Uralite roofs: what it is and how to detect it

Nov 22, 2023 | What is asbestos | 0 comments

Uralite roofs, composed of asbestos-laced fiber cement and popularly known for the company that manufactured the material, were long a common choice in construction due to their durability and affordability. However, its use has been restricted and banned in several countries due to the health risks associated with asbestos.

In many places, legislation such as the Occupational Risk Prevention Law has regulated and prohibited the use of materials containing asbestos, including uralite, due to the public health risks they represent.

But, although in 2002 it was prohibited for asbestos cement to contain asbestos, it is still possible that there are structures from previous years that can be maintained until the end of their useful life, as long as they are in good condition, that is, once they have passed between 30 -40 years since its manufacture, according to the study “Materials with asbestos in homes: practical guide”.

What is considered a uralite roof

uralite roof or roof is a corrugated plate (generally) composed of fiber cement with asbestos. It is made up of a mixture of cement, asbestos and other materials to strengthen it. These plates have been used in farmyards, small buildings, industrial warehouses and even in common areas of residential buildings.

What happens with uralite roofs, are they dangerous?

Uralite roofs can be dangerous due to the presence of asbestos in the fiber cement with which they are made. The greatest risk occurs when the structure deteriorates or is tampered with, releasing asbestos fibers into the air which can be inhaled and cause serious respiratory problems such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. For this reason, their handling and removal must be carried out by trained professionals to avoid exposure to these fibers.

Some municipalities are making lists of buildings at risk of asbestos, and it is possible to access subsidies or aid to change these elements with the help of a specialized and registered company.

How to detect uralite roof

Detecting a uralite roof can be done through different methods:

  • Visual inspection: Looking at the roofing material can provide clues. Uralite is usually a fiber cement board with a grayish or greenish appearance, with a wavy texture.
  • Construction history: If it is possible to access the construction history of the building or home, the original plans or related documents may indicate the use of this type of material.
  • Specific tests: Carry out specific laboratory tests or with kits designed to detect the presence of asbestos in roof tiles.
  • Satellite imaging technology: Specialized companies, such as agforest, can use satellite technology to map and locate uralite structures in buildings and large areas.

Agforest is a national leader in the preparation of asbestos censuses and calendars and has successfully collaborated with several municipalities , gaining their trust thanks to our ability to identify asbestos-containing fiber cement structures. This technology allows us to locate and map these rooftops, providing accurate information and helping authorities take effective preventive and management measures.

What solutions exist for uralite roofs?

If you have a uralite roof with asbestos, there are various solutions, some more recommended than others. These include disassembly, replacement with another material, covering, repair, encapsulation or the application of painting and waterproofing.

Dismantling any uralite roof is the option that must be carried out according to the regulations. If a period of 30 years has passed or if it is in a state of decomposition, any action that does not imply its removal or replacement may be sanctioned. Therefore, caution is recommended when carrying out any other intervention.

Replacing it with sandwich panels is an alternative once the uralite has been dismantled. This option is highly recommended, in addition to being one of the most economical solutions. Sandwich panels, also known as composite panels, offer similar benefits to uralite, such as excellent thermal insulation, great resistance, low weight and reduced installation costs.

Another option is to replace the uralite with imitation tile . Some types of fiber cement boards can perfectly replace current asbestos roofs, offering an effective and economical solution. There are imitation options for red, transparent tiles and even those identical to uralite plates, but free of asbestos.

Covering a uralite roof is only viable if it is in good condition and has not reached the end of its useful life. This action, called doubling , involves putting something on top of the roof, such as another layer, although it is a short-term and economical solution, it is not recommended, as the uralite will continue to deteriorate over time, which could require the removal of both the cover as well as the roof, significantly increasing the asbestos removal process and costs.

Repairing uralite roofs is completely prohibited according to the regulations. Leaving uralite roofs on the building only increases the risk of exposure due to the dangerousness of the material.

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