Dealing with Asbestos Siding: Cover Over or Remove?

I plan to install vinyl siding on a house that has asbestos siding. Should I remove the asbestos siding or side over it? -Frank

Hi Frank,

Unless asbestos siding is disturbed, it doesn’t pose a significant health hazard and does not need to be removed. Both the EPA and the Vinyl Siding Institute recommend not disturbing asbestos if at all possible. Installing vinyl siding will require disturbing the asbestos by nailing into it.

About Asbestos Siding

Asbestos siding is composed of asbestos fibers mixed with Portland cement. It is very brittle and has a tendency to crack and break when nailed, which can release asbestos fibers into both the air and ground. Exposure to and breathing asbestos fibers can result in lung problems and cancer.

Applying a layer of sheathing or sheets of foam insulation over the asbestos, then covering it with vinyl siding is a common practice; but be sure to check your local building codes first to see if it is allowed in your area. However, removing the asbestos siding first – though more expensive – is the best alternative in the long run.

I recommend having a certified asbestos removal contractor take the existing asbestos siding off, though in many areas homeowners are allowed remove asbestos siding themselves if they follow proper precautions. Start by sending a sample of the siding to an EPA approved lab for testing to make sure the siding actually contains asbestos.

Removing Asbestos Siding

If the test comes back positive, and you do decide to remove asbestos siding yourself, it’s important to follow all safety guidelines and dispose of the asbestos material properly, including:

  • Place 6-mil plastic sheeting on the ground around the house to catch any debris.
  • Wear a properly fitted respirator that’s approved for asbestos (HEPA filter, colored coded purple).
  • Wear disposable coveralls with hood, rubber gloves, goggles, and rubber boots.
  • Do not bring asbestos contaminated clothing, boots, or tools inside your home.
  • Post warning signs and keep other people well away from the area while working.
  • Keep all windows and doors to the house closed during removal.
  • Wet the asbestos siding and removed debris down with water before and during removal.
  • Work from the top down, removing the snails to keep from breaking the asbestos siding.
  • Do not throw or drop removed asbestos siding.
  • Wrap asbestos siding in 6-mil thick plastic sheeting and secure the plastic with duct tape, or place the debris in heavy duty plastic bags.
  • Dispose of the asbestos properly at a landfill, or contact your local waste collection service to find out if they will pick up asbestos material.
  • Dispose of all clothing and boots used during asbestos removal.
  • Wash and clean all tools used during asbestos removal.
  • Bathe thoroughly after working with asbestos.

Once the asbestos siding has been removed and disposed of, install insulation and breathable housewrap over the sheathing before applying new vinyl siding.

Good luck with your project,


Further Information