How to cut asbestos cement

Written by ian kelly
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Since asbestos dust is a dangerous carcinogen, cutting asbestos cement should be avoided wherever possible. If you have no other choice, avoid using power tools of any kind and wear a respirator equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter when doing so. Soak the material thoroughly, and then keep a running hose on the area during the cut. Vacuum thoroughly with a wet/dry shop vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter after finishing.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Straightedge
  • Utility knife
  • Thick plank
  • C clamps
  • Dolphin-nosed tin snips
  • Carpenter's rasp
  • Bench grinder
  • 1-inch-diameter steel pipe
  • Vice
  • Punch
  • Hammer
  • Hand drill
  • Sharp drill bit
  • Hacksaw fitted with a coarse blade

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    Cutting Sections

  1. 1

    Mark the line to be cut on asbestos cement sheeting, using a pencil and straightedge.

  2. 2

    Wet the line down and score a deep groove into the surface with a sharp utility knife and straightedge.

  3. 3

    Place the sheet on a solid surface, such as a work bench or a table, with the score lined up with the side and the waste protruding over the edge. Place a thick plank on the cut line and clamp it to the table with a pair of C clamps. Apply sudden forceful downward pressure to snap the sheet.

  4. 4

    Cut asbestos cement corrugated roofing material with a pair of heavy dolphin-nosed tin snips. Mark the cut line with a pencil and straightedge. Wet the surface down and use the tin snips to cut and break off small sections at a time. Smooth off jagged edges with a sharp carpenter's rasp to keep asbestos particle sizes as large as possible. Have a helper wet the area down while you're using the rasp.

  5. 5

    Saw through a cut line in asbestos cement pipe with a hacksaw fitted with a coarse blade. Use slow deliberate strokes with the saw under water trickling from a hose pipe.

  6. 6

    Cut a 45 degree bevel onto the edge joint of asbestos cement siding with a large carpenter's rasp. Have a helper move a running hose to follow the rasp while cutting. Use slow deliberate strokes to keep dust down.

    Cutting Holes

  1. 1

    Make roofing bolt holes in corrugated asbestos sheeting by punching holes out rather than drilling. Mark the holes to be punched out with a pencil. Use a bench grinder to shape the end of a short piece of 1-inch-diameter steel pipe to fit the profile of the corrugations; this will act as a support for the punch.

  2. 2

    Clamp the pipe in a vice and have an assistant help manoeuvre the sheet into position over the pipe. Wet the surface down and place a punch over the premarked point. Deliver a sharp blow to the end of the punch with a hammer.

  3. 3

    Drill smooth holes through asbestos cement with a hand drill fitted with a sharp drill bit if punching is impractical. Keep the area wet with a low pressure hose while drilling and crank the drill slowly. This method will reduce dust and keep the shavings as large as possible.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear disposable paper overalls when cutting asbestos cement. Discard used overalls in a sealed plastic bag after use.
  • Take a shower after work and shampoo your hair to get rid of dust particles.
  • Use a respirator fitted with a HEPA filter, eye protection and heavy work gloves when working with asbestos cement.

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