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I'm thinking of buying a house. The outside is covered with asbestos siding. The house was built in the 1920s, but I have no idea how old the siding is.

I know that this stuff is supposed to be safe as long as it's not crumbling, but at some point I might want to make holes in it (to add a kitchen or bathroom vent, or maybe even add a window). Using grinding tools seems like exactly the thing you're not supposed to do, but what other options are there?

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I've worked in the asbestos regulation industry for years and I can tell you that it's easy to go overboard with hysteria and fear. As the homeowner, you're entitled (within limits) to do what you want with your asbestos as long as you don't endanger others by causing an air pollution hazard or waste disposal issue.

That being said, carefully grinding a hole through a few asbestos shingles is not going to be problem if you contain dust within a simple plastic enclosure, or a stream of water. Pretend you're working in an archaeology museum and you MUST keep dust to an absolute minimum. After that, just bag your material and throw it out with your regular waste. You are entitled to certain minimums after which you must treat these materials like hazwaste.

Check with local municipal regs beforehand. They're likely on a website.

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    1) not all fiber cement siding has asbestos in it (yes, most do..but not all), 2) I have never successfully been able to drill through this stuff, beyond 1/2" hole, without it cracking...no matter how careful I was, 3) thank you, Knob Scratcher, for pointing out that asbestos isn't the hazmat material the hype would have most believe; same with lead paint. – James Olson Dec 15 '16 at 15:41

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