Identify Your Asbestos: Roofing

Asbestos fibers were regularly added during production of roofing and siding materials not only to strengthen them, but to also increase their durability and to provide fireproofing and insulation to houses and other structures.

Where you find it:

  • Asphalt roofing felt - Most likely seen as a thick black paper which contains a mixture of tar or asphalt and asbestos paper; commonly used on buildings with flat roofs.
  • Asphalt roofing shingles - Composed of a mixture of tar or asphalt and asbestos paper.
  • Cement roofing shingles - Typically these types of shingles are hard and brittle and easily break or crack.
  • Wood shake vapor retardants - This material is a white fibrous paper placed between wood shakes and roof for the purpose of insulation plus fireproofing.

What you should do:

If the asbestos is in cement or asphalt roofing, it is considered non-friable (unable to be broken by hand pressure). Because of the nature of the material, this type of roofing is not a hazard to your health. However, roofing that has been exposed to heat, water, weathering or other aging can become friable and therefore pose a hazard to your health.

If your roofing is in a solid condition, leave it alone. If you break, sand, cut or drill any section of your roof, you will release the fibers into the air. You can always paint your roofing with latex paint or seal it with caulking to seal holes or damaged areas. Some roofing materials can be covered with newer equivalents, but it's important to consider local regulations before resuming work.


Corrugated asbestos roofing.

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