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Everything You Should Know About Asbestos Siding

Written by Joe Roberts

Published on May 13, 2024

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Everything You Should Know About Asbestos Siding

Worried your home’s siding may be made of asbestos? Read our guide to learn about testing procedures, risk factors, and average replacement costs.

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To provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we consult a number of sources when producing each article, including licensed contractors and industry experts.

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Asbestos was a very common building material until the 1970s when it was discovered that exposure to asbestos could cause lung cancer and other serious illnesses. After this discovery, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of asbestos building materials in new residential constructions. 

However, older homes built before the EPA’s ban may still feature asbestos-fiber-containing siding panels and shingles. If you have a decades-old house with its original siding materials, you and your family may be at risk of asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, replacing this material can be fairly expensive. On average, asbestos removal and replacement costs between $12,944 and $25,350.

Here’s the good news: if your old asbestos siding is in good condition, you may not have been exposed to its harmful particles yet. While expensive asbestos abatement is your safest option, there are other ways to protect yourself from this carcinogenic material. Keep reading to learn how to test your home’s siding for asbestos and what you should do if you find it.

Hire a local siding company to replace your old siding

What is asbestos siding?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber. Until its health risks were understood, it was used to make various building materials like roofing, floor tiles, drywall, and (you guessed it) siding. Asbestos siding—sometimes called “asbestos-cement siding”—is made by mixing asbestos fibers with Portland cement. The resulting material is highly fireproof, pest-resistant, and affordable, which is why it was used so broadly in its heyday. 

Because asbestos cement can be shaped in a mold, many types of cladding exist. It can take the form of siding shingles, siding tiles, and siding panels. Like vinyl siding, asbestos siding materials were often crafted with a wood grain texture to capture the beauty and rustic charm of authentic wooden siding.

The material’s composition makes it pretty hard to identify with the naked eye, and its diversity of applications and styles means that asbestos-containing materials are still found on many buildings to this day. 

Health hazards associated with asbestos exposure

Asbestos siding only becomes dangerous when it chips and crumbles. When the material breaks down, it releases its harmful fibers into the air, where they can be inhaled. Unfortunately, asbestos siding is highly friable, making it easy to destroy. Sawing, power-washing, and even just touching asbestos siding can damage it and make it dangerous. 

Several lung diseases are associated with exposure to asbestos, so the presence of asbestos materials in and on your home should always be taken seriously. These diseases include:

  • Asbestosis: Scarring of lung tissue that makes breathing much more difficult.

  • Lung cancer: A type of cancer that starts as a malignant growth in the lungs. Of all types of cancer, lung cancer kills the most people. 

  • Mesothelioma: A cancer that affects membranes around the lungs.

To learn more, read the CDC’s resource on the risks of asbestos exposure.

How to spot asbestos siding

Damaged asbestos siding on a homeEven close-up, asbestos shingles and panels can be difficult to distinguish from materials made from alternatives like fiber cement or particle board. Image source: Reddit

Siding made from asbestos can be virtually impossible to identify without proper training and equipment. The material’s fibrous cement composition looks like too many other building materials—like James Hardie’s fiber cement Hardie® Boards—to make identification quick or easy for the average homeowner. 

Fortunately, if your home was built in the 90s or later, you probably have nothing to worry about. The EPA banned the material from entering the market in 1989, so homes built after this ban shouldn’t have asbestos siding. However, you may be at risk if your home was built before this date and still has its original materials.

To make matters worse, there’s no federal requirement that home sellers disclose the presence of asbestos to potential buyers. Some states and cities require such disclosure, but it depends on where you live. 

The bottom line is that if you bought an older home, you weren’t told whether or not the siding was made of asbestos, and the siding obviously isn’t made from a recognizable material like hardwood, brick, or metal, you might be dealing with asbestos.

The only foolproof way to determine if siding is made with asbestos is to contact an asbestos abatement contractor and have them chemically test the material. Professional asbestos testing requires a contractor to come to your location, inspect the material, take samples, and analyze them in a laboratory. This typically costs somewhere between $277 and $504, though lengthy travel fees and local ordinances can affect prices.

Asbestos siding removal and replacement costs

Asbestos testing fees

Asbestos remediation

Siding replacement

Total costs

$277–$504

$988–$3,596

$11,679–$21,250

$12,944–$25,350

If your home’s cladding is made from asbestos and you want to completely eliminate the chance of exposure, then your best bet is to get the material removed and replaced with something safer, like vinyl or fiber cement. You absolutely shouldn’t attempt to remove your asbestos siding yourself, though, even if you have gloves and a respirator. Seriously, hire a pro for this job instead of going DIY.

On average, asbestos remediation costs $62 to $112 per hour, so depending on the size of your home, you could pay anywhere between $988 and $3,596 for remediation. If your home is especially large or the materials are exceptionally hard to remove, your costs could be even higher. 

It’s also worth noting that finding a qualified asbestos abatement company in some areas can be challenging. However, a local siding contractor can help put you in touch with an abatement company. 

After the asbestos is removed and safely taken to an appropriate landfill (not all landfills accept asbestos), you can replace it with different siding. Installation costs vary depending on the material you choose, but on average, getting new siding costs somewhere between $11,679 and $21,250.

Your total costs for testing, remediation, and replacement will likely land somewhere between $12,944 and $25,350. You’ll only know exactly how much this home improvement project will cost after you’ve met with a professional contractor, though.

Find a local siding contractor who can replace your siding

Alternatives to replacing asbestos siding

You don’t necessarily need to remove asbestos siding to make it safe. Asbestos siding only becomes dangerous when damaged, so there are ways to live relatively safely with it. 

The first way is to cover it with a different siding material. This will require some safety precautions on your contractor’s part (and you shouldn’t attempt to do this yourself), but it will protect the asbestos from damage and seal its harmful particles behind a barrier of fresh siding. On average, this will cost between $11,679 and $21,250, depending on the siding material you choose.

Your other option is to paint over the siding with durable paint. This will add a protective layer over the siding, keeping it from deteriorating and becoming a health hazard. New paint won’t last as long as new siding, so this method isn’t as enduring as installing a different material over the asbestos, but it is far more affordable. On average, painting your home’s exterior only costs $2,500 to $7,000.

How to hire a siding contractor

Now that you know about the health risks associated with asbestos siding, how to identify it, and what you should do when you find it, you’re ready to talk to a local installer about covering or replacing the material. Use the form below to find licensed siding contractors in your area. We recommend getting quotes from multiple contractors to find the best price for the job.

Hire a licensed siding installation company to handle this job for you

Asbestos siding FAQ

Asbestos siding is only dangerous when it gets damaged and releases dust into the air. This means that a home with asbestos siding is safe to live in so long as the material is in good condition. Be aware, though, that asbestos is highly friable, so you shouldn’t power wash it or even really touch it. Otherwise, you could damage the siding and make it hazardous. To ensure your safety, it’s best to replace or cover the material with a different type of siding. Painting over the material can also make it safer, but this solution won’t last as long.

Asbestos has been deemed unsafe for new residential builds. The material has been proven to cause various lung diseases, including lung cancer, so the EPA banned it from the residential market decades ago. Older homes with asbestos siding can still be safe to live in, though, as long as the material isn’t deteriorating. 

Yes, a qualified installer can install new vinyl panels over old asbestos siding. The installer will need to take some safety precautions to avoid disturbing the asbestos during installation, though, and you shouldn’t attempt to DIY this project. When done correctly, installing vinyl siding over asbestos will make the hazardous material safer to live with.

Asbestos siding is almost impossible to identify without chemical analysis. To determine if your home is sided with asbestos, you’ll need to hire an asbestos abatement company to come to your home, take samples, and analyze them in a lab. This typically costs $277 to $504.

It usually costs somewhere between $12,944 and $25,350 to replace asbestos siding with a safer material. These costs include average testing, remediation, and installation costs. Asbestos siding replacement prices can vary depending on the size of your home, which material you replace the siding with, and where you live.

Written by

Joe Roberts Content Specialist

Joe is a home improvement expert and content specialist for Fixr.com. He’s been writing home services content for over eight years, leveraging his research and composition skills to produce consumer-minded articles that demystify everything from moving to remodeling. His work has been sourced by various news sources and business journals, including Nasdaq.com and USA Today. When he isn’t writing about home improvement or climate issues, Joe can be found in bookstores and record shops.