How to Safely Remove Asbestos Siding

Asbestos Removal

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Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner

If you've tested your siding and learned that it contains asbestos, you may want to remove it. Yet asbestos siding removal is a difficult and thankless job because, after all of that time and money spent on removal, you are now the owner of a house that needs immediate re-siding, which will separate you from even more of your cash.

Yet removal may be unnecessary. Asbestos siding never needs to be removed simply because it is asbestos. As long as the siding remains intact, it can stay in place, where it remains harmless. Asbestos is really only an issue when it is disturbed. In fact, you may be able to install new siding on top of the asbestos with no removal necessary.

However, if you do decide that you want to remove it, you have two options: You can either hire an asbestos removal company or you can do it yourself.

Hire an Asbestos Removal Company

If you want to remove asbestos siding with the help of a company, it will be expensive because that one word—asbestos—changes the rules dramatically.

No longer are you merely hiring a general contractor who strips the siding and tosses it in a roll-off container. Now you are hiring a regulated contractor who needs to meet state licensing requirements.

Asbestos abatement company workers suit up, wear respirators, shield the area, and use liberal amounts of water to hold down the dust.

You can find a list of companies licensed to handle the task by starting with a search such as "certified asbestos removal companies," then narrowing it down to a local county, city, or state website (often designated with a .gov domain suffix).

Remove Asbestos Siding by Yourself

In many municipalities, there are no laws requiring that you hire an asbestos company. Laws on the books often pertain to the disposal, not removal, of asbestos siding.

Removing asbestos siding, then, can be a do-it-yourself project, though you need to make sure that you do the job safely and completely.

If you are not cutting, sanding, drilling, or otherwise creating dust from the siding, you have nothing to worry about. Merely removing a nail and taking down a siding shingle usually will not place you in danger.

Even so, it's always a good idea to wear breathing protection and to wet down the surface when taking on even simple tasks with asbestos-cement siding.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Safety goggles
  • A pry bar for lifting nails
  • A nail puller or nail-head cutter
  • Utility knife or scissors
  • HEPA purple color-coded respirator
  • Debris containers
  • Garden hose with a water source and spray nozzle
  • Spray bottle or garden pump sprayer

Materials

  • 6-mil polyethylene plastic sheeting
  • Disposable paper coveralls, rubber boots and rubber gloves
  • Asbestos waste disposal bags and duct tape
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent

Instructions

  1. Obtain a Permit

    Get an asbestos removal permit. Your local permit department may issue these. Or, they can direct you to the agency that does this. Without a doubt, your area will require this.

  2. Post Signs

    Post signs warning any “drop-in” friends, family, and other visitors, of the work taking place. Lay a 6-foot-wide strip of 6-mil sheet plastic along the side of the house where removal is to occur. Try to work in the shade so the wet siding will remain wet. Create an entrance/exit “transition” zone to the work area by laying down an additional six-foot by six-foot foot piece of sheet plastic in a convenient location next to the plastic strip along the wall. Keep a plastic disposal bag at this location.

  3. Protect Yourself

    Suit up with your disposable coveralls. Also put on gloves, goggles, boots, and respirators equipped with HEPA filters.  

  4. Keep the Asbestos Wet

    Hose down about 10 square feet of siding. Mix approximately 1 teaspoon of liquid dish-washing detergent with water in the pint-size spray bottle or about one-half cup of detergent in a garden pump sprayer.

  5. Start Asbestos Removal

    Remove pieces of siding by pulling nails or cutting nail heads so as to minimize breakage. If necessary, carefully lift siding pieces with a pry tool to expose nail heads. If siding should begin to crack or crumble, immediately wet the cracked or broken areas with the pint-size spray bottle or garden pump sprayer. Breakage releases asbestos fibers. Wet the back of each piece of siding as it is removed. Lower removed siding to the ground. Do not throw or drop it. Keep all debris on the plastic strip and keep on wetting it.

  6. Remove Siding Pieces

    Load wet debris and other contaminated materials into sturdy containers like cardboard boxes or burlap sacks. If cardboard boxes are used, line each box with 6-mil polyethylene and leave enough excess plastic to cover the debris and seal the plastic-covered debris with duct tape. Boxes should then be wrapped in one or more layers of 6-mil plastic or inserted into a single pre-marked asbestos waste disposal bag.

  7. Double-Bag the Asbestos

    Double bag or wrap filled containers in pre-marked 6-mil asbestos waste disposal bags. Twist the top of each filled bag, bend the twisted part in half, and seal it with duct tape. If containers are to be wrapped rather than bagged, use 6-mil polyethylene plastic and ensure all seams are sealed with duct tape. Affix an asbestos warning label to each sealed package.

  8. Clean Work Area

    Re-wet any debris on the strip of plastic next to the wall. While continuing to stand on the plastic strip next to the wall where the removal is being done, double bag or wrap all debris as described above. Then wrap or roll up the strip of plastic along the wall, working your way back to the entrance/exit “transition zone” strip of plastic. Step onto the transition zone plastic and double bag or wrap the last of the strip plastic.

    While standing on this last piece of plastic sheeting, spray yourself (or each other) with water to wet down any asbestos debris/fibers on the outside of your respirator and disposable coveralls.

  9. Remove Clothing

    Remove boots. Then remove your disposable gloves and coveralls by peeling them off and turning them inside out as you remove them. Leave these contaminated items on the transition zone plastic for disposal. Step off the last plastic sheet.

    Take off respirators and remove their filters for disposal. Then wash off and wipe down the tools used in removal, along with your respirators, goggles, and boots. Move each item off the plastic as it is cleaned.

  10. Remove Debris From Area

    Double bag remaining debris, transition zone plastic, and disposable items in properly labeled asbestos disposal bags or double wrap them in 6-mil plastic sheets. Seal each bag or package tightly with duct tape. Use wet rags for any further clean-up. Take a shower.

    Asbestos debris from an asbestos project must be disposed of at disposal sites or transfer stations licensed to receive such waste.

    All debris must be sealed in two layers of 6-mil polyethylene plastic. Remember, siding pieces have sharp edges that can perforate this plastic material unless the siding is first loaded into sturdy containers. Packaged debris in punctured plastic will not be accepted by waste disposal sites. You must write your last name, address, and date of removal on each container. Check with the disposal site for any additional requirements.

Warning

Never attempt to vacuum or sweep up asbestos debris. This will cause any fibers present to become airborne.