Author Archive

Asbestos Still A Hidden Killer

by Peter Duncan

Asbestos never really meant anything to me until I had children.

It was only a term I’d heard and knew very little about.

It was when we were renovating a house in Berhampore that it really hit home. We had decided to scrap the ceiling in the living room and my wife was a few months pregnant. It was one of those old ornate,1950′s style ceilings with patterns, which to me looked like normal stipple coat.

We were covered from head to toe in the resulting dust and flakes!

After scrapping about a third of it off, my brother-in-law, who lived around the corner, came over to see how we were progressing – I think he was a bit parched!

Anyway he picked up a piece and said the dreaded A word!

Neither of us hadn’t really encountered asbestos before, so we started panicking a bit. 

We decided to get it tested and they sent it out to a laboratory in Upper Hutt. It came back negative luckily. 

So, we got pretty lucky really and because of our indifferent approach or might I say ignorant approach, we put a lot of people at risk. 

What Is Asbestos?

It’s actually a group of minerals if we want to be exact, that are made up of lots of small fibres. They are resistant to fire, chemicals and heat.

Because of the strong retardant properties they became a popular choice for building materials such as:

1. Cladding and roofing
2. Textured ceilings and wall surfaces that were sprayed on
3. Thermal protection for backing boards around fireplaces
4. Drainage spouting
5. Insulation around heaters, hot water cylinders and pipes
6. Different types of textiles

Incidentally it was also used for oven gloves, ironing board pads, simmer mats for stoves etc

So it was pretty handy for a while eh?

Mining of asbestos started around 4000 years ago and became popular with manufacturers in the late 19th century.

Toxicity – In the early 1900s researchers began to notice a large number of early deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns

If we want to get a tiny bit technical it’s made up of 6 different naturally occurring minerals, which we won’t go into. But I’ve put a link back there if you’re interested.


How Does Asbestos Harm Our Health

Diagram showing the damage asbestos can cause in the body: scarring of the lung tis-sue; pleural plaques – thickening of membranes around the lung; mesothelioma – ma-lignant tumours or cancers that can develop around the lungs or intestine.

Asbestos becomes a risk when it is inhaled as a fine dust. It increases with the frequency of exposure and the number fibres replaced.

When it is inhaled it is the finer fibres that are difficult to remove and can be lodged in the lung or go onto further penetrate the body.

The following are some of the diseases that Asbestos causes:


  • - Mesthelioma – Cancers and malignant tumors, which develop around the lungs and intestines.
  • - Asbestosis – Scarring of lung tissue
  • - Plural Plaques – Thickens membranes around the lungs
  • - Lung Cancer

So How Do You Identify Asbestos?

The Bad news is … this is a big topic and requires lots of images and references, The good news is,  we’re going to explore it in bite size chunks and make it easy-to-understand, so you can become an expert at it … and your clients can reference it at anytime, if they need to know more.

But what I’ll say for now is, that it can’t be identified by looking at it. It has to be labelled or identified through a sample and analyzes by a professional with a white coat sitting in a laboratory.

If you need to get a sample tested, you can find a health protection officer at any public health unit of your local (DHB) District Health Board.


Asbestos In The Home

What should you do?

If you find asbestos in a home, there are protection measures, which should be discussed with a health protection officer.

But some of the options are: Leaving it as is, removing it or sealing, encapsulating or enclosing it.

Enclosing involves constructing something around the area effected.

Encapsulating happens when a coating is applies to the area, which soaks through to the effected area, hardens and prevents it from loosening and crumbling as it ages.

Sealing it with paint will again, prevent it from loosening and crumbling.


Identifying Common Areas Around The Home

An illustration of where in a house asbestos may be found, as described in the list beside it.

1. Roofing and Siding Shingles -  Shingles being overlapping elements, which are typically laid in overlapping rows and are flat and rectangular.
2. Homes constructed between 1930 and 1950 may have insulation which is asbestos.
3. Can appear in textured paint and compounds used for patching on the ceiling joists and walls.
4. Old gas fire places with artificial embers and ashes may have asbestos
5. Old Stove top pads may contain asbestos compounds
6. Wood-burning stoves with protection around floors and walls with asbestos cement sheets, millboard (stiff gray pasteboard) and some paper.
7. Vinyl flooring tiles and the adhesive to hold the tiles can contain asbestos
8. Asbestos blanket and tape around hot water and steam pipes as well as asbestos coated material for the same use.
9. Coal and furnaces as well as door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.

Next issue we’ll go a bit deeper into identifying the elements around the home like:

What is Asbestos  Super Six?




Monolithic Cladding 101 And it’s Contributions Towards Leaky Homes – Part Two

by Peter Duncan

Leaky Homes Has Shocking Consequences As Ripple Effect Continues


Okay, so leading off from where we were -

Part One of Leaky Homes and Monolithic Cladding -

In this section we want to be able to discover how to identify a potentially leaky home.

While doing some research…

I recently read a a gut-wrenching article titled  ”Win for Wellington leaky home owners” – You may have read it.

It’s about a young family in Wellington having to pick up a $346,000 repair bill for a leaky home.

…as well as an inexperienced building inspector having to pay $180,000 of that same bill – he lost his own home out of it as he wasn’t insured – because he did a “quick check” for $280 and missed a really critical defect with the home… The leaky part!!

It made me sick to the pit of my stomach – for both of them.

Again, a perfect example of how much extra this leaky homes debacle is now costing 2nd and 3rd hand parties … on top of the initial losses to owners and design/construction/council teams that were involved in creating it originally.

Makes me kind nauseous just thinking about who else is going to get caught up in it.

In my mind, the only solution to it, is abundant awareness and education.

You may want to read another related article  that was written about leaky homes, which talks about how leaky homes has added the figure of $26 million per year on health costs

So how are we to know, which ones are leaky … which is the million dollar question!

You can’t easily identify a leaky home, you have to leave that to the experts – we certainly do – but you can identify a “suspect”, which could potentially be a leaky home.

How to detect leaky homes – Not all homes covered in tarpaulin are leaky!



So-as you can get your ‘warning bells’ going off, we’ll start with what might trigger them when you first get to a property that could potentially be a leaky home.

I’ll try and explain so you can get a good feel for what to look for by exploring the different types of Monolithic claddings.

Don’t worry, I ran this past my 83 year old mother and she remained interested!

Why so?

Because her neighbour had his whole house covered in tarpaulin and I was out there on the weekend. She lives in a very tightly-woven community, where everyone makes it their business to know everyone elses … and she was told it was a leaky home. So I went over and politely asked the neighbour if I could take some photo’s, because I was doing an article on leaky homes – after looking at me up and down, he promptly replied “It’s not leaky home, we’re doing major renovations.”

With a red-face retort, I said “Ooh! … well you better set the record straight with your neighbours then, cos I think they’ve probably just devalued your home by a couple of hundred grand!”

He quickly shifted his surly disposition into a wry smile – Luckily!


You firstly have to identify the type of house that might come under the Leaky Home banner and to do that, you have to have a picture of what that might look like.

Secondly, you need to find out the age … and if it comes in between the ages of 1994 – 2005, then it’s a prime suspect.

Below are the 3 different types of cladding systems that come under that banner, along with pictures to help you identify them.


3 Different Types of Monolithic Claddings in New Zealand.


There are three main types of cladding in New Zealand


  1. 1. Stucco
  2. 2. EIFS (“Chilli Bin”)
  3. 3. Fibre-cement sheets (“Harditex”)


1. Stucco

Stucco is a form of solid plastering it’s a sand/cement mix, which in the old days used to be made up on-site and then applied to a sheathing hardiboard or over building paper. It’s roughly about 22-25mm thick, which is about the thickness of your little finger. Today’s detail involves a multi layered system and is probably the least used type of cladding system today.


2. EIFS (“Chilli Bin”)

(Click on image to view larger size)

It stands for “Exterior Insulated Finishing System” and it means plastered polystyrene.

It originated in Germany after World War 2, it then went to America and arrived on our shores in the 80’s.

This type of cladding is deep, which is about 40mm-60mm thick and you can identify it by looking at the windows, as they are generally recessed.


3. Fibre Cement Sheets – Texture Coated (“HardiTex”)


These are sheets that are primarily cement based, and mixed with fibre. They came out of Austria and in the old days were, 90% cement and 10% asbestos, which have now been replaced with other fibrous or mesh material. They’re approximately 7mm thick and come in sizes of 2.4 x 1.2 with a rebated edge. They can be finished just with paint or they can be plastered.

To check, you can reach down and put your hand underneath the plasterboard and you might be able to feel a smooth, continuous plastic base capping, if that exists, then that’s a good thing, it means there’s a cavity system in place.


Today’s Solutions  - Same Stuff Different Method


The 4D’s system was coined by an architect in Vancouver and it’s a system or be it a guideline for builders to follow when managing water in the construction process.

 If you can get the structure of this principal you’ll probably know more than most builders.

It’s an easy way to remember this concept … It’s been packaged up into chunk size bites, which’ll let you recall the correct way to talk about how a property should be constructed, without getting too technical.

You just have to remember it in a logical and layered order-of-priority, if water was to hit the house.

Based on a contingency plan, there are 4 layers, which minimizes water from getting through:


Firstly … Deflect the water

 If that fails … Drain the water

If that fails … Dry the water

If that fails … Endure the water (Durability)

So, Deflect, Drain, Dry or worst case, if moisture still exists, (Durability) the materials must endure it.


Below is a breakdown of what each of these mean…

1. Deflection

Designed to intercept water on the face of the building and deflect away from the critical junctions in the cladding by aids such as window head flashings, roof eaves, verandas, parapet capping, window facings as well as the actual style of the building.

2. Drainage

If penetrated is to ideally run down the back of the cladding, finding specifically designed outlets to drain the water.

A cavity system, which are battens between the cladding and the protective wall covering isn’t the ultimate form but more of a back-up system designed to drain water.


3. Drying

Air needs to circulate within the wall assembly to dry the water out. This is to eliminate remaining moisture. The sun and wind will dry the exterior.


4. Durability

All cladding must meet the requirements of the building code, which requires a minimum of 15 years durability … the same goes for flashings.

We’ll continue to explore the vast landscape of leaky homes in later editions.

For those of you who want to get a bit deeper into these principles here is a link to the official BRANZ document, which is only two pages long.

BRANZ – Article

Building Today NZ

Click here to download a sample report