How Can I Tell If My Guttering Contains Asbestos?

By Stan G. in Removal

Asbestos was used in many construction projects over the decades for its durability and unmatched heat-resistant qualities.

Most roofing products manufactured prior to 1980 contained asbestos. On roofs, asbestos cement can be found on a frequent basis in the form of gutter linings. Asbestos cement products, including downpipes and guttering, are manufactured using mechanized processes in which asbestos fibers are mixed with cement slurry. Asbestos is usually about 10-40% of the total product, forming a more durable material. It is often used as corrugated roofing and sheds, and garages. It was also used to make drainpipe, flues, water tanks, gutters, and other products.

If you still have the original roof on your house or aren't sure when the roof was last replaced, then the best practice is to assume that it may contain asbestos.

Asbestos Guttering - a Popular Building Product Used Prior to 1980 in Asbestos Cement Roofs

Properly functioning rain gutters are important components of your home's foundation and roof. The primary function of a gutter is to provide a channel for redirecting water. Besides protecting the roof and the overall structure of your home, rain gutters also prevent soil erosion around the house foundation.

Asbestos was a common building product until the 1980s, and on houses from that period you may find concrete gutters where asbestos was used as a bonded material in cement. Asbestos cement guttering is waterproof, never rusts, requires little maintenance and lasts for many years. The presence of any known asbestos-containing material that is to remain in situ is not considered hazardous as long as it is left undamaged and undisturbed. Only when it is damaged can the fibers be released and breathed in, causing harmful health effects.

Identifying Guttering That Contains Asbestos

When you buy a home built before 1980, the previous owner may not always disclose the presence of asbestos. However, if the gutters have never been replaced or the siding on your home is original, there is a good chance the materials contain asbestos. If the gutters were installed after 1980 or the siding has since been replaced, you shouldn't have to worry; once the federal ban was in place, manufacturers ceased using asbestos completely in all applications.

In order to identify asbestos-containing gutters, try to find any codes or markings on the material. Once you've found a code, look for any information that the manufacturer stamped or printed. You may find the meaning of the code and determine asbestos content.

Companies that manufactured asbestos cement guttering include:

  • Ametek Inc.
  • Asbestos Shingle Slate & Sheathing Co.
  • Atlas Asbestos Company
  • Asbestone Corporation
  • Baldwin-Ehret-Hill
  • Celotex
  • CertainTeed Corporation
  • Durabla Manufacturing Company
  • Eagle-Picher
  • Eternit
  • Flintkote Company
  • Keasby & Mattison Company
  • GAF Corporation
  • Johns Manville
  • National Gypsum Company
  • Garlock, Inc.
  • Philip Carey Manufacturing Corporation
  • U.S. Gypsum

Our Asbestos Identification page contains information to help householders find out where asbestos may be located in their homes.

How to Remove External Gutters That Contain Asbestos the Safest Way?

As with all forms of asbestos, guttering that contains asbestos is only usually dangerous if it is in poor condition. However, if you are sure about the possibility of asbestos in your gutters and may wish to consider having them removed, you should take precautions to minimize the release of asbestos fibers.

Removing asbestos gutters from your property and disposing of it properly will ensure a safe environment to all concerned, not just for DIY renovators but to those in the vicinity during and after the job is complete.

Steps to remove asbestos gutters from your property as safe as possible:

  • Wear the appropriate safety respirator and disposable overalls for asbestos removal
  • Don't use power tools to saw, grind, drill or break any asbestos product
  • Remove the bolts or fixings carefully and place them in an asbestos-waste container labeled appropriately
  • Unbolt or use cutters to release gutters and other roofing materials
  • Carefully lower any large pieces of asbestos-containing materials - do not drop or put in rubble chutes
  • Avoid crushing asbestos-cement products
  • Avoid breaking asbestos-cement products
  • Prepare sealable double-layered plastic to stack the removed asbestos guttering on
  • Always use a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner; where asbestos removal takes place on grass, all debris should be removed
  • After finishing the work, place your clothes in the asbestos-waste container for disposal with the other contaminated items.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.