How To Tell If You Have An Asbestos Fence

While we now know that asbestos is dangerous, it was heavily used throughout Australia from the 1930s, until it was gradually phased out in the 1980s, before a complete ban came into effect in 2003. Used in building materials including tiles, cement, and roofing shingles, it naturally also found its way into fencing products.

If you live in a house built during this time, you may be concerned about asbestos in your home and garden. To help, we’ll break down how to tell if you have an asbestos fence.

Disclaimer: we are not experts on asbestos fencing, however we have thoroughly researched this article and we believe the information to be correct. If you’re worried that you have an asbestos fence on your property, we strongly advise you to contact an asbestos professional to have it inspected and potentially removed.

Why is asbestos so dangerous?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion. This made it an appealing choice for the building industry, particularly during eras of economic growth and rapidly expanding cities.

But exposure to asbestos is incredibly dangerous, particularly when someone is exposed regularly over a long period of time. This usually happens when the materials around the asbestos break down, generally due to weathering and age.

Because of its long development time, it can take years for issues related to asbestos exposure to show, and there is no known way to reverse the damage caused. The most well-known disease connected to asbestos is mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer.

Do you have an asbestos fence?

The only way to be absolutely certain that you have an asbestos fence is to have it tested, but there are a few things that might indicate its presence.

Fence age

Old Asbestos Fence

An old asbestos fence. Image from Pdenenvirotech

Though the phase-out of asbestos began in the mid-1980s, a fence installed or renovated pre-1990 may still contain it. If you are unsure of dates, you can contact your local council to find out more.

Fence capping

An asbestos fence with capping of the same material. Image from Icon Asbestos Removal

If your fence and its capping are made of the same material, it may be asbestos. The capping is usually the most weathered part of the fence, meaning it could already be exposing asbestos to the atmosphere around you.

Remember, even if the capping is different, the fence itself could still contain asbestos – it may just be that the capping has been replaced over time.

Ridges

Asbestos fencing panels usually feature seven ridges, though after the move away from asbestos you may find sheets that used the same mould but do not contain it.

Fastenings

Asbestos fence with black diamond washers. Image from NSW Government

Asbestos fences were usually fastened together with diamond washers and bolts at the top of bottom of each panel. Later fences may not be fastened together at all, or be clipped under the capping.

Material

If there’s a break in the fence, take a look at the broken area. If it’s a consistent, dense material it may be asbestos.

Remember that asbestos is a danger when disturbed, so if you suspect your fence may contain it, do NOT break it to check – use this method only if the fence is already broken.

Hardifence

In 1985, Hardifence entered the market and began to replace asbestos fencing. It was similar in strength, durability, and aesthetic, without any of the dangerous products involved.

If your home dates to the 1980s, or had renovations done in this time, that potentially asbestos fence may actually be a Hardifence! Visually, they are very similar, so look for identifying characteristics, such as a dimpled surface, aluminium fence cappings, five ridge panels, or markings that expressly state “no asbestos”.

So, what next?

If you think you’ve found evidence of asbestos, you must reach out to a professional for testing and removal. Asbestos removal is not a DIY job and should only be carried out by trained experts.

Remember that any fencing issues must still take into account rules and regulations for your local area – just because you have an asbestos fence around your pool doesn’t mean you can go without a fence at all!

References

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