Asbestos Siding - To buy or not to buy

7 Replies

Hey Guys,

So Pennsylvania is full of old houses so coming across lead paint and asbestos is not surprising. I just don't know how worried I should be about it. I understand that if not deteriorating and left undisturbed asbestos is not harmful. It's when it starts crumbling and falling apart that it becomes a hazard.

Well I'm looking to purchase a duplex that seems to be in nice condition and the siding looks average -- probably pretty old. My concern is let's say I buy it as is and 10 years later it's crumbling or a tree hits the side of the house and now I have this big hazard issue. Replacing all the siding sounds like it'll cost more than half the worth of the house.

My realtor is very knowledgeable and suggests simply covering over it with regular siding since the removal of asbestos is when it becomes a hazard. But simply covering deteriorating asbestos siding seems to me like it's not going to address the hazard. What are your experiences with this? Also they covered one side of the house with fake brick siding, looks ugly. Is that a bad sign?

If it wasn't for that I'd be all about the house. It's really almost a deal breaker in my mind, if it starts to go south it'll cost A LOT.  Or am I overreacting....I definitely want a safe environment for everyone.

@Michael P.   That's correct, in general it's not out of code to buy a house with asbestos siding, I actually own one and as long as it's not disturbed, no issues.  Had it for 10 years and never has come up on the insurance company recommendation list (they inspect every few years as it's a rental property).

Most people go right over it with siding, it's a fairly common practice.

@Michael P. - owning a home with asbestos is fine. You find it in 1950s era flooring tile (usually the 9x9 ones), concrete/asbestos siding (durable but brittle), piping insulation, sometimes that 1920s insulbrick siding, as an additive to some old plasters, and probably half a dozen other places I have forgotten. The key with it is do not disturb it. The danger is when the microscopic fibers get airborne and you breath them in. In all cases, removal requires negative air pressure and appropriate protective gear. Depending on the size and scope, costs I have seen range from a couple thousand to 10's of thousands. I even was chatting with a gentleman a couple months ago at the local ACRE meeting whose complex ended up on the news due to "questionable" treatment of asbestos siding during construction. All of that said, there are no issues painting or covering over these products. The same goes with lead paint (just don't sand it as a prep step without appropriate protection). You don't need any special handling to put 1/4" plywood over asbestos floor tiles and then carpet over that. Covering siding is similar (though usually I see that with insulbrick not the cement version). 

So in short, if a tree falls on your house, yes the cleanup will likely cost more - so make sure your insurance is adequate. Otherwise, paint that stuff and leave it alone. That is what I did with my first personal residence 15 years ago. The folks after me sided over it. 

Thanks fellas, seems like a straightforward approach.  I'm less concerned about it being a major issue.  Thanks for the good info, very reassuring!  Looks like the duplex might be a solid move then.

Unless it’s a great deal , which includes the cost to cover it with siding , I’d pass . 

I wouldn’t want the additional potential health hazard , unless it was   Really worth it. 

Siding like that doesn't typically just go bad and start crumbling. It is not "fragile" or generally friable so abatement isn't as expensive per square/linear foot as asbestos insulation or even popcorn ceiling abatement. 

Good points.  I feel like with every place I view this one big thing that stands out as a potential issue.  Everything is a risk in some way...just depends what it is.  In this case it seems like a calculated risk since I'm investing in an area where this is very common.

I don’t mind houses with asbestos siding. While I’ve never had to replace it... my understanding is that it’s not as horribly expensive as some people say. As long as you find a reputable abatement contractor, the cost shouldn’t be hugely more expensive.