How to tell asbestos from fibro

Asbestos in building materials is tricky to identify. Initially, it’s largely a guess (for the homeowner or building owner) based on the era it was renovated or built, and then to a degree the types of materials (such as vinyl – though that also helps to speak to the era of the building). With that, there are some materials that carry a higher likelihood of having asbestos than others. One of these is ‘fibro’, where there’s a common misconception that asbestos and fibro are one in the same. Here are how they’re connected, and how they are different. 

Firstly, what is fibro asbestos?

Fibro is short for Fibrous Cement Sheeting, and is made up of reinforced thin cement sheet. During the time of wide asbestos use, fibro was in the fold of materials that contained it (between 1930 and 1990). The fibres of asbestos are within the fibro, making it a contaminated material that needs expert removal and disposal. However, fibro can exist without asbestos and, of course, asbestos can exist without fibro. 

The differences between fibro and asbestos

If you have fibro in the building you want to disturb, it is vital to have it professionally tested for asbestos. However, in terms of what the materials are fundamentally made from, there are plenty of differences. 

Asbestos is a hazardous, fibrous material that is part of a range of materials, particularly in building. This typically is found in insulation, roofing, flooring and cement sheeting. 

Fibro is a type of material that’s made up of cement and fibres, including but not exclusively asbestos. Its use became widespread for its efficiency in constructing ceilings, walls and corrugated roofs, and was particularly popular in Australia and New Zealand due to its cost-effectiveness (getting materials into our relatively remote country meant cutting cost corners was a preference).  

The fibres in asbestos are longer and thinner than the fibres in fibro, and tend to be more flexible. You can also see the fibres in fibro a little more clearly, with the eye, than asbestos (where you would need a microscope). 

Does all fibro have asbestos fibres?

No. Like all asbestos use, its use in fibro was phased out in the late 1980s when asbestos stopped being manufactured and imported in Australia. However, due to it still existing in current buildings as a legacy material, it is vital to have it professionally tested for asbestos. 

Do you have fibro in your home or building and are planning to demolish or renovate? Call us today for expert testing, consultation, and safe removal and disposal of asbestos