Safety and first aid

Asbestos in and around the home

  • In WA, most asbestos building products are over 50 years old and nearing the end of the product’s life.
  • Homeowners should consider replacing asbestos cement sheeting such as roofs and fences with non-asbestos products.
  • Prevent exposure to asbestos fibres byleaving asbestos products undisturbed.

If your house was built before 1990 then it is likely that you have building products in your home that contains asbestos.

Asbestos cement products pose little risk to health when they are in good condition and left undisturbed. However, homeowners must take precautions when handling, removing the products, cleaning or doing maintenance, to prevent exposure to asbestos fibres.

If you are buying, renting or selling a pre­1990 house, you can ask that asbestos containing products be assessed as part of the building inspection report (external site).

Homeowners can also read the Asbestos safety for householders and home renovators guideline (external site) and removing asbestos.

Where is asbestos found around a home?

The most common product used in residential homes is asbestos cement. These products typically contain 10­-15% asbestos bound in cement. Other products that may contain asbestos are listed below.

If your home has been renovated these products may still be present underneath existing building products, such as flooring, walls and ceiling cavities. If you are renovating an older home, it is best to check that asbestos containing products have not been covered by previous renovations or home improvements.


Inside the home

  • Wall and ceiling panels particularly in wet areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, toilet and laundry
  • Vinyl floor tiles and carpet underlay
  • Backing for wall tiles and splashbacks
  • Backing of linoleum flooring
  • Insulation in stoves, domestic heaters, roof cavities and around hot water pipes
  • Plaster patching compounds and textured paint

Outside the home

  • Roof sheeting
  • Gutters
  • Downpipes
  • Ridge capping
  • Lining under eaves
  • Backing of electrical switchboards
  • Cladding for walls
  • Garages
  • Carports 


  • Fences
  • Garden sheds
  • Outdoor toilets
  • Dog kennels
  • Buried and dumped construction waste materials

After decades of use many asbestos cement roofs and fences have deteriorated, or been damaged, and have reached the end of their serviceable life.  If your asbestos cement products are badly damaged, then removal is strongly recommended over maintenance.

How to recognise or test for asbestos

You may need to test a product to confirm it contains asbestos because you can’t tell just by looking at it.

If the product is one that could contain asbestos, and was installed prior to 1990 (when asbestos had stopped being used in building materials), you should treat the suspect material as though it does contain asbestos.

If you need to verify whether the product is free of asbestos, this can only be done with the use of a microscope. If you need to confirm the presence of asbestos in a product you will need to contact a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory (external site).

Asbestos cement roofs

It is rare that aged and weathered asbestos cement roofs can be effectively and safely cleaned.

Methods to clean roofs need to be non-abrasive and care is necessary to ensure waste coming off the roof is collected and disposed as asbestos waste.

The Department strongly recommends removal of asbestos cement roofs rather than cleaning and sealing, especially if they have started to deteriorate. This is because:

  • roofs are likely to have significant moss and algal growth penetrating the surface preventing the ability to clean the roof without causing further deterioration and contamination.
  • you cannot use a high-pressure hose to clean sheeting as this will break up the surface of the sheet and lead to widespread distribution of asbestos debris. The use of a high-pressure hose is an offence, and you may be fined or prosecuted.
  • asbestos cement roofs become brittle with age and can be more easily damaged and unsafe to walk on.
  • removal costs are higher for roofs in poor condition, as more extensive safety precautions are needed for safe access and to prevent airborne fibre release.
  • fire or wind-damaged asbestos cement roofs are known to cause widespread contamination, with increased exposure risks to airborne asbestos fibres, and extremely high clean-up costs.

Refer to asbestos removal for information on removing asbestos products from your home.


Asbestos cement products that are still in good condition need to be properly maintained. Good maintenance practices include:

  • keeping products whole, not breaking or damaging products
  • using safety precautions when handling or working with, and around, any asbestos containing products
  • avoid having vegetation or other items leaning or scraping against the asbestos cement products  prune all trees and branches to at least, 600 mm away from asbestos cement roofing.

 With existing asbestos cement roofs you need to:

  • check gutters and downpipes are working and in good condition
  • clean gutters and drains as often as required to remove any material build-up
  • ensure soakwells are in place to collect roof run-off water from downpipes.

Any waste material from gutters and drains should be wetted and collected in heavy duty plastic bags for disposal at a landfill accepting asbestos waste.

Painting or sealing

In the past, applying a good quality surface coating or sealant was recommended to extend the life of an asbestos cement fence or roof and improve its appearance. However, very few asbestos cement products have remained in sufficiently good condition such that they can be safely cleaned and prepared to apply surface coatings. While non­penetrating or poor-quality paint was not recommended as a sealant, as it may peel or flake, and spread contamination, homeowners should be aware of risks associated with crumbling paint flakes containing asbestos fibres.

In most circumstances removal and replacement with non-asbestos products is the most reasonable precautionary action to take for asbestos products that are no longer in good condition.


  • You cannot use a high-pressure hose to clean asbestos cement products as this will break up the surface of the sheet and cause asbestos debris to be spread. The use of a high-pressure hose is an offence, and you may be fined or prosecuted.
  • Asbestos cement roofs become brittle with age and can be unsafe to walk on, or to try to maintain.

Caution: it is strongly recommended that you seek the services of a licensed asbestos removal contractor (external site) for any removal work.

More information

Last reviewed: 15-12-2023
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Information about a service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace professional advice. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified professional for answers to their questions.

Questions? Ask your local government environmental health services