Can You Paint A Roof With Asbestos Tiles?

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When you buy a home, it's natural to want to customize it to your preferences. Sometimes that means painting the roof to match other changes you've made to the home's exterior. If you discovered your roof tiles contain asbestos, you may be wondering if it's still possible to paint them. You can, but you must take special precautions while doing so.

The Real Problem with Asbestos

Asbestos was used fairly heavily in building materials such as siding and shingles for the better part of the 20th century. Although the Environmental Protection Agency was able to ban the use of many asbestos products in the seventies, manufacturers are still allowed to use the mineral in some goods such as cement shingles and roof coatings.

The asbestos shingles themselves aren't harmful if they're in good condition. They only become a problem when they are damaged in some way. At that point, there is a risk the shingles will release fibers into the air that, if inhaled, will damage the lungs and cause diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.

Since painting a roof often involves preparing the surface to take the paint, the risk of damaging the shingles is high. The risk is even greater if the roof was painted previously, because you'll have to either scrape or use chemicals to get the old paint off, which may lead to scratches or gouges that release dangerous particles into the air.

How to Paint Your Roof

As noted previously, you can still paint your roof, but you must take special precautions to avoid damaging the tiles. The first thing you should do is inspect the roof for shingles that have already been broken by time or environmental elements. Hire roofing contractors to either repair or remove and replace the ones showing signs of wear and tear.

Once the roof has been fixed, have it treated for mold, mildew, algae, or other types of growth that have accumulated on the shingles. Remember, you can't scrape or scratch at the tile, so you'll need to apply chemicals that are safe for use on asbestos shingles. A roofing contractor can recommend some products if you're not sure which one to buy.

Next, don protective gear such as a face mask, goggles, and gloves. With the sprayer nozzle set to medium-hard, use a hose to wet the shingles. This will help reduce the risk of the tiles breaking while you clean them and prevent particles from floating into the air if the tiles do tear. Gently scrub the shingles with a brush to remove loose paint, stubborn debris, and dirt.

After the entire roof has been cleaned, let it dry for at least two days. It's best to do this project in late spring or summer when the sun is most likely to be out, which can help dry the roof. If it rains during the waiting period, you'll need to wait another two days afterwards for the shingles to completely dry out.

Prior to applying the paint, you'll want to coat the roof with an acrylic exterior primer. In addition to helping the paint go on smoother and last longer, the primer can help seal the shingles and protect them from damage caused by environmental elements. It can cost an average of $200 to $400 an hour to have a professional remove asbestos shingles, so taking time to protect the ones you have can save you money in replacement costs down the road.

Lastly, start painting your roof. If you're using a spray brush to apply the paint, put it on the lowest setting possible that still allows you to get decent coverage. Do not put the sprayer on full blast as this could damage the shingles. If you're using a roller, use light pressure to avoid causing abrasions or scratches in the tiles. Apply at least two coats of paint, waiting a few days between sessions for each coat to fully dry.

While it does take a little bit of extra effort to paint asbestos shingles, you can do it. As an alternative, contact a roofing contractor with experience handling asbestos roofs to complete the project for you. Visit to learn more about your roofing.