Asbestos

When and where was asbestos used?

A guide for householders and the general public

Page last updated: 06 March 2013

Friable asbestos products have been commonly used in commercial and industrial settings since the late 1800s for fireproofing, soundproofing and insulation. Some friable products were also used in houses and may still be found in houses built before 1990.

In Australia, asbestos cement materials were first manufactured in the 1920s and were commonly used in the manufacture of residential building materials from the mid-1940s until the late 1980s. During the 1980s asbestos cement materials were phased out in favour of asbestos-free products. From 31 December 2003, the total ban on manufacture, use, reuse, import, transport, storage or sale of all forms of asbestos came into force.

Many houses built before 1990 therefore contain asbestos cement materials, especially in the eaves, internal and external wall cladding, ceilings (particularly in wet areas such as bathrooms and laundries) and fences.

As a General Rule ...
if your house was built:


before the mid-1980s it is highly likely that it has asbestos-containing products

between the mid-1980s and 1990 it is likely that it has asbestos containing products

after 1990 it is unlikely that it has asbestos-containing products.a

a Some houses built in the 1990s and early 2000s may have still used asbestos cement materials until the total ban on any activity involving asbestos products became effective from December 2003.


Asbestos-containing products used in houses

Bonded asbestos products

The vast majority of asbestos-containing products used in houses were bonded asbestos cement materials, including:
• roofing
• shingles and siding (villaboard and similar)
• exterior and interior wall cladding
• eaves
• fencing
• thermal boards around fireplaces
• water or flue pipes.

Friable asbestos products

Some friable asbestos products may also be found in houses, including:
• asbestos-rope door gaskets in wood stoves
• loose fill roofing insulation (not common)
• spray-on insulation or soundproofing
• low-density asbestos fibre board
• insulation on hot-water pipes, domestic heaters and stoves (e.g. lagging)
• backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring
• carpet underlay (not common; see page when are householders likely to be exposed to asbestos?)
• textured paints, decorative ceiling coatings
• heat-resistant fabrics
• brick and plaster sealants, fillers and some adhesive products
• hail or fire damaged, or badly weathered asbestos cement materials.

Remember:

asbestos cement materials can become friable when they are sufficiently damaged, badly weathered or otherwise deteriorated.

The diagram on Where asbestos may be found in a typical home shows the many places that asbestos can be found around the home; Where asbestos may be found in a typical home show photos of typical asbestos products.