Asbestos Roof Problems

Asbestos roofs are still very common in the UK as it’s estimated by the UK’s Land Registry, that more than 75% of those ever installed are still in service today.

That says a lot about the strength and quality of the material, but the original predicted life span was only 40-50 years.

Given that the majority of asbestos roofs were installed in the 1960’s and 1970’s, many reaching the end of their planned economic and useful life and will need replacing.

However, the lifespan does depend on a number of factors, including geographical location, maintenance, etc., as we’ve seen plenty that were installed in the 1930’s and are still pretty much as good now as they were when they were installed.

The truth of the matter though, especially on larger industrial properties, is that roofs are not particularly well maintained and probably only receive any attention when they begin leaking.

At which point, most companies perform patch repairs of varying quality, but these can only ever be considered temporary.

When repeated attention to an asbestos roof is required, it’s time to consider a more permanent solution.

Asbestos Roof Repair Options

New Roof

If you are looking for a fool-proof method of stopping leaks, a new roof is always the answer. It’s also the most costly solution. 

New modern roof sheets generally comprise a composite metal panel with varying degrees of insulation contained within.

Ever-changing energy performance targets set by the government mean that the thickness of the insulation is always changing, but all panels supplied these days will be compliant with current building regulations. 

The cost is the major consideration, since changing an asbestos roof is very expensive and there are no short-cuts.

Costs are increased when the existing asbestos roof is double-skinned, since you are doubling the quantity and cost of disposing of the asbestos.


Over-cladding an asbestos roof involves adding a metal profile skin over the existing roof surface and it is usually cheaper than replacing the existing roof. 

In most cases, it will be necessary to insulate the roof to current day building regulations, which of course, increases costs and also raises the height of the roof by up to one foot.

The additional weight involved with this option means that a structural engineer's calculation will be required to make sure that the structure can support it.

Building regulations and planning permission will probably be required.

Over-roofing leaves the old asbestos roof in place and the method of fixing means that a large number of holes will have to be made in the existing asbestos cement roof sheets.


Larger asbestos roofs on industrial and commercial buildings can sometimes be cleaned and coated to prolong the life of the roof, but there are situations when cleaning and coating is not suitable, so formal surveys are strongly recommended.

Only coatings specifically made for asbestos cement should be used, because some types of coating are unsuitable and will fail after relatively short periods.

Coatings offer a cost-effective means to solving many of the problems associated with asbestos roofs and is the least disruptive repair method, meaning that the building can remain occupied and operational at all times during the works.

When the correct product is used, the life of an asbestos cement roof can be extended by many years with warranties available for up to 20 years.

It is essential that the correct health and safety procedures are followed when asbestos roof coating works are carried out - this could involve scaffolding, internal netting and specialist working platforms.

Learn More About Asbestos Roof Coatings

Patch Repairs

Localised repairs can sometimes be undertaken to fix specific problems. 

As a roof ages and starts to deteriorate, leaks begin to appear around roof lights, fixings and gutters. Occasionally, roof sheets become damaged for a variety of reasons, with small holes and cracks appearing in the roof sheets.

When a reactive maintenance approach is taken, the immediate problems are often solved with temporary repairs using materials like torch-on sealants, silicones, fabric, paints and self-adhesive tapes.

Though often effective in the short-term, such repairs usually fail relatively quickly and continuing attention will almost certainly be necessary.

Although patch repairs might look like a suitable and economic solution, the cost of health and safety equipment can increase costs considerably, making a wholesale solution like coating, more attractive