James Hardie – The Company And the Fascinating History

James Hardie the company began when an enterprising young Scotsman left his family’s tannery business, and moved to Melbourne, Australia. It was 1888, when for many this was a one-way trip in a rickety wooden sailing ship and mails took a month to arrive. Nonetheless, James Hardie used his Scottish connections to import oils and other animal tanning materials to Australia.

Another young man and James’ particular friend Andrew Reid had remained behind in Scotland. Where he worked as a shipping clerk and was no doubt part of the tanning-material supply chain. He arrived in Melbourne in 1892, and became a full partner in the business three years later. This created a wonderful team comprising Andrew the outgoing, energetic visionary, and James Hardie’s sound financial judgement.


How James Hardie the Company Survived Asbestos


James Hardie Industries listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1951, trading in a diverse portfolio of building and industrial wares. It pioneered fibre-cement products, and became a world specialist in these materials. All looked rosy, except for one thing. The fibres were unwittingly asbestos and James Hardie was mining it by the ton. A sorry tale of human suffering emerged, as lawsuits virtually broke the company’s back.

Nowadays the company uses cellulose fibres instead, to reinforce panels and sheets made from portland cement, sand, and water. While the material is entirely safe when stable and fitted in position, it does release silica dust when cut, drilled or abraded. James Hardie recommends wearing respirators under these conditions.

Despite this, many Australians remained wary of health risks. Accordingly, the head office parent company moved to the Netherlands in 2001, to separate it from the stigma of ongoing asbestosis claims in Australia. This strategy turned out a success although the health controversy tolled on ‘down under’.


How James Hardie Made a Remarkable Recovery


The new cellulose-fibre recipe readily obtained approval from governments worldwide. Indeed, we would not be using it ourselves were that not the case. James Hardie fibre-cement materials are now available throughout North America, Australia and New Zealand. They have also become available in Asia, through a manufacturing plant in the Philippines.

The main product offerings are lap siding, siding, vertical siding, trim boards, precut panels, weather barriers, and backer cement board. Fibreglass windows are separately available through the Beechworth operation.

Valiant Exteriors are acknowledged leaders in applying these materials to Calgary homes and businesses. We offer the full range of subtle and vibrant colours, and we are proud to offer you our services for your project.

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