Dealing with Asbestos in Retail Units


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Many of the retail units built in the 1960's and 1970's, possibly a bit earlier, possibly a bit later, have utilised asbestos in their construction as a key component in the fire compartmentisation process. In a unit of retail shops with residential flats above the asbestos can be used as a fire break. It may also have been used as a firebreak around the plant room incorporating the boiler, or it may also have been used around a storeroom that perhaps had flammable materials, such as cleaning fluids, etc. Equally, it may have been used in some of the finishing products, such as the ceiling tiles, or the floor tiles.

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Asbestos comes in different types and there are different tests available

Most retail units (at the time of writing) that are leasehold require a Type 2 asbestos test / report, which is non-evasive. However, if work is being carried out, such as alterations, extensions, amendments, perhaps even a new air conditioning system, then a Type 3 asbestos report is needed. This is an evasive test where samples are taken.

Health and Safety Executive

The Health and Safety Executive (known as HSE) have a very good website with regard to asbestos and carry out a search for asbestos. There is detailed information, including where you find asbestos? which covers:

1.  asbestos cement products

2.  textured coatings

3.  floor tiles

4.  textiles and composites

5.  spray coatings on ceilings, walls, beams and columns

6.  asbestos insulation board

7.  lagging

8.  loose asbestos in ceilings or floor cavity

They have a great interactive picture, which if you click on highlights some areas on the property sketch, and if you click on again bring up detailed information on it. There has obviously been a great deal of time and information spent.

The other thing we feel is great about the website is myth of the month, where they reveal everything from whether Punch and Judy needs a risk assessment, to hard hats for trapeze artists, to Health and Safety Executives banning stepladders for workers putting up decorations.

Repair, replace or overclad/encapsulate

There are three options, or variations, of these options with asbestos.


It may well be the best option if the retail units are operating. Anything more than repair may have a large cost implication for the business operating in the premises.


This is a long-term solution, possibly one that is more appropriate to freeholders than leaseholders. This over time removes the problem and also when the property is sold on, it removes the problem, or a perceived problem, that can affect value as, all things being equal, a prospective buyer would purchase a property without asbestos rather than with. The Building Regulations also poses an interesting problem, which means that sometimes repair or encapsulation cannot be used and replacement is the only answer. This is such as a sound insulation between a ground floor retail unit and a first floor flat, which has previously had an asbestos firebreak. As far as we are aware the only alternative is to remove and bring up to date. An alternative and appropriate case where the asbestos is in good condition is to lift the floorboards in the flat or residential unit above the retail unit, therefore meaning that shop side can continue trading.


This is often used where there is an asbestos roof and it is still necessary for the occupiers to continue trading. Overcladding with an appropriate system lowers the risk of the deteriorating asbestos (but it is still present). It may be a long term cost effective solution, which at some point in time can then have the asbestos removed. Interestingly, it should be noted that you have to drill through the asbestos to fix the metal profile sheeting.

Disposing of asbestos

Much easier said than done. For the latest advice on this consult the Health and Safety Executive website.

You may like to read some more information about asbestos:


Industrial Commercial Properties - The Asbestos Cement Dilema


If you need help and advice with regard to asbestos, asbestos cement, leases, dilapidations, schedules of condition, dilaps claims, break clauses, scott schedules, building surveys, structural reports / engineers reports / specific defects report, structural surveys, home buyers reports or any other property matter please call 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat. Please note we are independent surveyors. If you have a commercial leasehold property, or are a landlord, and are contemplating dilapidations then please visit our website on Dilaps Help then please visit our and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site . We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

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