Asbestos cement products are no longer available. However, asbestos wall or roof cladding is common on older houses.

You should not grind, waterblast, cut or remove asbestos sheet - contact the professionals.

Older homes with asbestos cement claddings do not present a health hazard provided you only apply the occasional coat of paint. Preparation should consist of a wash down rather than the normal sanding or grinding to avoid releasing asbestos dust.

Asbestos cement is extremely durable, the paint coat is decorative only. This means repainting doesn’t require the type of preparation that other materials do. There should be no need to replace asbestos cement sheet unless it has been broken – it will become brittle with age and can be damaged by impact.

Other asbestos materials

Asbestos cement materials should only be removed or handled by a contractor experienced in this type of work. Look under ‘Asbestos’ in the Yellow Pages.

Some homes built before 1983 may have been built with materials that contain asbestos – for example sprayed interior ceilings, exterior cement sheeting, some types of indoor floor coverings (under lino), and some roof materials.

Provided the materials containing asbestos are exterior, in good condition and have a sound coat of paint, it is not likely to be a health risk.

However, if the asbestos is exposed or is being removed, it can be a health hazard. Asbestos dust and fibres can cause diseases such as mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest lining) and asbestosis. These diseases are crippling, very painful and usually fatal. There are no known cures.

The only way to find out for sure if a material contains asbestos is to have it tested in an approved laboratory. If your maintenance involves removing or sanding materials that might contain asbestos, or if you are unsure what the materials are made of contact the health protection officer at your local District Health Board. Do not obtain a sample without consulting them first.

Also see Auckland Regional Public Health Service's environmental health sheets on asbestos.

For weathered asbestos cement roofs or walls, paint degradation, surface damage or cracks in asbestos cement, get specialist advice.

DO NOT WATERBLAST ASBESTOS CEMENT OR TRY TO REPAIR OR REMOVE IT YOURSELF – LEAVE IT TO THE PROFESSIONALS.