Anyone dealt twith cement/asbestos mix - roof sheets, who has some ideas about removal, sans risk?

Any thoughts on cement/asbestos roof sheets (removal) anyone?

Has anyone done this DIY, or employed part timers? Anyone know if there are rules and regs to be complied with? I can find none so far - onl recommendations.

I can find part timers to do the work - but want to be sure they understand any risks, and that they know how to deal with them....

I found this....

1)Provide safe high-level access equipment from inside roof space with its floor covered by plastic sheeting and from outside roof space;

(Can only supply high level DIY scaffold *from the outside*, no access at all inside)

2) Prohibit and/or restrict access beneath the working area;

Thats OK - can do that...

3) Provide operator with a type 5 coverall with hood, gloves and a disposable filtering half-mask (EN 149 FFP3);

These can be found online - not very expensive - is it important o insist they wear the kit? Its a small job of 12 roof sheets to be removed and replaced by steel)

3) Spray water containing a surfactant on the roofing sheet;

Ive got a pump that will deliver water up to their level - (but surfactant? is that important?)

4) Unscrew fixings or cut them with a hand-tool, whilst locally vacuuming the surfaces using a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner (H13 filter complying with standard EN 1822);

I have no vacuum cleaner of that type - but as its such a small area - would wetting the whole surface and using hand tools be safe enough?

5) Lift and remove the roofing sheet without breaking it and put it carefully into the wrapping provided for its disposal;

They have an open backed truck to put the sheets into - if I line it with sheets of plastic and cover the whole lot up (all damp) for delivery to the approved tip, would that be ok?

6) Clean the structural members (beams, etc.), adjacent roofing sheets and the high-level access equipment using the HEPA filter vacuum cleaner, then wipe with a wet rag;

I cannot supervise that - and have no special vacuum cleaner...

7) Re-install a suitably dimensioned, steel or resin roofing sheet;


8) Put the plastic sheeting, rags, coverall, gloves and disposable half-mask into an asbestos waste bag.


I have no real ideal of the level of care necessary, or if precautions described are generally for people working regularly with this material, or for a one off - 12 sheet job... I understand that roofing sheets do not contain tthe dangerous blue asbestos - but white asbestos.

Little update.

I had another scan in August and the big C is still sleeping, another scan next month so fingers crossed for another positive result.

Steve, thaks so much for your list of companies who remove amiante. We are embarking on removing the horrible stuff from our house near Grenoble and have found a company in one of the villages very close to our house. :) We need a company we can trust as we have moved to the Alsace region with my husbands work and are not there all the time. Keep up the good work and i am so sorry to hear about your health.

The nails with a gasket are the same more or less Mike. Ours are partly those and partly bolted on to a metal frame. Although they are not iron or steel, so have not gone rusty, the bolts are so corroded that they are fused solid. The bl**dy roof is a bit over 40 years old and gradually flaking. When somebody went up to see if he could temporarily seal the cracks there was a kind of avalanche which I spent several hours clearing out of the gutter it all fell into. The bloke withdrew pale faced, so I guess ours is past its 'prime'!

Gee, thanks Vic! Nobody ever told me I had the strength of a gorilla before........

The type of nails I had to deal with went through a plastic gasket (To prevent water entry) and it was therefore quite easy to get a grip on the head. I removed the nails by rotating them, rather than by pulling. But that was in Wales - I don't know if French roof nails are different and maybe it would be more of a problem if the charpente was made of hardwood. Guess the best idea would be to try and remove one and see how it goes, before charging in and doing the lot.

Gorilla huh? Me Tarzan!

Hi Mike and Jeanette

Unfortunately I worked in the growing industry in Guernsey and all of the companies have niw gone due to the demise of tomato growing there. Also where did I actually come into contact with it. So very difficult to make any claims.

On a positive note I have just finished my first 6 treatments of chemo, once every 3 weeks. The specialist says he has never seen such good results and I am very healthy. As the cancer is on the lung lining only so far it is not effecting my breathing and I feel totally normal. I will have another check up in 4 months time.

If they are corroded? Then what? Anyway, look at the changing regulations and it will soon become obvious that by doing it oneself very soon it will, following the logic of all else done done without permission, make the insurance on the house worthless.

Because of this thread and because of the state of our roof that needs replacing we have decided to call in the roofer we will almost certainly use to start measuring up everything. He will arrange the specialists to remove the stuff when the time comes, probably spring next year because he is booked up until October, but when he spoke to the people who move it they informed him that as of later this year asbestos of all grades and types removal and recovery will have to be informed at the mairie. That, as he put it, is another bureaucratic inconvenience that nobody wants, but if it must be then that is that and we shall have to do it.

Mike. It may well be your experience that the nails are "quite easy to remove" but having tried on several asbestos cement roofs at my place I would strongly disagree! I found it almost Impossible to get a hold on the nail heads without disturbing the structure of the sheet & those that I did get a grip on needed the strength of a gorilla to pull out & I ain't no gorilla;-) An electric sabre saw cut through the screws from below although I was careful to keep my masked head above the sheets. One roof was fixed down with hexagon headed coach screws which were simple to unscrew. I worked off scaffolding erected below the roof which enabled me to stand above the roof without actually standing on it. Once the first sheet is off you can stand through the hole left & work sideways.

Hi Jeanette,

If your roof is leaking, you have to do something because eventually the the supporting "charpente" will rot and the whole structure will become unstable. These sheets are normally fixed with roofing nails with a twist in them, so they are half way between a nail and a screw. Quite easy to remove with a Mole wrench or similar tool.

The easiest replacement would probably be "Onduline" type sheeting. So long as the woodwork is sound, this could be installed without any modification to the roof structure and it comes in a range of colours, so you should be able to find one that suits your property.

Despite all that has been said about asbestos, the biggest risk of a DIY job is falling off (or through) the roof. I would not advise undertaking a job of this kind without someone else being around to call the emergency services in case of an accident.

Sounds great advice & info from the legal beagle.

Thank you again, everyone who has added an opinion - very glad to have some qualified and expert advice too.

My comments ....on your much appreciated comments...

For those of you who suggest leaving it where it is - and/or treating it: I would certainly prefer to leave it alone - especially right now, as funds are low - however, my house is a small property , with two main rooms - one of which - the largest and best insulated.. the one with a log stove - is also that with the cement/asbestos mix sheet roof. It 'looks' quite attractive - not at all like a cow shed - because the whole slope is mixed shades of brown and grey, covered in clumps of moss and small plants, with tiny flowers in summer. I am quite sad to be obliged to think of a new roof. Steel will not look nearly as nice.

I must do so - because it leaks, having taken a few quite large knocks from falling branches - and the leaks during the heavy rains came close to intolerable. Some rainwater ran down the walls, and black mould started to spread on some parts of the ceiling. I do not think it is a good idea to leave it until next winter. I can bleach-clean the mould off now, but - it will come back as soon as the rain comes again. As Brian pointed out - water may carry the dust too - into the house.

I researched most of the dangers of asbestos in all its forms - when I lived in London and work was carried out close by on a large boiler house - that *appeared* to be insulated top to bottom with thick asbestos fibre wrap which was being trashed on site, without any precautions. I was terrified at the time - for my family & for the work men - (it was at the time Steve wrote about - when many public buildings were still insulated with asbestos, but when reported investigation of the dangers was already causing public concern) - I arranged for a proper inspection. That proved to be some other kind of mineral insulation - but it was a useful lesson. I understand the differences and different levels of risk - between different kinds of asbestos, used in different applications - and each situation is different.

Im 72 but still - do not want to take any unnecessary risks with the '30-40 years' - I think Im fit enough to remove the sheets myself, slowly (they seem to have some kind of screw/bolt fixing, approx 6 per sheet)- with a chute fixed onto a DIY scaffold, into plastic sheeting/wrapping. I know the correct dechetterie to take them, where they will be accepted, and stored safely.

There is no one nearby - and the exterior of the house is always damp because it is very close to the river, in the middle of trees - so everything is covered with mossy mould. I dont think there is danger for anyone else. UNLESS I ask amateurs to do it ...and they do not take reasonable precautions.

For the present I think I will investigate the Rennes company on Steves list - (I would rather NOT DIY but it is possible) and ask again at the Mairie - as it is a few years since I last checked...

If it costs a huge amount - just to remove the stuff -I can perhaps - make a walled garden - out of my biggest room, ie a large roofless space - I Could install a tipee.....(think laterally....)

Yes, Im sorry too Steve, I wish you your own max 5 - plus many more - and all the best treatment you can find. Thank you for adding your own experience - it surely gives weight to all the ideas expressed in favour of caution. Im still finding it very hard to weigh up the risks, ie - of leaving decaying asbestos sheet, in position... versus... removing it. Since both present dangers to be considered, less for me - than for other people, maybe. Some day it will have to be removed - and removing it before it becomes more fragile - more dusty - looks sensible. One of the companies in your list - in Rennes - is not so far away (Im about 45 mins from Rennes) - I will see what they have to say...

Do not assume. The ILO Convention 162 is for people working with asbestos and covers ALL forms of the mineral. Blue is worse than white or a mix but asbestos is still a nasty substance. A single particle or fibre of any kind is potentially dangerous. What Simon says is very much behind the legislation but since the ILO does so only for workers and not the conditions or materials it also cannot mention DIY-ers however the law will cover them because of the conditions that accompany the rules such as only disposing of at designated dumps and even that with a whole heap of protection measures. If some non-specialists do it 'once off' for us then how many other 'once offs' do they do? A minute amount of asbestos particulate in the pulmonary system can, as Simon says, cause mesothelioma and that is a horrible way to go choking on your own crumbling, tumorous lungs over a number of years and in great pain.

Sound advice, but I note that the cases you have cited are connected with asbestos used for insulation, so are most likely caused by blue asbestos. In the case of asbestos/cement, I suspect the greater risk is of falling off the roof while working with it.

Hi Jeanette. I am a barrister of 35 years' experience of industrial disease litigation, especially asbestos, and some of the comments I have read are frankly terrifying. The science is very clear: there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and a single fibre can cause mesothelioma. I am presently running several cases where workers in other industries have simply passed through an environment containing loose asbestos fibres (e.g. dust on heating installations, or in school corridors where old asbestos ceiling tiles have been allowed to deteriorate) and now have died or are in their last months. Take my advice: have any removal work done professionally. Anyone who says "I did it DIY and I was fine" may forget that the latency period (the time before illness will reveal itself) can be as much as 40 years. There's no cure. Sorry to be so adamant about it - but you'd understand if you'd watched lovely people dying of this horrible disease.


Sorry to here that Steve. People who have worked with asbestos are most at risk. If your exposure had occurred in France, they would track down your previous employers and possibly get you some financial compensation - for what that is worth.

The expression "Shutting the stable door........" comes to mind. Asbestos was used in brake linings for over a century. Every time the brakes were applies, fine particles were released into the atmosphere - conveniently at baby's pushchair level. Changing a wheel was a high-risk operation. Amazing so many of us are still here!

A word of caution, I have never knowingly worked with asbestos but years ago it was used to lag heating pipes and to cover buildings etc in the horticultural industry, which I worked in for over 20 years.

Last year at 59 I was diagnosed with Mesothelioma (asbestosis), this is an incurable disease and expected life span is max 5 years. It is very difficult to spot and can take approx 30 years to develop.

Please do not take even the slightest risk, and employ experts. In saying that if you are past your prime in life and it takes 20 to 30 years to develop then something else with probably get you!

I have started a list of companies for Asbestos removal on my website, but they are mainly large companies, so you are best to search locally for a smaller company.

This one is worldwide, the International Labour Organisation deals with the workers rather than the work. I have worked for them very often and many of their conventions should have been put in place long ago about the conditions, materials and so on but this back door does so in this case and good too from what I gather.

Yes I can understand that. Regulation on this subject seems long overdue. Not all EEC regs are bad maybe ?