Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bathroom renovation: demolition & asbestos (day 1 & 2)

My bathroom renovation started as all good renovations do - with demolition!

Day 1: Wednesday

I estimated the size dumpster I'd need (can't quite remember what it was now) with lots of angst about where to put it, since it would have to be on common property. After chatting to my fellow owner-occupier neighbours they saw no issue with it going on the common lawns at the front of the property since it would only be there about a week. I wasn't home when it was delivered (my mom was) and turns out it was ENORMOUS, and the truck couldn't get into the driveway even with no cars parked in the street. So they put it on the nature strip which technically requires a permit.

To protect my floors, my mom and I used masking tape to secure RAM board to all the walk-through spaces. The roll is quite pricey ($93) but I'm very glad I did it. I didn't use much of the roll either so will have plenty left for the kitchen renovation when that materialises. 

The plumber came to cap off all the taps and pipes, and removed the toilet too (score!). That evening, my brother and his mate came to help with the demolition. We ripped off all of the plasterboard and took out the vanity. As the demolition started I had a moment of panic - there was no turning back and things were going to get a whole lot worse before they got better!

When we started to get the tiles off the wall, things came to a halt: my brother's mate was concerned I had asbestos behind the tiles.


I had spoken to two of my neighbours who had previously renovated their bathroom and kitchen, and both said they had not had any issues with asbestos. Nevertheless we were suspicious, and we decided to leave all the tiles in place and get it tested. We sprayed the disturbed area down with water to prevent fibres from spreading, and put a sample piece in a ziploc bag to be tested.

This delay was quite stressful because the plumber was coming back to do the rough in of the new pipes on the Friday. The following Monday was a public holiday and so he wouldn't be able to come back until after the public holiday, pushing all of the trades back (some of my trades were doing the work on the weekends as a side job, others were coming during the week, so it would have pushed everything back by at least a week).

Lesson learned: if your property was constructed prior to 1990 there is a high likelihood that asbestos was used in the building process, so get it tested before you begin your renovation, so you can build the asbestos removal into your timeline and budget!

The danger that comes from improperly removed asbestos is not just about the people doing the demolition - the microscopic fibres will be present in your home long after the renovation, exposing you, your family, tenants or future owners. On top of that, if you are adding the asbestos products to your general demolition waste, those fibres will become airborne, and can pose a serious health risk many people.

For more information about asbestos, visit the Asbestos Eradication and Safety website.

Since the fibres are microscopic, you cannot judge whether a product contains asbestos just by looking at it. The only way to know for sure is to get it tested. So I got my sample tested, and the results were positive.

Whilst I was waiting for the test results, I contacted a number of asbestos removal specialists to line someone up in case the results came back positive. I was really lucky to find a fantastic guy who bent over backwards to do the job on his day off, and keep my timeline on track.

If you ever need an asbestos removal specialist, I highly recommend Andy. He was meticulous and clearly very passionate about the safe removal of this deadly mineral:
AW Removals Pty Ltd
Licensed Asbestos Removalist
Lic No.: H15/02382
Mob.: 0488 12 12 14

Day 2: Friday

So I've skipped Thursday, as nothing was happening besides getting the asbestos sample tested and lining up the removalist. Luckily the laboratory got back to me very quickly so I could let the removalist know he was needed the next day.

The asbestos removal took place on the Friday and took about 2 hours. I wasn't home during the process but Andy described that he would seal off all doorways and access to the area, suit up and remove all the tiles with the asbestos 'cement sheeting' behind them. He would aim to remove everything in as large sections as possible in order to minimise the amount of fibres released. The materials would be wrapped in heavy duty plastic and disposed of safely. A special vacuum was also used during the process to capture any stray fibres. 

Friday afternoon we completed the demo (removing the bath, bath frame and shower base) and the plumber and electrician did their rough-in. We left the wall framing that separated the toilet from the bathroom as it was structural, and needed some additional support for the roof before removal, which would be done by the carpenters.



At some stage during the Friday, the dumpster man came back to get the dumpster, even though I had asked to keep it for a week. He said because it was on the nature strip we were risking a fine so he had to take it. I suggested that perhaps when he was in the area with another half-full dumpster he could come back for the rest of my rubbish which he agreed to. Unfortunately that didn't happen, and to this day my garage is full of the timber framing from the wall that was removed, and the old windows. I'll have to get rid of them when I do my kitchen renovation!

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