Tuesday, September 25
DIY

Q&A with Handy Mac: Replacing asbestos gutters

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Peter has a problem with his ­gutters:

Q: I fear my old asbestos gutters have reached their sell-by date, probably because I have not maintained them well over the years. What should I replace them with, and what precautions should be observed in the handling and disposal of the asbestos gutters?

A: The first question is common from people living in older buildings as many gutters reach the end of their lifespan. Add to this the need for all products containing asbestos to be removed as we strive to protect the environment and ourselves.

One option, if you have unlimited funds and want something that looks stunning, is copper, but I think your home will soon become a target for thieves.

PVC is the cheapest option, but I am not a fan. PVC gutters tend to be flimsy and are not easy to repair.

Next up in terms of cost comes fibre-reinforced cement. These are your old asbestos type of gutters where the asbestos strands that used to bind the cement have been replaced with glass fibre. They have the same problems as their predecessors: they are high maintenance, need to be regularly painted and coated with mastic inside, and the joints need to be regularly resealed. Depending on the quality, they can crack easily.

This, in my opinion, leaves only seamless aluminium. The gutters are attractive, free of joints, and made from pre-coated aluminium, so are virtually maintenance-free. The only thing they don’t do is clean themselves, so you will still need to keep them free of debris.

The removal of asbestos is a subject on which a whole newspaper could be written. I will ask my dear friend and environmental campaigner, Chrissy from Camps Bay, to put a few words together on this subject. She has been at war with the council for years about the way this substance is handled, or not handled.

I spent eight months constructing new buildings at an asbestos mine on the Botswana border. The safety standards were incredibly high, with continual dust monitoring, heavily sealed doors, regular medical checks and so on.

In the late 1980s, my company did a lot of work on the residences owned by the American consulate in Cape Town. Every time they bought a new residence, the first thing that had to happen was the replacement of asbestos gutters, otherwise their staff refused to move in. 

It was shortly after this that the use of asbestos was slowly discontinued, and fibre-reinforced cement products were introduced.

There are rules regarding the removal of asbestos.

You must ask your contractor to provide you with written proof that he has disposed of the material in an approved manner.

At the very least, the gutters must be removed by people wearing the correct protective clothing, and must be bagged and dropped at an approved dump site, for which permits are required.

*Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to don@macalister.co.za or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB: facebook.com/thehandymac

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