooring and vinyl asbestos tiles. They are generally considered a low risk asbestos product, as the dangerous fibres are better contained than in other materials. Vinyl floor tiles were manufactured in 3 different sizes – 9″ x 9″, 12″ x 12″ and 18″ x 18″.
What does asbestos in a ceiling look like?
Asbestos ceilings are generally either made from a decorative texture, such as artex, or asbestos insulation board ceiling tiles. You can find an example of asbestos artex above, but below is a photo of asbestos ceiling tiles.
What does asbestos look like in attics?
Asbestos is commonly found in attics either as insulation or as insulation around pipes. Due to its strength and insulating properties, asbestos was added to a range of materials that dealt with heat, such as pipe lagging around boiler plumbing.
What does asbestos artex look like?
To create decorative ceilings that were strong and fire resistant, asbestos was commonly added. It is common for artex ceilings and decorative wall textures in residential homes to contain asbestos. In many cases, asbestos in ceilings can become dangerous if they start to decay.
How to identify an Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB)?
Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB) was commonly used for a number of purposes, including:
- Partition Walls
- Lift Shaft Linings
- Under Window Panels
- Ceiling Tiles
AIBs are often hard to identify as they often look like normal building materials, such as ceiling tiles, plasterboard and panels. In most cases it is extremely difficult to determine the difference between an asbestos insulation board and a non-asbestos material, without specialist testing.
Below are a few examples of AIB in homes and buildings.
What do the different types of asbestos look like?
There are 6 types of asbestos; chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Asbestos is a natural fibrous mineral that was commonly mined from the ground. It was mixed with a wide range of different materials to provide strength, fire proofing, insulation and many more properties.
Chrysotile was the most widely used asbestos, and is commonly referred to as white asbestos. It is part of the serpentine family, whilst all other types of asbestos are part of the amphibole family. It was commonly used in a range of materials, from brake pads to roofing materials.
Amosite is also known as brown asbestos. It was commonly used for insulation in electrical, thermal, chemical and plumbing purposes, such as pipe lagging and insulation boards.
Crocidolite has the thinnest fibres, and is also referred to as blue asbestos. It was commonly used for water encasement and spray on insulation.
Tremolite is strong and flexible. It was commonly used in fireproof clothing, such as that worn by firefighters. It was also used in paints and sealants.
Actinolite comes in a range of different forms, ranging from brittle to flexible. It was used in insulation, concrete and fireproof clothing.
Anthopthyllite is one of the rarer types of asbestos. It was used in products such as talcum powder.
Our helpful video on how to identify asbestos in your property:
You can also watch our video here: What does asbestos look like video
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