We all know how frustrating it can be to end up owning a house with an old garage with corrugated asbestos cement sheet roof. To add to the problem, if the roof is leaking rain water already, you suddenly realise you are stuck with very few repair options.
Our garage in the back of our garden was made of prefabricated concrete slab walls with corrugated asbestos cement sheets for roof. According to our neighbour who has been in her property for close to 40 years, this garage was already here when she moved in. This means the garage is atleast 40 years old, so you can imagine the roof wasn’t in great condition.
It looked like previous owners had tried to repair the roof in situ, with corrugated plastic sheets where old asbestos cement sheets cracked. But due to obvious reasons, rain water would simply seep through so in winter, the garage was completely useless for us.
We have been planning to have the roof replaced for the last few years but this also meant getting a certified asbestos removal company to come in and remove asbestos roof first. The quotes we received ranged between £500 to £800 for roof only removal (we live in Surrey, UK). We were also faced with the prospect of replacing the roof which was also quoted at around £1000.
We started thinking about the prospect of removing the asbestos cement roof ourselves
We contacted our local council in Surrey to find out if they were able to help us with the asbestos removal and which turned out they don’t. But they told us that we are able to do this ourselves if we followed the right safety measures and pointed us to HSE (Health and Safety Executive) website at https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/essentials/
We found the website to be very helpful with very detailed guidelines on how to remove asbestos cement sheets, safety equipment, and detailed instructions on the process and tools. Since then, we have successfully removed our asbestos sheets ourselves and this article will outline the approach we took and the steps we took.
This article will try to outline the steps we took, our experience of the whole process and hopefully help you decide if this is something you want to take on yourself as a DIY project.
Your health and safety comes first!
Please be aware that asbestos is an extremely dangerous material and this article DOES NOT in any way recommend or suggest that you carry out asbestos removal as a DIY project. Please do not use this article as a comprehensive guide for removal of your corrugated asbestos cement garage roof.
Please contact your local authority for advice first and where possible, contact a certified contractor to carry out the asbestos removal work for you. We also recommend that you refer to https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos and read all the content thoroughly before deciding to carry out asbestos cement sheet removal on your own.
This article does not in any way claim to cover everything that you need to know for safe asbestos cement sheet removal but is a mere documentation of the process we followed ourselves.
This article ONLY documents our experience of removing asbestos corrugated cement sheets from our residential garage roof and does not apply to any other type of asbestos. There are other forms of asbestos as you’d find out on HSE website that are extremely dangerous and SHOULD NOT be handled by anyone other than certified professionals. So again, please always check first with your local authority before you start any type of work and they will be able to advise on type of tests or what support they have available for you.
You can visit the following link to find out contact details of your local authority: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council
Finding out the type of asbestos you have
We wanted to make sure we are 100% aware of what we are dealing with first before we started looking into removal options. Therefore, we booked an asbestos test by simply searching on Google for a testing service. We found a provider that comes to your property and collects samples safely. The provider we chose was pretty quick to book an appointment and were able to send us the results within 48 hours of sample collection.
The report was very thorough with detailed pictures of each room and surface they collected samples from. The report also highlighted risk levels.
Obviously, the only place in our property that had any asbestos was the garage roof. We did have the fireplaces and some parts of our loft tested for other types of asbestos just to be on the safe side which all came back negative.
Your local authority’s guidelines on asbestos
We contacted our local authority (Sutton, Surrey) for advice. We were told that our local council will not be able to help in any way with the removal process. However, a quick search on Google shows that some local authorities in the UK do provide collection services so it is worth checking with your local authority first. Support available from local authorities vary by regions so it is best to contact your local authority first to check what support they are able to provide.
We were directed to HSE website and were also told that City of London operates an asbestos collection service.
If you are based within the Greater London area, then you can check this link on City of London website –
Asbestos disposal / collection options available to you in your area
In our case, we were able to book a collection with the City of London to dispose of our asbestos cement sheets. Essentially, you fill out a form on the City of London website for collection with the exact amount of asbestos cement sheets / bags and make a payment. Then one of the approved contractors will get in touch to arrange a collection date.
We waited until we removed all the asbestos cement sheets from our garage roof and sealed them safely (more on this later) before we made a booking so we know exactly how much to the square centimetre we needed collected.
City of London operates a subsidised collection service and allows up to 1 collection per year from residential properties only. Please note that you have to be a tenant or a homeowner living in the property to be able to book this service. As of writing this article, upto 15 square metres of asbestos cement roof sheets could be collected free of charge. We ended up with 19 square metres + 2 rubble sacks of loose pieces which cost us just under £50 to book.
Planning the asbestos removal process
It is highly recommended that you read all the asbestos related content on hse.gov.uk website thoroughly and make notes where necessary. Here’s a list of questions HSE website will be able to answer for you:
- Types of asbestos you can safely remove as DIY project
- Safety equipment and tools you need
- How to wrap / seal the asbestos cement sheets
- Do’s and don’ts
- And lots of other useful information
You may want to take all the asbestos cement sheets off your garage roof in one day as you do not want to buy 2 sets of protective equipment and also decontaminate twice over two days. It may also be a good idea to inform your immediate neighbours so that they are aware although there isn’t much risk of asbestos fibre release from cement sheets if they are handled very carefully.
After reading all the information on the HSE website, we started ordering all the tools and safety equipment we needed. We then checked all the tools and safety equipment that arrived to ensure they are the right fit/size/purpose.
Details of our garage that has corrugated asbestos cement sheets:
Our garage was 18’ x 9’ (5.5m x 2.75m) and the roof was made of:
8 pieces of 3.5’ x 9’ and
4 pieces of 2.5’ x 2.5’ asbestos cement sheets
We decided that our asbestos garage roof removal will be one person job which was going to be a challenge as we worked out that each asbestos cement sheet would weigh around 30kg.
We also made sure we emptied the whole garage to minimise contamination and cleared the surrounding area so access is easier and hassle free for the big day!
Equipment and tools we used for the asbestos removal
Personal safety equipment
For personal safety and protection, we ordered the following items:
- Full body coverall Type 4 (you need minimum type 5 or lower) as per HSE website
- Half mask respirator by 3M with P3 particulate filter + Gas & Vapour cartridge
- Shoe covers
- Dust and spray proof safety goggles
- PU gloves
There are detailed guidelines on HSE website for each of the above equipment which really helped us choose the right specifications / protection levels – https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/essentials/
I also made sure I was wearing old clothes that I will be happy to throw away with the safety equipment in the rubble sack for disposal with the rest of the asbestos as an extra safety measure.
We made sure we had all the tools to hand before starting the asbestos removal process. Here is a list of tools that we used:
- 24” bolt cutter: to cut the bolts that run through the asbestos cement roof sheets into the steel angle roof joists. This is so that we minimise disturbance to the asbestos cement sheets by trying to unscrew the bolts which are very old and rusty and may cause asbestos dusts to be released.
- Garden hosepipe and a garden spray can: to dampen the surface of the asbestos cement sheets lightly. This will help minimise any dust from being released into the air.
- Work platform: Usually aluminium, found in most diy stores
- Step ladder: At Least 2m height so you can reach the asbestos roof sheets from outside of the garage if needed.
- Pair of scissors: to cut the duct tape as I found that they stick to pu gloves quite badly
Asbestos disposal wrapping sheets and bags:
Plastic sheets for wrapping the asbestos cement sheets:
According to the Health and Safety Executive and City of London website, you need to wrap the sheets individually in at least 1000 gauge plastic sheets. There are numerous online retailers that sell specialised asbestos roof sheet bags with zips.
However, we went ahead and bought a 25m x 4m roll of 1200 gauge damp proof membrane (DPM) sheets and proceeded to cut them into smaller 10 ft by 12 ft pieces in advance. These sheets enabled us to wrap the sheets individually and we used duct tape to seal the folds.
The DPM option was also cheaper than buying individual wrapping bags. We paid £35 for the 25m x 4m roll.
Heavy duty rubble sacks:
We ended up using 2 x rubble sacks, one to collect some loose pieces of asbestos sheets that came off during the removal process and the other one was for disposable PPE + clothing items I was wearing under the protective coverall.
Heavy duty duct/duck/gaffa tape:
We used these tapes to seal the pre-cut DPM sheets wrapped around individual asbestos cement sheets. We ordered 3 x rolls of 50mm x 50m to ensure we don’t run out during the removal process.
Asbestos warning tape:
City of London requires all asbestos sheets to also have warning tapes. These tapes usually come in bright yellow with warning signs such as “Warning, Asbestos, Danger” etc. We ensured these tapes were also attached on all individually wrapped sheets sparingly.
Asbestos removal steps on the day
Once we had all the tools, personal protection equipment, wrapping equipment laid out close to the garage, I started off by putting all my personal protection gear on. After spraying a fine mist of water on the inside and outside of the asbestos garage roof sheets, I started cutting the metal bolts from inside of the garage that attach the asbestos cement sheets in place with the steel angle joists.
It is important that you buy at least a 24” bolt cutter as anything smaller will be too hard to cut through steel bolts.
Once all the bolts were off, I started gently dislodging the first sheet off the steel joists from outside of the garage. Once the first asbestos sheet was off, the rest were slightly easier to dislodge as I could reach over them from inside the garage sticking my head out through the gap the first sheet had left.
The sheets were heavier than I had anticipated and for one person to lift them down to floor level was quite tricky while ensuring minimal dragging over the joists.
I also made sure I was properly hydrated and had eaten enough to not have to take a food or water break during the removal process. (the whole process ended up taking just under 6 hours but went pretty quickly although it was quite draining)
Safe wrapping of asbestos cement sheets
I ensured each asbestos corrugated cement sheet was wrapped up in 1200 gauge DPM immediately after removing it from the roof joists of the garage. This helped me keep the work area tidy and felt safer knowing that it is wrapped away on one side. I started stacking the wrapped and sealed asbestos sheets one by one as the day progressed.
Disposal of PPE, and other likely contaminated equipment and clothing:
I threw away the following items after the removal of asbestos sheets into doubled up heavy duty rubble sacks –
- P3 filter and gas and vapour cartridge for my half mask respirator
- All items of clothing I was wearing under my coveralls
I then rinsed all other equipment and tools such as bolt cutter, bench, ladder, plastic goggles, half mask respirator, my work shoes (crocs) under the garden hose to make sure no residual dust remained.
I then had a quick shower inside the garage with the garden hose (it was very cold!!) and had a change of clothes brought over to me.
Arranging asbestos collection with City of London
We ended up with 15 asbestos cement sheets individually wrapped and 2 x doubled up rubble sacks (with loose asbestos cement sheet pieces, used disposable PPE and clothing)
I then booked the collection service online at – https://cityoflondon-self.achieveservice.com/service/Request_Hazardous_Waste_Collection
It cost us just under £50 for the lot and we were told that a licensed contractor will get in touch with us in 10 – 15 working days.
Asbestos Collection day
I received a call about 10 days after paying for the collection and they offered to come and collect next day between 7AM and 4PM.
However, there was a minor issue with the asbestos cement sheets being in the back of our garden. City of London asks that you leave the wrapped and sealed asbestos in the front of your property (within your boundary ofcourse i.e. driveway) so collection can be made from the main road.
I asked if they are able to collect by accessing the back of the garden via the 11.5ft wide alleyway but was told that they are not insured to go on alleyways.
Therefore, I had to carry all the sealed asbestos sheets to the front driveway one by one which was a bit of a pain with a wheelbarrow trying to balance 9’ sheets horizontally through the alleyway.
Next morning, around 10 AM, I went outside the house and to my surprise, the asbestos were gone! Yes, just like that. And you can imagine this was a huge relief
I also found a piece of paper posted through my letter box from a company called Biffa confirming the collection has taken place.
Proof of asbestos disposal:
We have taken a clear photograph of the disposal confirmation left by the asbestos collection contractor and emailed it to ourselves for future reference. We have also stored the confirmation paper safely as HSE suggests that you store it for at least 3 years as a proof of lawful asbestos disposal.
Summary: Was removing asbestos cement sheets DIY worth the effort?
In summary, asbestos cement corrugated garage roof sheet removal was by no means an easy job. We ended up spending around £150 on PPE, some specialist tools like bolt cutter and paying for the collection. And it took me 6 hours to carry out the roof removal, wrapping and sealing on the day + prep time etc beforehand.
Will I do it again if I end up with another garage with asbestos roof? Perhaps not, for the sake of saving £350 (£150 self cost vs £500 quotes from removal companies) I do not think the savings is worth the risks, labour and effort.
However, we thought we’d like to share our experience so it helps you get a rough idea of what is involved so you can make your own decisions. I hope that you found this article helpful. Please feel free to comment below or send us a message if you have any questions that you think I may help you with.
Some useful links
Here’s a list of some useful links that will help you with your research if you are interested in having your asbestos garage roof removed:
Asbestos garage roof sheets image gallery