Research: COVID, Home renovations and Asbestos

16 Nov 2020


The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency partnered with Newgate Research in 2020 to explore the nexus between COVID-19 "stay at home" instructions, home renovations and DIY activities and the potential for asbestos exposure in the home.

Evidence suggests that during the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a boom in DIY home improvements giving rise to concerns of increased asbestos exposure risk. If these risks are not properly addressed, increased DIY activity in Australia during this time could be sowing the seeds for a future health crisis.

Research commissioned by ASEA (conducted by Newgate Research) found that:

  • 57% of Australians are ‘DIYers’ – people who have or would undertake at least part of a renovation or maintenance project by themselves
  • 40% of DIYers have worked on a property with asbestos risk (built between 1940 - 1990)
  • At least a third of projects started in the last 5 years have begun during early COVID-19 restrictions (March – June 2020).
  • Almost no one names asbestos as a high-risk consideration in DIY without being prompted. (5% vs 22% for electrical)
  • 1 in 5 DIYers had encountered asbestos in a previous project, but only half sought any kind of professional help to deal with it
  • 35% of those who have encountered asbestos in the past admit to inappropriate (illegal) disposal – mostly in their own or a neighbour’s household bin.
  • Though most DIYers felt it was important to know how to manage asbestos risks, only around half felt confident identifying or managing asbestos.

In addition to the ASEA research, there has been other relevant research and reporting:

  • Bunnings second-half sales growth are up 25.6 per cent as customers took advantage of the COVID-19 restrictions to make improvements to their homes and gardens (Wesfarmers’ 2020 full-year results).
  • Spending on property maintenance like electrical services, roofing, air conditioning servicing and rubbish removal has increased significantly (
  • Between April and June 2020 quotes for renovations and custom-built homes more than doubled, fuelled by Government grants like the HomeBuilder grant (ARF, 19 August 2020).
  • SafeWork South Australia have reported a 10 per cent increase in asbestos notification during the COVID-19 period, as an example of just one jurisdiction.

The Research Report from ASEA and Newgate is available here