Asbestos Containing products in the home, what forms it can take and where it is likely to be.

I did Google search for "Asbestos Containing Products" and found many sites that contain lists of a frightening amount of products that ranged from curtains to lamp wicks, welding rods to jointing compounds.  One site listed over 3000 and admitted that that wasn't the total. I guess that we will never know the true extent of this noxious substance.  So on this page I will list only the main one's that are likely to be causes of concern to homeowners.

Fibro or asbestos cement sheets
Asbestos containing products-Fibro or asbestos cement sheets on a suburban home in Australia.  The cover battens and corner moulds also contain asbestos fibres.

Asbestos cement siding, AC or FAC,Fibrous Asbestos Cement sheets.

Asbestos cement siding is used on external and internal walls and ceilings, as in the photo above and it can also be found in the typical planked siding form.

Asbestos cement sheets at the joint
Asbestos containing products-Fibro or asbestos cement sheets at the bottom of a panel. A common occurrence is for the AC cover batten to split of fall off if the nail fixing is too close to the end of the batten.

asbestos nail or shear point
Asbestos containing products- The common nail for fixing FAC sheets was the galvanised shear point, which would punch its way through the brittle sheet rather than splitting it.

The infamous Fibro as it was commonly called are flat cement based sheets reinforced with asbestos fibres.  They were by far the most common of the asbestos containing products used in home building.
The sheets were produced in two thicknesses, 6mm and 4.5mm, two widths, 900 and 1200 and from 1800 to 2700 long.
Fibro sheets have a face side that while basically smooth it has a slight ripple effect and the normally hidden side has a dimpled texture.
They were fixed with 2.8 x 25 or 30 shear point,flat head galvanised nails, commonly known as Fibro nail.
The reason for the shear points being that they punched their way through the brittle Fibro sheets without splitting them, as a conventional pointed nail would have done.
The old Fibro sheets were far more brittle than today's sheets that have replaced them

the inside face of an asbest cover batten
Asbestos containing products- The inside face of a 40x8 AC cover batten. Note the fact that the batten has a slight hollow of about 1mm to help it sit firmly over slightly uneven sheets.  I have run a pencil line down each side to make it clearer in the photo.

fibrous asbestos cement cover batten
Asbestos containing products- fibrous asbestos cement cover batten.  With the movement of the underlying timber frame over the years it is quite common to see the nails popping, as shown above.

Cover Battens and external corner moulds are accessory type asbestos containing products that originally always were used in conjunction with Fibro sheets.  Internal corner joints were usually covered with two standard cover battens.
Used at sheet joints, at corners and around windows and doors these items are 40x8mm thick and came in up to 3000 lengths.
They were usually cut to length with a hack saw as Fibro cutters would not do This job.
They also were fixed with shear point nails.

On internal ceilings and walls the Fibro battens were almost never used.  The joints were made with aluminium "H" joint strips and sometimes aluminium internal and external corners.

A word of caution

Prospective purchasers, intending renovators and handymen should note that many Fibro clad houses have had their battens and corner moulds removed in order to disguise the fact that the cladding is an asbestos containing product. The ones that are simply then patched with some sort of bogging compound are easily spotted.  Harder to see are the ones that have simply been covered up with various types of sheeting.

This in itself may not be a problem, except that when they come to do any renovations they will have to factor in the extra cost involved in safely working with and disposing the offending material.

Wet area Fibrous Asbestos Cement sheets. Trade name "Tilux" Manufactured in Australia by James Hardy and Co.

Used in the wet areas, Bathroom, WC, laundry and kitchen splash backs.  This pre finished/painted coloured wet area sheeting is 6mm thick and comes in 900 and 1200 wide and usually 1800 and 2100 high sheets.   Usually in mottled patterns and using aluminium trims.
Almost always in my experience fixed with chromed screws in loose caps.  Towards the end of the use of Tilux adhesives like liquid nails could have been used to fix it.

Once again a word of caution, many times this asbestos containing product has been covered up with ceramic tiles by renovators.

asbestod roofing
Asbestos containing products- Hardies Super Six roof sheeting, also showing the asbestos containing hip and ridge flashing and a ridge vent.

AC or FAC,Fibrous Asbestos Cement corrugated roof and wall sheets. 

Called "Super Six" or sometimes (later on) "Fibrolite" these asbestos containing products along with their accessories, were used for roof sheets mainly, but they were also used for industrial walls.
They were made in approximately 900 wide by 1800 long sheets.  The fixings were proprietary screws or hooked bolts in the case of angle purlins with a typical diamond shaped galvanised washer.

Another very popular application was for garden fencing.  The Super Six sheets were stood up vertically into say a 450 deep trench, bolted at the joins, a capping piece was added and the trench back filled.  No posts or rails were needed.

Asbestos cement sheets thicker than Fibro or siding materials.

  • AC sheets were produced in thicknesses other than the 4.5mm and 6mm sheets intended purely for cladding walls and ceilings. .  The manufacturing process was different and so the surface finish on the thicker sheets is a lot smoother than the flat AC siding sheets.
  • 10mm to 12mm thick sheets have been used as panels in various places, for example they have been used a lot to panel out verandah and deck handrails, stair handrails, door and window head feature panels etc.
  • Thickness from 15mm to 22mm have been used on top of timber floor joists in wet areas and patios.  These thicknesses have also been used for bench tops, although this was more common in commercial kitchens, laboratories etc.

Other less common asbestos containing products.

  • A variation of of standard FAC is a product that is intended to look like red clay brickwork.  The sheets are standard FAC sizes, 6mm thick and the imitation brickwork attempts to duplicate the appearance of 225x75 bricks with a 10 joints.
  • FAC Gutters and rain water down pipes.  They have a similar surface appearance to the corrugated roofing.
  • There used to be a lot of moulded type planter boxes out of Fibro.  These type of moulded products had a larger percentage of fibres, or just longer fibres in them than the plain flat sheeting.
  • Similar to the last item are telephone cable pits.
  • There are a few different types of roofing shingles that contain asbestos.
  • Vinyl floor tiles that we never suspected contained asbestos, started appearing with asbestos warning labels on them in the phase out period (late 70's early 80's).  There would still be many of those still about.
  • Underlay sheets for vinyl tiles and ceramic tiles.
  • Old furnace, boiler and heating installations often used a number of asbestos containing products, including pipe lagging, jointing compound, pipe and duct gaskets, flue pipes,door seals etc.
  • Some texture type paints and paints containing flock type bulking out for soundproofing.
  • Acoustic ceiling panels.   (hi-fi buffs used to stick them on walls also).

Never discount the possibility that previous owners of the home brought into the house or garden some asbestos containing product that was not really a part of the house or building material.
For example, when I started the large deck shown here, I had to clean up the site, and I had to safely dispose of 40 or 50 lengths of 150mm FAC water pipe that had been used as garden bed edging.   It was deteriorating badly and the owners hadn't a clue what it was.  It was a concern more so because there was a young child in the home.

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Asbestos - Disclaimer.

This is a highly complex and stringently regulated field.   I am not a scientist, I am not a government spokesperson or anyone with any authority to talk or give professional advice on the subject in your area.

What I am is a retired builder with a large amount of practical experience fixing fibrous asbestos cement products and then later removing them.

In 1995 I was issued an asbestos removal licence (43133) by the Northern Territory Work Health Authority, and did many asbestos removal jobs, complying with Australian Work Health (OH&S) Regulations and the NOHSC National Code Of Practice For The Safe Removal Of Asbestos.

I hope you get something of value out of these pages, but a word of caution, at the last count I get visitors from 132 different countries, there is no way that I can give specific advice that would comply with the regulations in your country, state, district or local area.

In other words, the onus is on YOU to check out the regulations where you live, and comply with them.   If you have any doubts get advice from a licensed person IN YOUR AREA.



Please Note! The information on this site is offered as a guide only!  When we are talking about areas where building regulations or safety regulations could exist,the information here could be wrong for your area.  It could be out of date!  Regulations breed faster than rabbits!
You must check your own local conditions.
Copyright © Bill Bradley 2007-2012. All rights reserved.
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