What is Silica Dust?

Silica pile

Silica dust is created when cutting James Hardie fiber cement with saws and/or power tools. Like any other foreign object, when inhaled through breathing, silica dust can pose a danger to anyone in close proximity to the installation of fiber cement siding when necessary precautions are not taken. Individuals who are in constant contact with airborne silica dust can develop a condition named silicosis. Before hiring a siding contractor to install new house siding, particularly Hardie Board, it is important to consider if the siding technicians are taking necessary safety measures to protect themselves and anyone else coming in close proximity to the construction area.

Before we talk about safety, let’s discuss what silica is. Silica is essentially sand. It is the primary ingredient of Portland Cement which is the highest quality of mass produced cement in the United States. It is also the primary ingredient of Hardie plank siding. Of all the sand “species”, silica it has the most tightly knit molecules under a microscope. This is important because cement is a porous material, meaning it is permeable to water. Water is the wonder molecule that actually expands once it freezes. When fiber cement siding gets wet and absorbs moisture, the expansion caused by freezing will lead to premature product deterioration and failure. The reason that James Hardie uses silica in its products is that it leads to the highest quality siding possible for the exterior of your home. This is why many generic and cheap fiber cement siding’s do not match the long-term performance, durability and aesthetics of Hardie Board.

While there has never been a single case of silicosis attributed to the installation of James Hardie siding, it is important to take safety measures to limit exposure to the dust. When installing James Hardie siding, it is important to always cut the material outdoors. You also want to cut down wind so that the dust will be carried away from the construction area. The use of self vacuuming saws, face masks and/or respirators will dramatically lessen the amount of airborne silica dust inhaled by anyone in close proximity to a James Hardie siding job site.

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