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


  1. Hello Everybody. I wanted to chime in and say that if your patient and take your time you can remove the asbestos tile by pulling the nails out with a pair of linesmans pliers. If you remove them this way you can stack them up carefully and even sell them on craigslist to people that still have the siding and need to replace broken pieces on thier house. I had an uncle that wanted most of mine for a cabin in the woods he was building and i just gave them to him. we were both very pleased. I removed my whole house worth and only broke a corner on two tiles. the job took a couple of days to remove them all and my wrists were a little sore but it was way better and cheaper than breaking them up to remove them.

  2. Why would anyone want to remove the best insulator that has ever be made the house that it is applied to is most likely as air tight as possible, if all the siding is in good shape. If you take a propane torch and direct the flame to the side of an asbestos panel, you will feel no heat on the opposite side. Leave the asbestos on the house, lathe it out with wood lathe, and nail the siding to the lathe. I would screw the lath to the building.

  3. I live in the State of Alabama, and currently my house is uninsureable because it has asbestos siding. My house is very old and my husband and I are elderly. I am looking to see if there is any help to solve this problem. Any ideas?

  4. Vivian,
    I inspect houses for insurance companies daily, and although some will not insure, there are still others who will. I would just make phone calls and ask if that is an issue. I know Foremost covers them. Possibly Farmers.

  5. I live in Georgia and we were given a 2 weeks notice from Allstate, coverage we had for 10 years, to have the siding replaced or the insurance would be cancelled. I had a hard time too trying to find a replacement insurance that would cover our home. I finally found an insurance company but now we are left paying an outrageous premium for an old 1940’s home. We went from paying $748 a year premium to now paying $1900 and that doesn’t cover the full value of the home if something happens, it was going to cost $2600 a year premium to get the full value of the home. It doesn’t make any sense of why we are being forced to remove this durable siding. I’m afraid if I spend the money to have it covered that it’s still labeled as asbestos because of what’s underneath according to property records.

  6. I have old asbestos tiles on my home. Is it safe too cover with vinyl siding with or without removal? Should it have to be removed does the wood under the asbestos tile need to be change also. I prefer to just cover with the vinyl siding.

  7. Don’t replace it. I work on house siding projects all the time.Though rarely on asbestos, because it doesn’t need anything, other than better paint color choices, which seem dated.

  8. My home had siding over the asbestos title but we need to reside . We would like to leave the title there and go over it . Our house is really warm so we like to keep it on . Can we do siding again over the title ???

  9. I have a commercial 3 story bldg with asbestos siding. Few of the pieces need replaced which I have spare sections. Bldg is up for sale but people are making a big deal about the asbestos. Hard to sell, should I lower the price of the building or I am considering painting.

  10. Another phony fear issue. Chances of being killed by an asteroid are greater than being injured by asbestos siding. Only people injured installing asbestos siding are those who fall off a ladder.
    Seventy years ago we used to throw chunks of asbestos siding in a bonfire to hear them explode. Quite apparent I am still above ground seventy years later. Fact is I am back living in the old asbestos sided home my folks lived fifty plus years in without any problems (Dad installed the asbestos).

  11. Hazmat asbestos certified in 4 states. All types friable and non. Boilers, gaskets switches galbestos .. and I’m the occupational toxicologist with a master’s degree in IH.
    If your insurance company has a problem, then find another. I get irritated when an actuary thinks he’s a toxicologist. I don’t do his math for him cause I don’t have two lives to live and be good at his as I am at mine. Thanks to the gullible, I tend to buy my houses for cheap knowing they’re safe as…houses. (mold..there’s another racket)
    Siding is cement impregnated asbestos, it’s going nowhere unless you grind or pulverize it. Left on your house it’s a darn good insulator and fire retardant. Two fire marshals I work with one in Texas the other in NJ have both opined that, in their experience, fires spread slower in asbestos clad houses than vinyl. Vinyl in fact appears to accelerate the spread providing an air column with combustible material.
    Maintain your asbestos siding and it will last. Learn how to make amended water (water and dishwashing detergent) use it when you have to drill and chances are you’ll be well under the 1 fiber/cc threshold limit value. Use good quality exterior paint, and figure on repainting the exterior every 10 years. If a tile breaks, flip it over, piece it togethe, apply fiberglass cloth (not mat) and a thin layer of fiberglass epoxy resin. Paint the front and no one knows the difference.
    Look I know we all want to be hyper vigilant, hyper safe and so forth, but to those of us in the occupational safety, occupational Toxicology industry we love it, more business for us, but ethically and just from a knowledge standpoint we’ve gone over the edge.

  12. I am trying to find someone/company that will actually replace pieced of asbestos shingles on the house we bought and am having no luck. My husband purchased the house and we have been repairing it step. Now the city we reside in is telling us to fix the broken tiles and we can’t locate anybody. Any ideas on who to contact? We are in St. Louis Missouri

    • Thank you for your sanity on this issue. The fact is it is safe, especially if it is painted. It is also quite easy to repair and matching fiber siding is available. Someone is making a lot of money of this hysteria. It is amazing how stupid insurance companies are. I had one refuse to insure my house because it was a pier and beam. I tried to point out that a house on a slab is much much more costly to repair and in some cases, impossible. Pier and beam are easily repairable. They know better.

    • Dear Karen It is actually quite easy to replace asbestos tiles with matching ones made of fiber cement.I am doing that now on my house. You can’t tell the difference. If you are handy, you can do it yourself – there are many videos online. You just simply carefully take off the old damaged shingle and put the new one in it’s place. GAF and other manufacturers make asbestos free shingles that match the old ones. Of course contractors won’t tell you this cause they can’t make money on it. Find a handyman type not a contractor it’s a small job.

  13. @Paul – Paul did you have to wear the coverup clothes and mask and everything they say is required? This is probably good to do and then dispose of them afterwards correct?

  14. How can we paint asbestos siding and make it last? The front of our house where rain and snow drop right down peels

  15. we have an old house that is half way down from age and well, it needs to be torn down all the way. We want to dig a big hole on property next to where the house is and bury to whole house and covering it with dirt.
    The house has asbestos siding. We are in Louisiana.
    Can we have the house buried on property where it is?

  16. The Homeowner can remove 160 square feet of asbestos products without a permit. If you hire someone, they need a permit because they may be exposed on a regular basis. So just do your own 160 ft at a time.

  17. I purchased my grandparents house and started a renovation on it. Back porch had asbestos shingles, several layers. Everyone told me I would have to bury it on my land. I called a local dump and asked about bringing asbestos shingles. They told me if it’s under a tarp we don’t know what it is. Put a tarp down on the trailer, loaded the roof and shingles on the tarp, covered it with a second tarp. When I got to the dump, it was lunch time. I backed up to a front loader tied the bottom tarp to it and drove off. $20 and it was gone.

  18. My siding does have cracks and broken pieces here and there but what about using a AC window unit as the house doesn’t have central air? Should I be concerned about having an ac window unit? The broken pieces cant affect the air around blowing into the ac unit and into the house right or? I’m thinking of painting over it in the spring.

    • Hi, Frank,
      Disturbed asbestos is a concern, regardless of the situation.
      We recommend contacting an asbestos removal specialist immediately for a personal consultation.
      They can assess the situation and make the best recommendation for your home.
      Hope everything works well!

  19. My parent’s house had vinyl siding put on in the early ’80s, it was put over the aspestos siding. My mother is now looking to possibly have the house resided. My question is the old aspestos siding was never removed. Can we just remove the old vinyl and go over the aspestos again or does that have to be removed also?TIA

    • Hi, Steve,
      The Environmental Protection Agency and the Vinyl Siding Institute recommend not disturbing asbestos if possible.
      Installing vinyl siding will require nailing into the asbestos siding, which will disturb the asbestos.
      We recommend having a certified asbestos removal contractor take the existing asbestos siding off.
      Good luck with your project!

  20. My siding has some weird black spots on it. I noticed this yesterday and thought that I really hope it isn’t the beginning of rot. Then I found this article after searching on Google.
    THANK YOU for this information. I now know what to look for.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here