How to start an asbestos removal company
In this article, we'll cover:
Asbestos was once a common building material until it became clear how dangerous it was to people’s health. The most dangerous types of asbestos were banned in 1985 and then completely outlawed in 1999.
Nowadays, removal is in high demand as it’s often found in many older buildings. As such, there are plenty of opportunities out there for trained tradespeople like you to capitalise on demand and start up a business in this sector.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, this guide will talk you through how to start an asbestos removal company so you can take the next step in your career.
The qualifications you’ll need to start before you start
Asbestos removal is a dangerous line of work, so you’ll need to have the right qualifications in place before you start.
Having either of the following qualifications will show potential customers you have the right skills, knowledge and understanding of the best practices:
- A specialist training course approved by the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA)
- An asbestos removal operative apprenticeship
You’ll also need to apply for an asbestos removal licence. This is issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This is essential because of the dangers involved when handling and disposing of hazardous materials. The process is relatively straightforward and involves a formal assessment visit from a qualified professional.
Once you’ve paid for the licence and been given the green light, you can begin looking for work without having to worry about any more paperwork. Just bear in mind that you do need to renew the licence four months before it expires.
The equipment you need to get started
Before you get started, you’ll need a full inventory of tools. This is crucial for providing a safe and professional service.
Here’s the essential asbestos removal tools:
- Cloth tape
- Scraper blades
- Polythene bags
- Correx sheets
- A respiratory mask and gloves
- Thick protective clothing
- Adhesive and sealant
- Power tools
Given the health hazards in this line of work, make sure you invest in high-quality PPE. This includes having protective overalls and gloves, as well as respiratory masks. You need to keep yourself safe and you also must make sure that customers are not exposed to dust. So consider how to limit fragments and debris that fall during the removal.
For more advice on purchasing PPE, read our handy guide here.
Important skills to have
Going self-employed means you’ll face challenges not just on the job, but also running your business. That’s why you’ll need a wide set of skills to overcome these scenarios and succeed. Here are the most important qualities:
- Health and safety knowledge is vital for protecting yourself and the client from exposure
- You’ll need to pay close attention to detail for spotting material and managing precise removal without errors
- Teamwork skills are necessary to work safely with your employees
- You’ll need an understanding of finances
- It’s important to have some degree of building and construction knowledge for navigating different areas such as attics and guttering
- Interpersonal skills are valuable for providing a high standard of customer service and building client relationships
How to make your skills stand out
You can make yourself stand out from the competition by joining a trade association, as this will highlight your industry skills and adherence to the highest standards. Becoming a member of the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA), for instance, will enhance your reputation and potentially attract more clients to hire your service.
Setting up an asbestos removal company
Setting up a company includes taking several further steps if you want to lay solid foundations.
Registering your company
First of all, you’ll need to register your business with HMRC and set it up either as a limited company or as a sole trader. There are pros and cons to both.
Setting up as a limited company tends to be better for taking on employees and building a team. But, there is a lot of admin involved.
Operating as a sole trader tends to be a little more straightforward. Just remember that as a sole trader you’re personally responsible for any debt or loss your business incurs.
Having a strategy
Every business needs a thorough plan that sets out different services and who the target market will be. This way, you can approach your new venture with a clear direction. When outlining your service, you should try to find ways to make it unique. This is so you can stand out from the competition.
For example, you could build your business around flexibility and offer 24-hour emergency callouts for removal. This is a great way to pick up extra opportunities.
Specialisms you could focus on
Other areas of expertise could include:
- Large-scale phased removal on older estates
- Removal in listed buildings that require careful extraction
- Removal, demolition and clean-up of condemned buildings
- Asbestos search, inspection and consultation
- Removal in commercial buildings
Next, you should identify your target audience. It’s best to base this around your expertise. If your experience lies in the domestic market, it makes sense to target homeowners.
You could also approach local councils to determine if they have preferred contractors for asbestos removal – this will help you break into different markets with potentially larger, more lucrative contracts.
Your rates will need to take into account local competitors. You don’t want to set your prices too high and have potential customers choosing to go elsewhere, but you also don’t want to set your prices too low and be struggling to make a profit.
Licenced asbestos removal is a technical job that requires care and attention, and your pricing should always reflect that. If you’re still unsure, check out our cost guide here for a general idea of what to charge.
Hazardous work like this means insurance is absolutely essential. Here are the main types you should purchase:
- Public liability insurance – This will protect you if a customer feels their property has been damaged by your work – so this type of insurance is important if you’re working on historic buildings.
- Professional indemnity insurance – In the event that a customer is left unsatisfied with your work, you’ll be covered against any compensation or legal fees.
- Employers’ liability insurance – This is a legal requirement for covering your employees. Asbestos removal is dangerous work and sometimes involves working at height so this one is also key.
- Directors’ insurance – As head of the company this will provide you with protection against most claims
All Checkatrade members are required to have public liability insurance before becoming a member.
How do I grow an asbestos removal company?
Hiring more staff
As your company grows, you’ll probably be faced with larger workloads and more complex projects. Taking on employees will be essential if you want to tackle all of these jobs safely and efficiently.
That said, hiring is a process you need to treat carefully. Take your time to really make sure the person you’re looking to hire has a proven track record with all the necessary skills and experience.
As a part of this, you should check they also have an HSE licence so you can stay on the right side of the law. Alternatively, you could hire an apprentice as an extra pair of hands. Not only would this be cheaper; but it’s also a great chance to pass on all your skills and knowledge.
Using marketing to get you more work
Digital marketing is a sure-fire way to develop your reputation and grow your business.
One of the best ways to get your business out there is by becoming a Checkatrade member. We created 4.65 million jobs for our members in the last 12 months (data from December 2021). Added to this, 8 out of 10 homeowners would choose a tradesperson checked by Checkatrade, over one that isn’t*, meaning you’ll stand out from your competitors in the area that you’d like to work.
And don’t forget about social media. Before and after shots are always well received and give customers a good idea of what you can do. Just remember to use the most appropriate platforms.
Along with digital marketing, you can also use print marketing methods for local areas. For homeowners, you could distribute flyers door-to-door in surrounding neighbourhoods or post ads in local newspapers, while for commercial opportunities you can print your own business cards and brochures and hand these to potential clients. These will work even better if you have some case studies to include.
How much can I earn as an asbestos removal business owner?
Trained asbestos removers can make £25,000+ a year. Starting your own business in this trade sector could see you earn even more. By using marketing strategies and building your client base, you’ll benefit from a steady stream of business.
How much does it cost to start an asbestos removal company?
It’s hard to give exact figures because there are varying costs to take into account. You’ll have to pay fees for registration and insurance, but the amount you spend on equipment will depend on how many tools you already own. Marketing costs will also vary depending on what strategies you decide to use.