Are fibro and asbestos the same thing? Why do they often get confused? What is the difference between asbestos and non asbestos cement fibre sheeting? It’s time to clear up the confusion around some of the most widespread building products of the 20th (and 21st) Century.
Asbestos and Fibro are not the same thing – kinda…
Asbestos Containing Materials
We know alot about asbestos – It’s our business to. We can tell you about the history of the ‘miracle mineral’, the various types of asbestos (hint – there’s not just one), common places you might find asbestos about the house and most importantly, how to get rid of dangerous building materials in a safe and responsible manner. You can read it all here on our website. But what about fibro and gyprock and fibre board?
Cement Products – do they contain asbestos?
Not to be confused with concrete or mortar, cements are simply fine powders that are used to bind materials together and add strength. In fact is an ingredient in concrete and mortar. Cement now dominates our built environments. Without it we wouldn’t have our modern buildings, highways, bridges and dams. Terrifyingly, it is the second most used resource in the world after water and has vast environmental impacts to say the least. Cement products, such as fibre cement sheeting, can contain asbestos.
Fibre Cement Sheeting – does it contain asbestos?
Ok so here is where some confusion begins. Fibre cement goes by a few names – fibro, fibrous cement – not to mention getting confused with fibre board and gyprock which often get mistakenly thrown into the mix and do not contain asbestos (or cement for that matter!).
So what is fibre cement sheeting? It is a durable, fire, moisture and termite resistant construction material that is mostly used as external cladding or roofing. The name comes from using various natural or synthetic fibrous materials to strengthen or reinforce cement sheets. For example, paper, fibreglass, carbon fibre, cellulose fibre and of course the infamous asbestos have all been added to cement.
Ah, so here we get to our stumbling block and source of all confusion. Does fibre cement have asbestos? The answer is yes, but mostly no.
Wait. What’s that now? How can that be the answer?
Well your right. There’s more to it than that.
The problem is when people ask the question ‘does fibre cement contain asbestos?’, they are not simply referring to brand new, manufactured products. You see, fibre cement off the assembly line and fibre cement cladding from an not so old home are not the same product. Back in the late 1800s an Austrian guy decided it would be worthwhile to strengthen cement with asbestos fibres. Well done, Ludwig! Thankyou for creating our professional asbestos removal industry! But he can’t bear the full brunt of our hindsight, some kudos must go to James
Hardie whose company became the predominant manufacturer of asbestos cement products in Australia. So, yes, for a hundred years until the 1980s fibre cement contained asbestos.
But during this time we realised too late just how life threatening the presence of friable asbestos is. Now fibre cement does not contain asbestos.
Testing For Asbestos
At the end of the day even some professional asbestos removers can’t be certain whether fibro has asbestos in it. It all depends on the age of the building and what materials were available at the time. The best way to know for sure is to get About The House to do an asbestos test. You can send a sample to us or have our professionals come to your home to collect a piece of the suspect material. We will then have it tested for asbestos in a laboratory. Ultimately, asbestos testing is cheaper than demolition and is a small price to pay for peace of mind. To get a quote or find our more, contact About The House Safe Asbestos Removal.