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How to identify asbestos fibro cladding


If you are thinking about renovating, you must be aware of asbestos. It is important for home owners and renovators to be aware of how to safely manage asbestos in and around the home.

Importantly, if you suspect you have asbestos in your home, Dont cut it! Don't drill it! Don't drop it! Don't sand it! Don't saw it! Don't scrape it! Don't scrub it! Don't dismantle it! Don't tip it! Don't waterblast it! Don't demolish it! And whatever you do... Don't dump it!.

Asbestos Audit Report (Pre Purchase asbestos inspection)

Asbestos is known for its strength and resistance to chemicals and heat. These properties resulted in asbestos becoming a component of thousands of different products. Mining, milling and processing of asbestos into manufactured products creates asbestos dust that contains asbestos fibres.

Asbestos was used in a variety of workplaces from the 1940s up until the early 1980s when the dangers to health inherent in exposure became more widely acknowledged. The range of applications included reinforcing in asbestos-cement sheeting, as an insulator on pipes and in buildings, as a fire retardant in textiles and as a filtering material in the chemical and food industries.

A large number of building products consisting of asbestos-cement have been used

historically in the building industry in Australia. Asbestos cement is a mixture of cement,

sand, cellulose and asbestos which forms a hard, light grey material. These asbestos-cement products (about 10-15% by weight asbestos fibres) include asbestos-cement sheeting, gutters, downpipes and ridge capping. In Australia, over 60% of production and 90% of all consumption of asbestos fibre was used in the asbestos cement manufacturing industry.

The fibres are bound in the cement matrix and it is only if they become airborne that there is a risk of inhalation such as with power tool usage or breaking sheets.

New fibrous-cement products no longer contain asbestos (replaced by non-asbestos fibres such as cellulose in the late 1980s). Prior to 1970, crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite(brown asbestos) were extensively used in many asbestos-cement building products. The use of crocidolite began being phased out from 1967 and amosite was used until the mid 1980s. Asbestos was a common component in friction materials such as brake shoes, disk pads, clutch housings and elevator brakes. Asbestos fibre was used in roof sealants, textiles, plastics, rubbers, door seals for furnaces, paper and floor tiles. The prohibition of chrysotile was adopted for the manufacture and use of and importation of products containing chrysotile asbestos from December 2003. The prohibition does not extend to asbestos containing materials in-situ.

How to identify asbestos fibro cladding

Asbestos fibro cladding

Fibro sheeting is perhaps one of the commonest building products to come across when doing renovations to an older building. It was widely used from the 1950’s and is still being used today, albeit in non asbestos form thankfully.

Fibro sheeting gained popularity during the post World War II period because of its cheap and durable nature. As a result it became widely used for building of cheaper style houses.

The most likely form of fibro to come across is the flat sheet fibro, often used for outside cladding of houses, sheds and garages. This flat sheeting was simply nailed to the wooden framed structure thus making construction quick and cheap. No wonder is was (and still is) widely used.

It can sometimes be found inside houses such as backrooms, toilets and games rooms. It was especially popular for renovations and additions. Special wet area versions designed for bathrooms and laundries are quite common in older wooden framed houses also.

James Hardie & Co Fibrolite Products

The main manufacturer of fibro asbestos cement sheeting was James Hardie & Co who produced a whole range of products under the brand name of Fibrolite. The name Fibrolite, was used to describe virtually any of its asbestos cement products such as flat sheeting, corrugated sheeting, decorative profiles, mouldings and pipe. In the 1960’s Hardies gave some products more marketable names such as Hardiflex, Colorbord, Shadowline, Coverline, Tilux, Versilux, Super Six and Asbestolux.

The Fibrolite generation house. Later versions of the sheeting are called Hardiflex.

Top section shows Hardies Shadowline. A decorative asbestos fibro wall cladding.

Popular during the 1960′s and 1970′s.

Fibro and Hardiflex are quite often used under the eaves of brick houses. Beware of old brick houses when doing work to the eaves. These sheets may contain asbestos.

Hardies Tilux. Wet area asbestos fibro used for bathrooms and laundries.

Other Manufacturers

Fibro sheeting was also produced by Wunderlich and under the names of Durabestos and Durawall.

Asbestos Fibro and Non Asbestos Fibro

Not all fibro contains asbestos. Modern fibro equivalents are asbestos free and are manufactured with cellulose fibres sourced from wood pulp. The use of asbestos was phased out in Australia for all fibro building products in the 1980′s.

Below is a guide to the dates when products ceased to be manufactured with asbestos fibre. Be aware that asbestos was slowly phased out (presumably to allow manufacturers to use up stocks of asbestos fibre they had) and some products manufactured around these dates may contain from 3–5 per cent asbestos.


Hardiflex 1981

Hardiplank 1981

Villaboard 1981

Versilux 1982

Harditherm 1984

Drain Pipe 1984

Super Six 1985

Highline 1985

Shadowline 1985

Coverline 1985

Roofing Accessories 1985

Pressure Pipe 1987

From: Management of asbestos in the non-occupational environment by Department of Health and Ageing.

Tips to Identify Asbestos Fibro

It is important to distinguish between fibro that contains asbestos and similar looking modern cellulose based equivalents. James Hardie & Co was a major manufacturer of asbestos fibro and continues to make fibre cement products based on much safer cellulose fibres.

Hardies manufactured flat fibro sheeting originally named Fibrolite which was available in various thicknesses and sheet sizes. During the early 1960′s Hardies began using the name Hardiflex for some of its flat asbestos sheeting. Asbestos versions of Hardiflex was manufactured up to 1981 and there after was replaced by the safer cellulose fibre versions. Note that the name Hardiflex was retained even though the product was now manufactured without asbestos …which may cause some confusion.


Any structure like a house or shed built in the 1950′s, 60′s and 70′s is a candidate for containing asbestos fibro. Try to find out the date when the house was built by consulting local authority records, the builder, past owners or even the neighbours. Also be aware of any renovations using asbestos fibro. For example, replacing old wooden weatherboards with asbestos fibro was a popular renovation technique, as was doing extentions in asbestos fibro.

Be cautious of buildings constucted in the early to mid 1980′s where asbestos was being phased and being replaced by cellulose fibre cement products. Consult the above table for a guide.

Buildings constructed post 1990 would most certainly be constructed from non asbestos materials.

Fasteners and joiners

External: A dead give away of asbestos fibro is the 40mmx6mm or 75mmx8mm battens used to cover the join between the sheets.  Also note the special fibro nails that do not have a point. The idea behind these was to punch a hole through the sheet and reduce fracturing. See pic below.

The 40x6mm batten found on asbestos fibro. They often have a bad habit of breaking off as well.

Fibro nail without point. Used on asbestos fibro sheeting.

In addition, there may be various corner and angle sections which is a tell tale sign of old asbestos fibro.

Joiners: Aluminium joiners are dead give away that the material is asbestos fibro. Later forms of Hardiflex use plastic strip joiners between the sheets, however be cautious of those buildings in the early 1980′s that might have used asbestos fibro with plastic joiners.

Internal: You may find asbestos fibro inside the house as well. In general, the 40x6mm external battens are not used inside but are replaced with wooden battens or aluminium H section. Also bathroom/laundries may have Tilux, a wet area asbestos fibro with aluminium H section joiners.

Internal walls. Fibro joins maybe covered with wooden battens


Later versions of asbestos fibro may have markings: “Contains Asbestos“. Alternatively, some non asbestos fibro/Hardiflex may have markings of:  “Does Not Contain Asbestos”

Some markings are non descriptive such as N28B7 HARDIFLEX AB. Unfortunately James Hardie & Co has not released any information about these codes. If your lucky you might find a date of manufacture marking.


Close Up Inspection

Use a digital camera in macro mode to take a close up shot of the sheet edge. If your lucky you may be able to spot the clumps of asbestos fibres. Although asbestos fibres are microscopic quite often the strands of fibres are clumped together. Typically cellulose based cement products are a lot more uniform without visible fibres and may have a layered appearance.

Warning: Importantly, if you suspect you have asbestos in your home, Dont cut it! Don't drill it! Don't drop it! Don't sand it! Don't saw it! Don't scrape it! Don't scrub it! Don't dismantle it! Don't tip it! Don't waterblast it! Don't demolish it! And whatever you do... Don't dump it!

Close up shot of asbestos fibro and modern Hardiflex(non asbestos)

Dimples: Older asbestos fibro often has a distinctive dimpled pattern on the back. Compare this to modern HardiFlex.

Notice the dimple pattern on the asbestos fibro when compared to modern non asbestos Hardiflex.

False brick cladding may have a backing sheet of asbestos fibro. Exercise caution.

Fibro asbestos sheets tend to be harder and more brittle than the equivalent non asbestos Hardiflex sheets due the age and hydration of the cement fibre matrix.


Laboratory testing

If all else fails and you want to be absolutely sure with what your dealing with, then the ultimate test is to take a sample for laboratory analysis. A list of laboratories can be found on the NATA(National Association Testing Authorities) website –

Warning If you are thinking about renovating, you must be aware of asbestos. It is important for home owners and renovators to be aware of how to safely manage asbestos in and around the home.

It is critical to prevent asbestos exposure, Premise Inspections is able detect asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in homes and commercial buildings prior to demolition or renovation.

Premise Inspections can complete in-field rapid screening and identification of all six types of regulated asbestos fibers and provide a register usually within 24 hours of the inspection.

This technology allows our inspectors to perform non invasive inspections, reducing the risk of disturbing the material and costly laboratory testing.

The typical inspection area is as follows:


Walls, ceilings, floors (generally six spots screened per area/room)


Walls, eaves and fences (generally six spots screened)

Lump sum Fee (bases on a four bedroom single storey building)

$749. (Excl GST)

Please see the attached link for more information regarding the Thermo Scientific microPHAZIR AS handheld analyzer Link

Plastic joiner as used on modern Hardiflex.

Asbestos fibro angled covering.

Fibro nail without point

The aluminium joiner between the sheets of asbestos Tilux

asbestos fibro used for bathrooms

 Widely used from sheds to bathrooms

Structures built in the 1950′s, 60′s and 70′s

Outside corner section

of asbestos fibro

False brick cladding