Guide To Asbestos Overcladding Commercial Roofs

If you own an older commercial or industrial property, you may find that asbestos has been used during construction. Roof tiles are one of the most common places to find asbestos, a substance that is infamous for presenting hazards to human health. If you suspect you may have asbestos in your commercial roof, it’s important to deal with this issue as a priority.

There are a couple of options when it comes to tackling asbestos in your commercial roof. These are asbestos removal and asbestos overcladding.

Asbestos removal for commercial roofs

Asbestos removal is an expensive business. You’ll need to factor in the cost of a full commercial roof replacement, as well as the expense of asbestos disposal.

This harmful material cannot be discarded anywhere – you’ll need to find a licenced landfill.

NWIR would only usually recommend asbestos removal in circumstances where there was damage to the commercial roof. Asbestos overcladding is a far less expensive and intrusive option.

What is asbestos overcladding?

Asbestos overcladding is the second option for dealing with asbestos in your commercial roof. Before we dive further, it is crucial to understand the basics of overcladding. It is the simplest and most cost-effective way to transform your industrial or commercial roof, ensuring safety and bringing your commercial property up to date with current building regulations. Overcladding involves trained roofing contractors placing a new layer of metal or plastic sheets over your existing roof, to avoid having to replace it.

Below, we’ve listed the benefits of overcladding your building:

Asbestos overcladding is comparatively inexpensive

One of the main benefits of asbestos overcladding is that it is a cost-effective refurbishment process. It is significantly cheaper than a full roof replacement, as there is less work involved and you won’t need to factor in the disposal costs of the asbestos.

Enhances aesthetics

Overcladding greatly enhances the appearance of the building. There are several designs and finishes that you can select from, based on your preferences. New state-of-the-art gutter lining systems can also be installed to complement your overclad roofing system.

Asbestos overcladding improves thermal efficiency

Since asbestos is composed of elongated and tiny fibres that make it a robust thermal insulator, there is a benefit to keeping it in your roof.

The overcladding process will bring the roof up to date with current warm roof regulations. It will also make the building more thermally efficient, as it improves the insulation. Your building will be able to keep cool in summer or retain warmth in winter. This will, in turn, reduce the cost of energy consumption for cooling or heating the building. 

Asbestos overcladding also greatly improves ventilation in commercial roofs, meaning less problems with damp and mould.

Asbestos overcladding strengthens commercial roofs

Overcladding a roof will make it more resistant to damage. The need for maintenance will be reduced and there will be less reason to go up onto the roof. If maintenance does need to be carried out, then the roof will be able to bear more weight.

Asbestos overcladding is low maintenance

Another essential benefit of asbestos overcladding is that it requires little maintenance. If you are a business owner, then this aspect will be a great help to you.  

Asbestos overcladding is waterproof

Asbestos over-cladding is the most suitable option if you want to make your roof waterproof without disturbing the existing structure.

Minimal disruption

Overcladding can be carried out by roofing contractors with minimal disruption to the day-to-day goings on in your building.

Things to consider before overcladding your commercial roof

  • The asbestos will still be present within the building, as overcladding the roof won’t remove it. However, displaying yellow warning signs inside the building will make it clear to the public to keep their distance.
  • You may need planning permission from your local authority before you can carry out the overcladding process.
  • Structural calculations may apply due to the added weight of an overcladding system.

Why are asbestos roofs dangerous?

Many buildings constructed before the nineties, both commercial and domestic, will contain some asbestos. This building material was used widely back then because it is durable, fireproof and a good insulator. However, it’s also one of the most dangerous materials that you can find in any commercial roofing or industrial roofing system. Due to its links with fatal lung diseases, the material was banned outright in 2000. However, it can still be found in many older buildings, particularly in the lining of walls and roofs.

The asbestos fibres are a known health risk but not something where you’ll see an immediate effect. If it is well-preserved and coated with paint or a sealant, asbestos is not likely to be of any great concern. This is because the fibres are usually tightly bound together in cement or some other substance.

It is when you disturb asbestos through sanding, cutting, water blasting, drilling, or removing asbestos sheets that the fibres are at risk of becoming airborne.

What does asbestos look like?

When mixed with other materials, asbestos can be hard to detect, but in its regular form it comes in blue, brown, and white varieties. It is at its most dangerous when the small fibres are disturbed and become airborne, so if in doubt avoid tampering with it. Airborne asbestos has no particular smell and is hard to spot, and the effects of inhaling it won’t show up for many years to come. The main problem with regards to asbestos is the tiny size of its fibres. They are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye.

You should never undertake a visual inspection yourself, and if you do stumble across something which may be asbestos, do not attempt to disturb it. Any suspected asbestos fibres should only be investigated by a PASMA trained specialist. What you can do is try to track down any plans or documentation regarding your building, as these may contain vital clues as to the whereabouts of any asbestos on site.

The six types of asbestos

  • Chrysotile – The most common type of asbestos is often found in the ceilings, roofs, walls and floors of numerous homes and businesses. Chrysotile fibres are fine with high heat resistance, accounting for around 90% of all asbestos used in commercial applications.
  • Crocodilite – AKA ‘blue asbestos’ provides the most effective heat resistance of all types of asbestos.  This material is deemed the most dangerous type, as the fibres are so fine that they can be inhaled easily and get lodged in the lining of the lungs.
  • Tremolite – This material is considered to be a major health risk. It can often be found as a contaminant in numerous asbestos-containing insulating products, roofing materials and plumbing materials.
  • Amosite – Known as ‘brown asbestos’, this material was mainly used in cement sheets and pipe insulation in times gone by. The needle-like fibres have high tensile strength and good heat resistance.
  • Actinolite – This type of asbestos has never been used for commercial reasons despite the fact it can sometimes be found as a contaminant in some asbestos products.
  • Anthophyllite – This is one of the rarest types of asbestos with very little history in terms of commercial use. Traces of anthophyllite may be evident in talc and related products like talcum powder.

The impact of asbestos on health

Dangerous exposure to asbestos is responsible for over 5000 fatalities every single year. Exposure can also cause serious illnesses, including:

  • Mesothelioma – cancer in the lining of the lungs.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Asbestosis – scarring of the lungs.
  • Diffuse pleural thickening – concerning the membrane surrounding the lungs which can restrict lung expansion.

Symptoms can take from 15 to 60 years to develop after initial exposure, so these diseases may not affect you immediately but may do later in life. Frequent occupational exposure overtime will increase the risk of these diseases developing in the future.

The people who are most likely to contract an asbestos-related illness would be tradesmen or merchants. The electricians, carpenters, builders who are working on-site may or may not recognize asbestos’ presence and might get exposed to the toxic substance.

Asbestos and smoking

There is ample data that people who smoke and are exposed to asbestos daily are most likely to develop lung cancer. Smoking acts as a catalyst to the further development of the disease. The fine fibres of asbestos give the harmful chemicals present in cigarette tobacco direct access to the bloodstream, which further magnifies the cancer-causing agents.

The environmental impact of asbestos

The effect of asbestos goes far and beyond cancer and other health-related issues. The dust particles of asbestos can pass through the air and seep into the water supply. It can also settle on the soil surface rather than being absorbed by it. 

The Control of Asbestos Regulation 2012

Asbestos removal is a very serious and potentially dangerous task that must be carried out by a professional and competent individual. This action is governed in the UK by the Control of Asbestos Regulations Act 2012. This law aims to protect employees from unnecessary exposure in the workplace and also legislates how we import, use and dispose of the material.

In its simplest form, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 stipulate the following:

  • The use and import of products containing any amount of asbestos is illegal.
  • Medium-high risk forms of asbestos must only be handled in the workplace by licensed contractors.
  • Employees must be properly trained if they are likely to come into contact with asbestos.
  • Businesses must record and manage any suspect materials present in their premises.
  • Waste asbestos must only be disposed of by licensed carriers.

Asbestos rules and regulations

If your premises has existing asbestos in place and it is in good condition, then in some cases it may not need to be removed. This is especially true if the materials are not likely to be damaged, although their condition must be frequently monitored and recorded to ensure complete safety. If you are a business owner, then it is your duty to protect everyone within your premises from asbestos exposure.

If you are planning on doing some building/maintenance work on your premises that may contain asbestos, then you must first identify where it is and assess its condition before you begin. All risks must be assessed and managed before continuing with the work. In the majority of cases, working with or around asbestos requires the assistance of a licensed contractor.

The actual control limit for this material is 0.1 asbestos fibres for every 1 cubic centimetre of air. This should not be considered as a ‘safe’ level though as exposure should be reduced as far below this limit as possible. Training is absolutely vital for anyone who may be liable to asbestos exposure within the workplace. This includes maintenance workers and anyone else who may come into contact with the material. All employees carrying out non-licensed work with asbestos must be under frequent health surveillance by a qualified doctor.

An asbestos removal case study

NWIR were approached to look at a small office premises where the building had an aged asbestos roof covering. Problems were occurring because the existing roof covering was allowing water ingress into the tenanted building below.

After doing a thorough site survey it was determined that the 1200 square metre roof was beyond economic repair. It was therefore necessary to replace the roof covering to improve the thermal efficiency of the building.

Keeping the site live, our roofing specialists stripped off all the existing asbestos roof covering and safely disposed of it. As part of our complete service, we ensure all asbestos containing material is removed from the site.

We then installed a new twin skin insulated roof covering. 

This was all completed with minimum disruption to the surrounding environment and the client was “very impressed” with the entire project.

Professional asbestos overcladding

Your priority should always be to keep your employees, visitors and customers safe. So, if you come across asbestos in your commercial roof, then you should take steps to have it removed as soon as possible in line with the Control of Asbestos Regulation.

It’s important to remember that you should never attempt to undertake a visual inspection for asbestos yourself. If you do notice something that could indicate the presence of asbestos, then under no circumstances should you attempt to disturb it. You should always use the services of trained roofing contractors and PASMA specialists to conduct any investigation.

At NWIR, the safety and wellbeing of everyone who comes into contact with your working environment is always our number one priority. If we find a commercial roofing or industrial roofing system with an asbestos roof in particularly bad condition, such as one with a lot of exposed fibres, we may recommend a complete removal as the best solution.

However, asbestos removal can be quite costly to undertake, so if no significant damage has been detected, opting to overclad the roofing system is usually the most functional and cost-effective solution.

Asbestos roof survey

NWIR specialise in a swift and un-intrusive method of commercial asbestos testing; and we can draw on our decades of experience to provide asbestos overcladding for your commercial or industrial roof.

Our team removes potential asbestos samples using safe methods which limit the amount of asbestos particles released into the air. Any suspected asbestos is then transported in sealed containers and taken to be tested by our certified partners. Areas which have been damaged by the removal of materials are then made safe and weatherproof to prevent further disruption to your business.

Despite the dangers, asbestos discovery is no cause for alarm as long as you treat it correctly and with respect. During our survey we can advise you on how to continue operating in its presence in a safe manner. Once the survey is complete, we can then provide you with further advice on whether you require a full asbestos roof refurbishment or a simple small repair.

How much does asbestos removal cost?

The cost of asbestos removal depends on several factors. These include the size of your roof, the amount of asbestos you have and the method we’d need to use to get your roof working safely and properly.

Speak to the experts on asbestos removal or overcladding today

By hiring a professional roofer or licensed contractor you can ensure you have complete peace of mind when it comes to asbestos removal or over-cladding.

At NWIR, our team of fully trained and highly professional roofing contractors are experienced in surveying, repairing and overcladding a wide variety of asbestos roof coverings. For more information, or for a free quote, get in touch with our head office today. You can give us a call on 0800 046 1500 or send us a message using our online contact form and we’ll get back to you shortly.