What a pain in the arse asbestos is! Your heart drops the minute you see it. It caused us a real pain at the beginning of this week…

We were working on a small job, just a window and an average length of roofline to replace at the front of a bungalow. I had sold the job about 4/5 weeks previous. Window went in nice as usual. Well surveyed and well fitted. Then it came to the roofline. As soon as the fitter started to dismantle the old stuff he noticed that it wasn’t just wood it was taking down, it was far more dangerous and so had to down tools.

The more you look into the rules on asbestos the more complicated it becomes as it is a health and safety nightmare. Best practise is to get off site, don’t disturb the asbestos materials and get specialists in to test what is actually there. Obviously there is a charge for this and we do pass this on to the customer. We explained this to the customer who was fine Monday morning, except that Tuesday morning, by the time her family had got involved, she suddenly turned into another awful person, but that stuff I’ve already ranted about.

So we get the asbestos specialists out to test what was there, and low and behold, it is the worst kind. It would have cost £3500 to completely seal the bungalow off, get into the roof, send a team of space suit men in to remove the asbestos safely and get the house right. I’m not complaining about the cost per se, it is imperative that this sort of thing is done correctly. The last thing we want to do is put people’s lives at risk. But it’s the amount of disruption to the work schedule that this work causes.

Needless to say, the customer chose to cancel that part of the job and pay for just the window. I think both parties were happy with that decision. However there was a bit of a bitter taste left in the mouth. The customer got rather angry at me because she said I should have spotted this before it got this far. That got my back up. I kindly explained to the lady that we sell windows and doors, we are NOT roof specialists and especially not asbestos specialists. The boards were covered up so how the hell was I supposed to see them? Most double glazing salesmen wouldn’t be able to tell you what is asbestos and what isn’t and what types there are in different roofs! Yet again another example of how our jobs have evolved way beyond what a customer thinks is realistic. We sell windows, I’m not going to tell you what your roofline is made from!

We’ve had this problem more often in the last few months and every time it causes a right headache. It’s just not worth it. So, our policy now is to ask the customer on the initial visit if they know if they have asbestos or not. If they know they do then we can then talk about removal options and how much that costs to have it done professionally and move on from there. If they don’t know, we explain that we then have to get a specialist asbestos company out to inspect if they have it or not, it’s not free and the charge would be passed on to the customer as it’s not that cheap. If they don’t want to do that then fine, we walk away. If they agree, then fine, we arrange it and proceed with the job if the house is asbestos free. So basically, if there is asbestos, we don’t do it, if there isn’t after inspection, we carry on.

Getting rid of the stuff is also a pain in the arse! Councils charge a fortune to get rid of it, homeowners don’t want to touch it and our fitters certainly aren’t qualified to get rid of it! From our point of view, with most of our business coming in the form of windows, doors and conservatories, if we lose out on the odd roofline job, it doesn’t matter. They’re just not worth the stress any more!