How Can I Tell If My Garage Roof Is Asbestos? A Guide

By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon and other companies are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks in advance for your support!

Asbestos roofing used to be a popular choice for all sorts of uses because of its hard wearing properties, fire resistance, and its insulation qualities. Then its effects on health became widely known in the 80’s, and it fell out of favor with many consumers.

Even so, the United States is one of the few major industrialized nations without a prohibition on the use of asbestos. It continues to be used in gaskets, friction products, roofing materials, fireproofing materials and other products that are used every day. There are regulations in place, and if you want some bedtime reading, check out the US Environmental Protection Agency site (ref 1).

It is banned in the UK and countries of the EU. In the UK the relevant authority is the Health & Safety Executive (ref 2).

Its effects on health can be devastating; if its fibers are breathed in they can cause long term damage to the lungs and lead to a debilitating disease called mesothelioma, and lung cancer. But read on below if you need to be worried about it if you find it in your garage roof…

So, how can I tell if my garage roof is, or contains, asbestos? In summary:

  1. Check to see if there is a label
  2. Determine the date of roof construction
  3. Check the type of roof covering – certain types are more likely to contain asbestos
  4. Check the surface of the corrugated sheets, tiles, slates or shingles
  5. Check the joints in the roof covering
  6. Check the adhesives between the roofing layers
  7. Don’t forget to check other areas in the garage, such as the flooring

By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon and other companies are affiliate links and we earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks in advance for your support!

Is Asbestos Dangerous?

In its raw state, yes.

However, whilst it is a dangerous material to handle, bear in mind that, firstly roofing materials vary in the amount of asbestos they contain, and may have very little content, and secondly it is usually only dangerous when exposed as a result of the tile or shingle being broken; a roof in good condition which has no visible signs of damage or deterioration is unlikely to pose a threat to human health.

Are There Different Types of Asbestos?

Yes. Before understanding how to identify asbestos, it would be useful to familiarize yourself with the different types of asbestos. The most common types found in buildings are:

  • Chrysotile/White Asbestos is commonly used in homes, and garages. It has a gray/white coloring and flexible structure.
  • Amosite/Brown Asbestos is also used in buildings, usually as thermal insulation.
  • Crocidolite/Blue Asbestos is rare. It looks like textile material and often used for high temperate applications.

However, upon extended exposure, all types turn gray and become much easier to be identified with the naked eye. Here are the different steps you can employ to find asbestos in your garage roof while
modernizing or repairing it:

How Can You Identify Asbestos in Your Garage Roof?

Asbestos was often mixed with other materials. Therefore, it can be quite hard to easily identify it, especially when you are unaware of its looks. However, you can identify asbestos in your garage roof once you understand how to find it.

Asbestos has gray fibers running through it, so it should be easy to identify exposed asbestos in your garage roof if the covering has been damaged in any way. Keep reading below to find more useful information regarding asbestos identification.

If you are unsure, the safest course of action is to either send a sample to a laboratory for analysis (ref 3), or call on a specialist contractor to do a survey – in the US, check out your State’s info on accredited contractors (ref 4).

In the UK, you can find an accredited testing lab at ref 6 below, and a list of licensed asbestos contractors at ref 7. If you are in the UK, it would be worth checking with your local council, as some have a reduced cost asbestos removal service.

If you decide to employ a professional to assess the presence, quantity and risks of asbestos, a survey will be needed in the first instance. This can cost anything from $50 for a basic appraisal of materials, to $200 to $300 for a more extensive survey.

In the UK, this can be upwards of £200 for a survey to assess the extent of asbestos in the garage roof.

For details on the cost of removal, jump to the relevant paragraph below.

So how can I tell if my garage roof is asbestos before I call in the professionals? To help you identify the presence of asbestos (without putting yourself at risk), look out for the tell tale signs in the most common roofing materials, below.

Check if There is a Label on the Roofing Material

Start by trying to see if there is a readily readable label on any of the materials – it may actually say if there is asbestos in the roof.

However, this is unlikely, so you’ll probably have to resort to the date of construction.

Date of Construction of the Garage Roof

Asbestos was widely used in construction materials from the 1930’s onwards, and well into the 1980’s. In the US it can still be included in building materials, but in the UK it was outlawed in 1999.

You may know when your house was constructed, which may give a clue as to when the garage was built, but this may have been a later add-on.

Types of Asbestos Roofing Material Found In Garages

1. Corrugated Cement Panels

How Can I Tell If My Garage Roof Is Asbestos
Corrugated Cement Panel. Image Nick Flickr
How Can I Tell If My Garage Roof Is Asbestos

These were widely used and are relatively easy to identity, as the fibers can be seen on the edge of the panels. Look out for the terms “Fibro” or “Fibrolite” as indicating a possible asbestos connection. Image
Stefano Mortellaro

2. Cement Roof Tiles

How Can I Tell If My Garage Roof Is Asbestos
Asbestos Cement Tiles. Image Asbestos Testing Flickr

These are generally square or similarly shaped, and can last for 50 years or more before requiring replacement.

3. Asphalt Shingles

How Can I Tell If My Garage Roof Is Asbestos
Asphalt Shingles. Image J and J Construction Flickr

Shingles can come in all colors, more or less, and they use asphalt for waterproofing. It is widely used as a roof covering in the US and the UK because it is relatively cheap to buy and simple to install. They don’t last as long as tiles or slates, however, and may show sign of deterioration after 15 to 20 years.

Be careful, as roofs which look like slate can turn out to be asphalt shingles.

Asphalt shingles. Image Wikipedia

A good analysis of whether your garage roof is asbestos if it has what appears to be a slate covering is given at Ref 5.

4. Ebonized Asbestos Panels

How Can I Tell If My Garage Roof Is Asbestos?

This was also called “Asbestos lumber” or “asbestos cement sheeting” and was “ebonized” in order to make it resistant to moisture. It was commonly used instead of wood as a base for shingles and other roof coverings.


Examine The Joints In The Roof

If the garage roof is made of concrete panels, take a look at the joints between the panels in your roof. Asbestos was most commonly used
in joints to offer more strength between different layers and components.

If you have aluminum runners on your roof, you need to pay special attention because asbestos sheets were held together with aluminum runners back in the day.

If you find blunt-ended nails, plastic runners, or aluminum runners holding two sheets together, it could mean that you have asbestos sitting inside your garage roof.

Take A Look at The Adhesives

The adhesives used to hold different layers together is also a hotspot for asbestos. The natural attributes of asbestos offered a higher level of adhesiveness between different layers, and it was frequently mixed with
other adhesives in the 80s.

Pay Special Attention to The Surface

Asbestos has a unique texture, and it contains shallow crater, dimples, and small dents. If you find a continuous pattern of small dents or dimples on the surface of the material, it could contain asbestos. It is recommended that you wear safety gloves to protect your skin during any contact.

Check Other Places as Well

While asbestos is most commonly found in roofing and shingles, you can also find asbestos in the floor or walls of your garage. Prior to the 1980’s, it was used with cement and concrete blocks to improve insulation and retain heat. So, if there are any thin pieces of fiber sticking out of the exposed and broken parts of your floor or walls, send it to the lab. These fibers are a common sign of asbestos.

Your activities in the garage may also generate dangers from asbestos exposure. Old and classic cars may have brake linings containing asbestos, so any DIY on the car should be carried out with care.

How Long After Asbestos Removal from A Garage Roof Is It Safe
to Stay Nearby?

Once you have removed asbestos from your garage roof, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can quickly start using the garage and resume your daily activities there. There is a respectable timeline that must be
followed before you can reuse the garage.

If there is no leftover debris from the removal, you can reuse the garage as soon as possible. However, if there is still some leftover debris, you will have to wait until this is safely disposed of. There are regulations you must follow to dispose of asbestos safely, it is not acceptable to simply put it in the trash can.

If you still have debris in the garage, you need to ensure that it doesn’t become flaky and airborne so that it becomes a hazard to those around it. Therefore, you should call in the experts and have the debris removed
as well before resuming your activities in the garage.

Waterproofing an Asbestos Garage Roof

If you would like to waterproof or repair your asbestos roof rather than removing it altogether, you can do it with the help of modern weatherproof coatings. These cost-effective and weatherproof coatings can take care
of the damaged asbestos roof, stop the fibers from turning into flakes and becoming airborne, and refurbish your roof.

These coatings are often applied in the liquid form or sprayed upon the damaged areas. Then, these are left to cure over time and form a tight membrane to eliminate the possibility of any water seeping through the
roof. These coatings stop the water from going in and restrict the asbestos from coming out. This way, you can enjoy strong and durable roofs without the negative side-effects of asbestos.

What Is the General Cost to Remove an Asbestos Garage Roof?

There is no straight-forward answer to this question. The average cost depends upon several variables, such as the quantity of asbestos and the complexities of removing it from blind spots. The average cost also varies
from region to region.

In the US, on average, it will cost you somewhere between $50 to $100 per square meter to remove asbestos from your garage roof. So, the total average cost for asbestos removal from the garage can be north of $3,000.

In the UK the cost of removing an asbestos garage roof ranges from £400 to £1800, depending on the size of the garage (ref 8).

These costs are to remove the asbestos roof safely, but how much does it cost to replace the roof?

How Much Does It Cost To Replace an Asbestos Garage Roof?

You can always clad your asbestos roof, or bind it with a sealant to ensure the dangerous fibers are not released, but in the long run, it is better to remove and replace an asbestos garage roof. This way, it will not continually haunt you, and you will have a completely harmless roof
without any health hazards.

In the US this can cost anywhere between $1000 and $2000 dollars, depending on size and materials (ref 9).

In the UK, the cost per sq m can be anywhere between £50 and £100, depending on size and type of replacement material. This could be between £800 and £1500 for the cheaper materials such as felt (Ref 10).

Call In The Professionals

The best bet is to call in experts to assess the situation and move forward with the best strategy to either secure or remove asbestos from your garage entirely. They have specialized equipment and personnel protective
gear that can take care of asbestos without any issues.

Moreover, once the removal phase is completed, you need to ensure that there is no debris left over in the gutters or the surrounding region. This debris can also be harmful since it contains exposed asbestos in
abundance. Most of the time, asbestos removal experts take care of everything from removal to debris handling.

References 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Leave a Comment

We use cookies in order to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.