Where is most asbestos located in buildings?

It’s pretty common knowledge that with houses built during most of the 20th century, there’s a relatively high chance that they contain asbestos. Particularly between the 1930s and 1980s, it was used in a wide range of materials, and due to its strength, insulating properties and affordability, was adopted for a wide range of commercial and residential uses.

Now that it’s been banned in this country for around 25 years, based on historic testing results, we have a lot of data on where it’s commonly located in buildings. Let’s take a quick look at that data and see where we should expect to locate asbestos in buildings from that aforementioned timeframe.

Positive results from samples tested

Luckily, we don’t have to guess which materials are most likely to contain asbestos in buildings in the UK. We know that according to this research, of samples that were collected, the highest positive result was in cement roofing, which came back positive a significant 64% of the time.

At the other end of the scale, insulation materials only came back positive 2% of the time. This is potentially because people have come to believe that asbestos is mostly found in insulation, meaning that they send off samples for testing more than other materials. The reality is that it can be found in a wide range of locations, from paint to floor tiles.

Other areas where asbestos is found

While these areas aren’t the most common, they still received a significant number of positive test results on samples.

Insulation board

Insulation boards containing asbestos were commonly used in a wide range of different buildings, as a result of their high strength and excellent insulating capacity. Of the test results received for insulation boards, that same study cited above found that 32% resulted in a positive match for asbestos.

Cement piping

Asbestos wasn’t just used in insulating materials and paints – it was also widely used in concrete piping, to make the concrete much stronger without adding much weight or cost. Of the test samples received, over half – 56% – came back as positive for asbestos, making it the second-highest positive test result behind cement roofing.

Floor tiles

Floor tiles were another common material that integrated asbestos, to allow for a thinner, stronger construction without increasing costs too much. Of the samples that were tested, 43% were positive for asbestos, meaning that it’s definitely a good idea to get your floor tiles tested if you’re currently having them changed. 

These statistics provide us with a better insight into where we can expect to find asbestos located in buildings. However, as with all interpretations based on statistics, they should be used as a rough guide, not as a replacement for other empirical forms of analysis. If you’re unsure whether the material you’re working with contains asbestos or not, then even if the probability of a positive result is low, it’s still worth getting it tested. It’s not expensive, it doesn’t take long, and it can be massively beneficial for your health and safety.