What is artex?
Artex is a trade name for textured finishes, these are decorative finishes applied to walls and ceilings to create a variety of textured patterns. It was often used on lath and plaster ceilings to repair a wide range of joints and fault lines and cover cracks.
A history of artex in the UK
Although artex was once widely used modern homebuyers now tend to prefer a smooth and seamless finish normally paired with spotlights. Artex started in 1935, with the name Artex coming from “Asbestos Reinforced TEXtured coating. Textured finishes and artex was very widely used in the UK in the 1960’s, 1970s,1980’s and 1990’s mainly with the familiar stippled and swirled patterns. As of2023 Artex is still sold, but the textured ceiling finishes are now much less popular.
Does artex contain asbestos?
Yes it can do, but not all artex contains asbestos. Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, any artex produced after this should be free from asbestos. Artex finishes were very popular, and it was easy to acquire an off the shelf option in many homeware stores. This means artex was widely used in many buildings constructed nationally in the UK.
For finishes that do contain asbestos, White asbestos (chrysotile) asbestos fibres are generally found in artex. Although the exact quantity will vary from product to product, artex and other textured coatings usually only contain very small amounts of asbestos (normally between 1-4%).
Asbestos identification in artex
Asbestos in artex is an extremely difficult substance to identify in finishes as it is always mixed with other non-asbestos materials and as the chrysotile fibres are so small and wispy, sometimes even under a microscope they simply can be very hard to see.
If you want to be sure whether your artex contains asbestos, the best strategy is undertaking an asbestos sampling exercise or full asbestos survey to all areas suspected that asbestos containing materials might be present in.
The only way to identify 100% is to get the artex tested by a laboratory. There are two main options.
1. Home testing kits. Taking samples yourself, and sending them to a laboratory. Check out our previous blog on the reliability of home testing kits https://www.summitenvironmental.co.uk/blog/are-asbestos-home-testing-kits-reliable-q-and-a
2. We can attend following an enquiry, take sample and provide a full report with best next steps. One of our local asbestos surveyors can attend your commercial or domestic property and take samples of suspected asbestos material for you. We can identify if asbestos is in textured finishes such as artex. Contact us www.summitenvironmental.co.uk/contact
Since some artex does contain asbestos and some do not, the lab will need to analyse a sample of artex to determine if asbestos is present.
A key point to consider with number of samples required is because textured finishes are non-homogeneous, several sampling sites of the material will be required to guarantee a spectrum of the material is sampled. Although the finishes might look similar, they might have different content, for highest accuracy, this sample procedure should, of course, be carried out by qualified asbestos specialists for highest efficiency.
How dangerous is asbestos-containing artex?
Asbestos is most dangerous when it’s disturbed through damage. If you start to drill/cut the artex it will release asbestos fibres which become airborne and can be breathed in easily. Exposure to asbestos by inhaling you increase the risk of several serious diseases, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. However, with the low content of asbestos in artex, it is lower down the risk scale than many other products such as asbestos insulation or insulating boards.
I have asbestos in my artex, what can I do?
There are several options, skimming/plastering, false ceilings, or full removal, what’s the best option for you may depend on many factors such as planned follow-on works such as refurbishment, quantity to be removed, ease of removal such as access and height and budgets available.
Option 1. Remove the ceiling or wall coverings including the textured finish. Whether it is lath plaster or plasterboard. This option needs correct control measures such as personal protective equipment (PPE) respiratory protective equipment, an enclosure to reduce fibre release. This can be expensive, as artex is hard to remove, once the ceilings are removed, new ceilings will have to be replaced with new materials including two coats of plaster. This is the best option for asbestos containing textured finishes although can be expensive as you have to replace the ceiling once the old one is removed.
Option 2. Fit a false ceiling below. Fit another suspended ceiling such a new plaster board below by fitting a false ceiling made of plasterboard. This is particularly effective over dimpled or stippled artex. Bear in mind that if you have asbestos in your artex, you’ll need to fit the false ceiling without drilling into the artex, as this would cause disturbance to the asbestos. Instead, you can use a wood or metal track. The downside to this method is that it will lower your ceiling height slightly. So, it may not be ideal in houses where the ceiling height is already low.
Option 3. Skimming or plastering over artex. Providing the artex is in a good condition and there is no asbestos within, the answer is yes you can, but you must identify if asbestos is present first. Plastering involves scraping off as much of the swirls and dimples as possible to get a good surface to plaster or keying” the surface. If the artex contains asbestos, if you wish to change the appearance of your wall or ceiling, plastering over the textured coating is not a good solution. Undertaking this work can make the material more aesthetic. However, if asbestos artex is plastered over it should be noted that the asbestos is still in situ beneath and future works such as drilling should be undertaken in a controlled manner to avoid fibre release. This information should be provided to a future purchaser if the property is sold. This is important when retro fitting things like new lights and smoke alarms and could lead to asbestos exposure.
Option 4. If the asbestos-containing materials are in good condition and left undamaged they can be left alone and untreated as they pose no current threat. The fibres are well bonded so it’s only when the artex is disturbed it releases fibres. Be aware if asbestos artex is identified in a property and you don’t deal with it when you go to sell the property and will likely try to negotiate on costs for asbestos removal.
Asbestos is a class one carcinogen; asbestos testing should always be undertaken for artex. Works containing asbestos should be undertaken be asbestos removal contractors. Plastering over artex with asbestos is not recommended and you should inform your plasterer or builder if it does.
How can Summit Environmental help you?
- Testing of artex and textured finishes
- Asbestos surveys, to identify where asbestos might be
- Removal and remediation of asbestos ceilings
- Management plans and consultancy, how to manages asbestos correctly
- Asbestos awareness training, to help you with your liabilities
- Reinspection surveys, to check the condition of existing materials