Asbestos, what to do?


Asbestos is a material with well-known carcinogenic effect and is found in a very large number of buildings constructed before January 1, 1991, the year it was officially banned. Nowadays, its identification, or even its elimination, is a precondition for any renovation or destruction. Cardis Sotheby's International Realty explains how to proceed.

Asbestos diagnosis

Two cantons have included this requirement in their laws: Geneva (2009) and Vaud (2011). Municipalities issue building permits only when they are informed by an expert of the degree of risk of asbestos in the object in question. "This also applies to interior work," says Marcus Rothenbühler, agent at Cardis Sotheby's International Realty. In other cantons, companies are strongly encouraged to eliminate this risk. This examination Is called the asbestos diagnosis. It must be entrusted to an expert or a certified company. They carry out tests in the part of the building and sometimes even in the entire property. They then prepare a report indicating the presence or absence of asbestos and recommend the measures to be taken. If asbestos is present, the owner must carry out a thorough asbestos removal before proceeding with the other work, which involves the intervention of specialized companies, which must confine the premises before specifically equipped workers to remove the material. In the most extreme cases the entire building must be confined. Only once this step has been completed the owner can begin the planned work.


An owner wants to redo his bathrooms. Here are the steps to take:

  • Estimate for the work.
  • Order from a certified expert for an asbestos diagnosis.
  • The expert conducts examinations and prepares his report.
  • The report must be attached to the building permit application (if required).
  • In case of a positive result (presence of asbestos in the work area), asbestos removal must be carried out and the toxic material disposed of in special dumps.
  • Once this step has been completed, the work can begin!

The cost

A diagnosis alone costs between CHF 1,500 and CHF 3,000 for the examination of an object in its entirety. Asbestos removal work is obviously much more expensive. The more complex the work, the higher the cost. The costs are usually tens of thousands of Swiss francs in normal situations, and up to CHF 100,000 for large-scale work.


A simple diagnosis can be done in one day with a few days of additional time for the report. The larger the area to be examined, the longer the examination time. Asbestos removal work takes a few days or even several weeks depending on the importance of the work. It is therefore better to include this additional time when planning the work of the various trades. There is, however, one way to limit the cost of the work: avoid touching the asbestos parts. For example: lay a new layer of tile over the old one. The asbestos in the binder of the old materials is therefore not touched and does no longer present a danger.

And in the case of a sale?

The asbestos diagnosis is not mandatory in case of sale of an object. But it is strongly recommended in terms of transparency towards the buyers as Marcus Rothenbühler emphasizes. The lack of such transparency can cause a sale to fail. When signing the deed, the notary must mention a clause concerning the risk of asbestos in the house. Presenting an asbestos diagnosis, especially if the property actually contains asbestos, allows the situation to be clarified in advance and the risk to be included in the final price. It is therefore in the buyer's best interest to require the a diagnostic report before signing in order to get a more precise idea of the asbestos risk, and therefore of the additional costs to which he is exposed in case he wants to undertake work.