Good asbestos-cement shingles usually can stay on the house


August 14, 1993|By Gene Austin | Gene Austin,Knight-Ridder News Service

Q: I'm concerned about the asbestos-cement shingles that cover the outside walls of my house. What are my options with the shingles, which are in good condition, under current EPA regulations? Can I have the shingles removed? Can I install vinyl siding over them? Will they affect the value of my house if I sell?

A: You can leave the shingles as they are, have them removed or have siding installed over them.

If the shingles are in good condition, they are probably harmless if left alone since the asbestos is held in place by cement. The shingles become dangerous only if they are crumbled or broken so that dust is released and breathed.

As for the EPA, it has no current regulations governing removal of asbestos-cement shingles on single-family homes or other housing with fewer than four dwelling units per building. However, some localities and states regulate the method of removal and/or disposal of old shingles. Ask the construction-codes official in your area if there are any special rules.

Even though vinyl and some other types of siding can be installed over asbestos-cement, some experts recommend "careful" removal of the old shingles before adding new siding. For one thing, the old shingles can break up during nailing and pose a health hazard. Pieces of loose shingles can also cause bumps in vinyl siding.

If you decide to remove the shingles, choose an experienced contractor who is properly equipped to handle and dispose of hazardous material. "Keep breakage to a minimum," advises John Daley, an asbestos expert with the EPA's regional office in Philadelphia. If shingles are kept wet during removal, there is less hazard.

There is widespread concern about any product containing asbestos, so the shingles could be a liability if the house is put up for sale.

Q: My living-room ceiling picked up some soot from the fireplace, and my attempts to clean a small area have only made it worse. Any suggestions?

A: This is apparently a flat-finish paint. Flat paints are often difficult to clean. I suggest repainting with a semi-gloss latex paint that will make it easier to remove dirt.

Q: We got water in our basement during the heavy rain and snow last winter. Part of the concrete-block walls now have a white powder on them. What is it and how do we remove it?

A: The white powder consists of soluble salts that have leached to the surface of the masonry. If the blocks and powder have dried, you can probably remove most or all of the powder by wire brushing. Wear goggles and a face mask while brushing.

Q: I moved into a house where the windows had been coated with plastic film. Someone tried to remove it, but couldn't get it all off. How do I remove what's left without scraping?

A: Rick Simmons of Doyle Window Tinting in Willow Grove, Pa., said you'll have to do some scraping. He recommends spraying the film with an ammonia solution and scraping with a razor-blade scraper. These are sold at most paint stores and home centers.

To make the solution, mix about a tablespoon of ammonia in a quart of warm water and apply with a spray bottle. Make certain the room is well-ventilated while you are working.


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