RICS Draft Guidance Note: Asbestos - legal requirements and best practice for property professionals and clients (4th edition)

RICS Asbestos 4th edition consultation draft

2.2 Examples of common asbestos products

2.2.1 Asbestos insulation

Asbestos insulation includes products used for heat, sound and fire protection, as well as other insulation purposes. It includes:

  • hard set or hand-applied insulation to pipes, boilers and vessels
  • pre-formed sections of pipe insulation
  • asbestos lagging and asbestos infill (asbestos used to fill voids, applied during the construction of floors, and packed around cables where they pass through floors between adjacent storeys, or through walls and partitions between adjacent rooms or spaces) and
  • millboards, used to insulate electrical equipment and for thermal insulation.

These materials are regarded as being highly friable and can have an asbestos content of anywhere between 6% and 85% (the latter for lagging materials).

2.2.2 Asbestos coating

Asbestos coating includes various mixtures containing asbestos that were widely used as surface coatings for fire protection purposes, or as both heat and sound insulation. This does not include textured decorative coatings, commonly known as Artex (see 2.2.5). Most of these coatings were applied by mechanical sprayers, but some were applied by hand.

Sprayed coatings most often have no binding agent at all and are extremely friable, with a high content of between 55% and 85% asbestos fibre, so even structural vibration is likely to lead to fibre release. Always seek specialist advice when this material is identified.

2.2.3 Asbestos insulating board (AIB)

AIB is a lightly compressed board made from asbestos fibre and hydrated Portland cement or calcium silicate, with other filler materials. It was developed as a fire-retardant board and was then used as a general all-purpose building board.

Regarded as having medium friability, AIB commonly has a content of between 15% and 25% asbestos fibre, with older boards containing up to 40%.

2.2.4 Asbestos cement

Asbestos cement is most often a mixture of chrysotile asbestos fibres, around 10% to 15% content, and cement, moulded and fully compressed to produce a range of asbestos products, such as profiled roofing sheets and cladding, flat sheets, gutters, drainpipes, pressure pipes and flues, and synthetic roof slates. It was also often used as shuttering.

Asbestos cement was widely used on the exterior of buildings and for drainage products, as it is weatherproof and waterproof. Amosite and crocidolite asbestos have also been used in asbestos cement and may sometimes be present along with the chrysotile, but in smaller quantities.

As the asbestos fibres are mostly firmly bound into the cement matrix and not readily made airborne, work with asbestos cement does not pose the same risks as work with asbestos insulation, asbestos insulating board and sprayed asbestos coatings. Almost all work involving asbestos cement will not be licensable but should follow the guidance in the HSE's Asbestos essentials series of documents; some work may be classed as notifiable non-licensed work.

However, there may be exceptional circumstances where asbestos cement has been so badly damaged and broken up, or so badly weathered, that the work may become licensable. A risk assessment prepared by someone with adequate skill, knowledge, experience and insurance cover will be required to determine whether a licence is required or the work is notifiable.

2.2.5 Textured decorative coatings

Textured decorative coatings, or Artex, containing asbestos are thin decorative and textured finishes, such as paints and ceiling plasters, used to produce visual effects. These coatings are solely decorative in purpose and any thermal or acoustic properties are incidental. The proportion of asbestos in such coatings is normally low, between 2% and 5% chrysotile, but can be less than 1%.

2.2.6 Thermoplastic floor covering

Asbestos-containing floor tiles were manufactured from a plastic resin. A common variety of thermoplastic tile, known by the trade name of Marley, had a chrysotile content of between 10% and 25%.

The less common PVC tiles had a lower proportion of chrysotile, below 10%. The bitumen adhesive used to fix the tiles to the floor may also have trace chrysotile content.

Examples of material case studies will be published in a separate supplement to accompany this guidance note.