Should You Remove Asbestos Shingles on a Wood House Yourself?

Safety and Permitting

Asbestos removal and decontamination
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Say you have an old 1930s home. It has two layers of siding on it. The first layer is wood shakes, some of which are rotten and termite damaged. Over that wood layer is asbestos siding. The pieces are about 20" x 10". Latex paint is peeling off and the whole thing looks like crap. You would like to have both layers removed, down to the sheathing, make the necessary repairs, wrap and side the house with cedar clapboard. You're worried that when you sell it someday, the word "asbestos" may not work in your favor.

While there are many different opinions on how to remove asbestos, it is generally agreed upon that because the asbestos snaps off cleanly, you don't need to hire an abatement team.

However, this may not be a project you want to tackle on your own. Learn the pros and cons of removing the asbestos yourself vs. hiring a professional.

Asbestos Disposal (Not Removal) Is the Problem

Your city and county may have different rules, but usually, there are no legal requirements pertaining to the removal of asbestos from your home. They only care about the proper disposal of the asbestos. Most dumpster companies don't allow asbestos in regular dumpsters. If you are going to rent a special dumpster just for asbestos make sure that the hauler is being completely honest with you, and not just telling you that it's an asbestos-friendly dumpster. If they get caught at the landfill improperly disposing of asbestos, the liability may reach back to you. Unfortunately, one indication that the asbestos dumpster may be legal is that it will cost several times more than a regular dumpster.

They're Not a Likely Concern for Resale

The East Coast is filled with houses sided in these asbestos-cement shingles. If you do somehow end up with those shingles remaining on your house, we doubt they will affect your sale. These shingles are a fact of life in that area and for houses of the early and mid 20th century.

Removing Shingles Can Be Safe

Asbestos-cement shingles can be removed safely—without costly teams of abatement professionals. When you remove those shingles, they will either come off when you pull out the nails, require you to snap them off or require you to cut them. Rarely, if ever, will they need to be cut, and cutting is the one activity that creates hazardous dust.

Many state agencies even publish guidelines to help homeowners safely remove these shingles. Have due diligence in your research before you attempt to do this project on your own that way you are fully prepared.

Third Layer Difficult (Perhaps Impossible)

We understand your desire to remove those "garbage" layers and start afresh. Even if you wanted to add on a third layer, this may not be possible. At the very least, you would raise the total thickness of your siding so far out that it reaches door and window casing—not very attractive. It might even extend beyond the casing, which would cancel out the casing's moisture-diverting abilities. When deciding what to do with your house's siding make sure you have a good and functional idea.

What We Recommend

We would recommend to separate siding removal/disposal and siding installation by hiring different companies. This way, you can assemble your own team of workers to demo the present siding and negotiate a more favorable price. If you're up to it, you can even pull together day laborers and get the job done dirt-cheap. Of course, hiring day laborers does not mean being lax about safety. You'll have to supply all of the demo tools, but these can be purchased for next-to-nothing at home-improvement stores. More importantly, you would have to supply safety gear for the workers and you would have to be the foreperson, micro-supervising their work. So, it's not money-intensive, but it is time-intensive.