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Asbestos Siding Replacement
Home Improvement

When is Asbestos Siding Replacement Necessary?

Asbestos siding was commonly used on homes and buildings from the 1930s through the 1970s. While asbestos is not dangerous if left undisturbed, it can become a health hazard if the siding is damaged or deteriorating. Knowing asbestos siding replacement can help homeowners avoid exposure and create a safer, more attractive exterior.

What is Asbestos Siding?

Asbestos siding, or cement siding, is a composite material of Portland cement reinforced with asbestos fibers. It was considered a revolutionary construction material when it was first developed in the early 1900s. Asbestos siding was praised for its durability, fire resistance, and affordability compared to traditional wood siding.

At the peak of its popularity, over 30% of all siding produced in the United States contained asbestos.

There were three main types:

  • Shingles: Shingles comprise asbestos fibers, cement, and other aggregates. They were available in various shapes and textures to mimic more expensive wood shingles.
  • Sheets: Asbestos cement sheets were flat with slightly textured or smooth surfaces. Some sheets featured grooves or patterns for visual interest.
  • Clapboards: Clapboard panels contained long, thin boards made of asbestos cement. This gave a traditional clapboard look while being maintenance-free.

By the late 1970s, the risks associated with asbestos were well-established. Its use in building products was phased out. Any siding produced after this time is asbestos-free.

Why Asbestos Siding Can Be a Health Hazard

Asbestos fibers are a known carcinogen. When inhaled over time, asbestos particles accumulate in the lungs and can cause inflammation, scarring, and eventually mesothelioma or other cancers. This risk only comes from airborne asbestos particles, so asbestos siding is not harmful if left undisturbed.

Problems arise when asbestos siding ages, becomes damaged, or is disturbed through:

  • Normal weathering over decades causes the cement to crack and erode
  • Impact damage from objects hitting the siding
  • Pressure washing or physical cleaning attempts that dislodge fibers
  • DIY projects like drilling holes for lights or cables
  • Removal attempts by unqualified contractors

Asbestos particles can be released into the air and inhaled during these activities. Even low-level, occasional exposure carries health risks over time. That’s why it’s critical to identify and remediate deteriorating asbestos siding.

Signs You Should Replace Asbestos Siding

Signs You Should Replace Asbestos Siding

Many homeowners don’t realize their siding contains asbestos in the first place. Checking the age of your home is the first step – any houses built before 1980 could have asbestos products. Siding is also more likely to contain asbestos if it has a cement-like appearance rather than wood grain.

If you suspect your home has asbestos siding, look for these signs it may need replacement:

Visible Damage

Cracks, gouges, holes, and missing pieces are red flags. Asbestos cement is brittle, so damage tends to worsen over time rather than heal. This releases hazardous particles and also admits moisture that accelerates deterioration. Even a few problem areas justify complete replacement.

Surface Erosion

Years of sun, rain, snow, and wind wear down asbestos cement siding. The surface looks ragged, fuzzy, or powdery rather than smooth. Severe erosion means the material is breaking down.

Chalky Residue

White, chalky powder on the base of the walls is a telltale warning sign. This powder contains asbestos fibers freed by weathering. The more chalky residue you see, the more asbestos is floating around.


Heat, moisture, and age can cause asbestos cement to warp or bow outward. The warped siding looks unsightly and is more prone to damage. It’s usually accompanied by cracking, too.


You may see white stains or crusty deposits called efflorescence. This happens when moisture leaches salts from the cement, carrying them to the surface. Efflorescence reveals moisture wicking into the siding, which causes deterioration.

Moss and Mildew

Green or black moss growths and mildew indicate moisture is seeping behind the siding. This moisture erodes the asbestos cement from the backside, hidden from view.

Peeling Paint

Asbestos siding was often painted for aesthetics and longevity—the bubbling, cracking, flaking, or peeling paint hints at problems underneath. Poor paint no longer protects the siding from the elements.

If your home exhibits any combination of these signs, it’s wise to schedule asbestos siding replacement. Don’t wait until the damage is severe since the risks escalate as the material decomposes. It also becomes more complex and dangerous to remove.

Dangers of DIY Asbestos Siding Removal

With any home project involving asbestos, safety should be the top priority. Attempting DIY removal is highly hazardous since it’s easy to release large amounts of asbestos fibers if materials are mishandled.

Asbestos siding removal has risks beyond just working with the boards themselves. Hidden asbestos may also lurk behind walls or under layers that get disturbed, especially in older homes.

You could inadvertently fill your home with toxic dust without proper safety gear and training. The EPA estimates that 20% or more of all airborne asbestos fibers linger indoors post-removal if not cleaned by professionals. Others deposit into the soil where kids and pets could stir them up later.

For your health and liability, leaving all asbestos abatement projects to qualified asbestos removal companies is critical. They follow strict EPA procedures to safely isolate, contain, and dispose of materials with minimal fiber release. Even with good intentions, DIY attempts often create more considerable hazards.

Asbestos Siding Removal Process by Professionals

Professional asbestos abatement contractors are trained and certified to handle dangerous building materials. They follow standardized procedures to minimize health risks for you and your family.

A reputable contractor will:

  • Inspect and test siding to verify asbestos content before starting work. They’ll also look for any interior asbestos that could become a hazard during exterior removal,
  • Isolate the work area with tarps, plastic barriers, and negative air filtration. This seals in asbestos fibers as an extra precaution.
  • Mist surfaces with water during removal to suppress airborne dust. Workers wear respirators and whole-body protective suits as well.
  • Carefully detach siding and debris using non-destructive methods. Materials are sealed in leak-proof containers for disposal.
  • Once the siding is stripped, the contractor cleans the home’s interior and remaining exterior surfaces with a specialized HEPA vacuum and wet wiping protocol. Air monitoring ensures levels are safe post-abatement.
  • Finally, they dispose of asbestos waste in designated landfills that accept hazardous materials. Federal regulations require professional disposal.

Following these containment and airlock protocols, an asbestos abatement team can remove siding with minimal risk of interior contamination. This keeps your home safe for your family.

Replacing Asbestos Siding

Replacing Asbestos Siding

Once asbestos siding is removed, choices for replacement siding include:

  • Vinyl siding: Vinyl is one of the most common and affordable new siding options. It comes in clapboard, dutch lap, shingle, and other styles with a realistic painted wood look. Vinyl is easy to clean, durable, and weather-resistant.
  • Fiber cement: Consider fiber cement siding for an aesthetic similar to asbestos cement. It provides the same strengths – durability, fire resistance, and low maintenance. Brands like James Hardie are certified non-toxic with no asbestos added.
  • Wood: Real cedar or redwood clapboard siding will improve your home’s appearance and value. These woods have a natural resistance to rotting, warping, and pests. While they require refinishing every 5-7 years, the work is worthwhile for the beautiful and classic result.
  • Engineered wood: Made of compressed wood fiber mixed with plastics, engineered wood siding is an eco-friendly choice. It has consistent quality and comes pre-finished, so painting isn’t necessary. Brands like LP SmartSide offer warranties of up to 50 years.
  • Metal: For a sleek, modern look, metal siding offers excellent curb appeal. Aluminum, steel, and copper options are durable, low maintenance, and upscale. Standing seam metal siding panels are popular in contemporary homes.

You should hire professional siding installers, regardless of which material you choose. They can adequately integrate insulation, vapor barriers, flashing, and trims to create a weathertight, energy-efficient exterior. Your home will look great and be safer without the dangers of deteriorating asbestos.


If your home’s aging asbestos siding is damaged, eroding, or showing signs of moisture issues, prioritize replacing it. Attempting repairs or working with asbestos cement yourself is dangerous and ill-advised. By having certified asbestos professionals safely remove and dispose of siding, you eliminate health hazards on and in your home’s exterior. New modern siding materials require much lower maintenance while giving your property a clean, updated look that adds value. Contact local experts to explore replacing asbestos siding.


How much does it cost to remove and replace asbestos siding?

The average cost to remove and dispose of 1,500 square feet of asbestos siding is $15,000-$30,000. Depending on materials, new siding installation costs $6,000-$12,000 more. Vinyl is the cheapest, while natural wood is the most expensive. Total costs for a complete removal and re-siding project often range from $25,000-$40,000.

How long does it take to replace asbestos siding?

The project is in two phases – hazardous material abatement and siding installation. Asbestos removal by a certified professional takes 5-7 days for a typical single-family house. New siding installation takes another 3-5 days. So expect the entire exterior upgrade to take 1-2 weeks.

Can I encapsulate asbestos siding instead?

Encapsulation involves sealing existing siding in a protective coating rather than removing it. Do not do this since it’s temporary, doesn’t address deterioration, and leaves asbestos on your home. Removing the siding permanently eliminates risks. Encapsulation is not a safe or effective long-term solution.

Is it required to use an asbestos abatement contractor for siding removal?

Legally, yes – Only professionally certified asbestos removal teams may handle abatement work, disposal transport, and waste procedures. DIY removal violates EPA regulations since it almost always releases fibers unsafely. Never attempt to remove or disturb asbestos materials yourself.

Should I get other exterior materials, like fascia boards, checked for asbestos, too?

It’s wise to test all other cement-based boards, wrappings, walls, etc. While siding is most likely to contain asbestos, different products may too. Removing everything at once is ideal to limit disturbance and confirms your entire exterior will be asbestos-free.


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