What is Friable Asbestos?

Asbestos was used in hundreds of different construction products throughout the US before 1990. The fibres have brilliant properties including durability and fire-resistance. However, these fibres are also incredible dangerous when breathed in.

A key terminology you should understand relating to this is friable asbestos. There is a different between friable and non-friable asbestos, and we discuss the term below, what it means, and the common types of friable or bonded asbestos.

Friable Asbestos – Any Type of Asbestos That Can be Turned Into Powder With Force

Friable asbestos is a generic term.It describes any type of asbestos that can be pulverized, crushed, or crumbled, and turned into a fine dust with force from your hand. Indeed, friable is a generic term used to mean something that can be crushed by human force.

EPA passed regulations in 1978 that banned most uses of friable asbestos. Furthermore, any product that contains more than 1% of friable asbestos in the USA is classed as a “regulated asbestos-containing material” and has a struct usage policy.

Common Products Using Friable Asbestos

Now that you understand the generic term, we can look at some specific examples of friable asbestos. These include thermal insulation, ceiling tiles, boarding, and paints.

Thermal insulation

Friable asbestos was widely used for insulation. This is because it has incredible fire-resistance properties, and the fibres could easily be added to typically insulation materials.The most common types were lofting insulation, and asbestos insulation for pipes surrounding heating systems and boilers.

Ceiling and Floor Tiles

Asbestos was also used extensively in the USA for roofing, ceilings, and floors. Asbestos roofing used friable asbestos and were prevalent in homes and garages.Furthermore, floor tiles and ceiling tiles commonly had friable asbestos added into them together with asbestos adhesive to seal them. The adhesive itself was generally greated using friable asbestos too and can be identified due to its distinctive black coloration and the oily stains it leaves.

Insulation Boarding

Due to the fire-resistant and heat-resistant properties of friable asbestos, it was used extensively in insulation boarding too.

Asbestos Paints

It was even ground into dust and used as an additive to protective paints. Primarily, it was added to spray paints that were used to create popcorn ceiling textures. However, it was widely used in exterior paints for things like sidings, drywall, and plaster.

Non-Friable Asbestos Products

It is important to know the main non-friable asbestos products too so you understand the difference and can assess the potential danger level in your home if you find any. The following were common non-friable asbestos materials used in construction in the USA:

• Bitumen-based products
• Cement sheets
• Siding
• Gaskets

Some floor tiles and ceiling tiles also used non-friable asbestos which makes things even more complicated.

The Difference Between Friable and Non Friable Asbestos

Friable asbestos is also known as bonded, while non friable asbestos is known as non-bonded. The key difference is the pressure and force required to breakdown the relevant products. As mentioned above, friable asbestos can be crumbled and broken into dust simply with the force from a human hand.

Non-friable asbestos cannot. It is much tougher and would require something like pneumatic pressure or tools to break and crush.

There is another difference, however. The main danger from asbestos is when the fibres are released into the air – with friable asbestos this is much more likely as you can crush the material with your hand. This is why it is highly regulated and, in most instances, banned.

In contrast, non-friable asbestos is not regulated and thus it is still added into different construction products. The lack of regulation is due to that increased durability and difficulty to crush it. As a result, it poses less health risks. There is still a risk, but it is deemed much less.

The only non-friable asbestos products that are regulated are those that have eroded or are prone to decomposition due to the way they are used.

Is Friable Asbestos Dangerous?


This is why friable asbestos is regulated and many products are outright banned for construction use in the USA.

It is the asbestos fibres that can cause serious damage if released into the air as dust and breathed in. If inhaled, the fibres can cause scarring to the lung lining. This can lead to conditions like plural disease and in worst-case scenarios, lung cancer.

As friable asbestos crumbles and deteriorates easily, there is a much greater risk that it can be inhaled. Products like siding, floor tiles, and roofing can be brittle, and the friable nature only enhances the potential for inhalation.

How to Deal With Friable Asbestos?

You must first ascertain if there is asbestos present in your property. If your home was built before 1990, there is a chance that it does. This is because up until that point, asbestos construction products were still used.

If your property falls under this category, we advise using one of our sampling kits to test for asbestos. Our kits are comprehensive and give you everything you need to reliably test for asbestos. You get PPE to safely extract the sample, and a pre-paid envelope to send it to our testing lab. Results are typically received within 24-hours of receipt and you get a PDF certificate with the findings.

It is better to use a home testing kit as it is virtually impossible to detect asbestos merely from a visual check.

If you find friable asbestos in your home, it is advisable to get it professionally removed. Under no circumstance should you try and do this yourself. As it is prone to crumbling, you could easily release asbestos dust and inhale it in the process. Professional removal companies have the correct PPE and disposal equipment to do the job effectively and safely.

We hope you have found this guide on friable asbestos useful. It is important to understand that both bonded and non-bonded asbestos can be dangerous. Friable asbestos is typically more dangerous, however, because it is prone to damage and crumbling under pressure. This ultimately can release the dangerous asbestos fibres which can cause asbestosis and lung cancer if inhaled.