Professional Builder talks to Fibo Managing Director, Scott Beattie to find out more about a company which is wall-to-wall with great product ranges for builders!
Q. Fibo is a new name on us and we assume on the vast majority of Professional Builder readers too. What’s the background to the company and the reasons behind your recent emergence into the contractor market?
A. Fibo was founded in Norway in 1952 and quickly established a reputation for high quality, maintenance-free waterproof panels for bathrooms and wet rooms. It’s now the European market leader.
The UK division was launched in 1981 and was known as Respatex until we recently rebranded to Fibo, to match the Norwegian name. Fibo has invested £14 million in its Norwegian factory HQ, doubling current capacity.
The rebrand and this investment is part of an expansion programme and we’re now promoting the benefits of the panels to a much wider audience in the UK, including local builders.
We know we have a great product and when contractors see our wall panels, they recognise it too. Time really is money in most building projects and it’s a big plus point that Fibo these panels can be fitted up to five times faster than tiles.
Q. And exactly what do you see as the principal are those USPs of the this type of panel?
A. One of the main USPs is how much quicker the panels are to fit. This is down to our unique special Aqualock system which means that the wall panels just click into place.
Secondly, the finish is a really high quality. In Norway and many countries in Europe, the bathroom is often regarded as being one of the most important rooms in the house, more important than the kitchen.
Paint is seen as medieval! Panels are fitted in bathrooms and wet rooms in high-end domestic projects, hotels, leisure centres and social housing.
And the UK is following suit. They can be retro-fitted and so are ideal for refurbishment or new build, and they’re particularly suited for large-scale coverage.
We also have a wide range. There are five bathroom collections to choose from to meet different budgets, with a choice of finishes: matt, gloss, marble effects, bright colours and contemporary ‘hotel chic’ looks.
Our premium Classic and Marcato tiles with 3D grooves replicate a grouting effect and give the look and feel of high-end traditional tiles while our Traditional, Traditional Plus and Colour Splash ranges are more popular in social housing and other more budget-led projects.
Q. And what about installation? Any special skills or tools required?
A. The installation process is well within the scope of the typical jobbing builder. The panels can be fitted directly to walls, including tiles or stud partitioning, and you don’t need any specific installation skills.
We recommend mechanical fixing, with 1½ in. No.6 screws and finishing with a sealant between the joins. The panels come in a range of sizes to give the installer more flexibility.
They’re 2,400mm high and are available in 600mm, 900mm and 1,200mm widths. Using the narrower 600mm panels make it a one-man-job as they weigh less and are easier to handle in confined spaces (like bathrooms!). The
profile edges are available in either white PVC or anodised aluminium.
You’ll need to use a jigsaw for irregular widths and to accommodate fittings, but the Aqualock system makes it easy to fit. The simple tongue-and-groove system – and no grouting – means contractors don’t need to subcontract the job to tilers, saving more time and money.
Q. Can the panels support shelves and other accessories?
A. Small accessories can be wall-mounted without needing to drill holes in the panels. Heavy items such as washbasins or towel rails should always have further support behind the panel.
Q. How long are the panels expected to perform in what can be pretty demanding environments?
A. Fibo wall panels are designed to withstand the most challenging situations. They’re used in sports centres and leisure centres where showers can be used almost continuously, so they have to be reliable. No-one wants a shower or wet room wall that isn’t waterproof!
The panels are constructed to the highest specification, using top quality materials from the start. They’re made from laminated birch plywood, and the surface is bonded to a specially developed 9mm 7-layer WBP Plywood core with a balancer laminate on the back.
PVC bathroom panels often look and feel inferior to tiles, while those made from MDF can allow water to slowly permeate through.
There’s no need to worry about water ingress with Fibo – once installed our panels are totally waterproof. All our panels also come with an industry-leading 15-year guarantee and provide a long-lasting surface that is every bit as effective as a tiled one but without the downsides – no grouting to clean and replace, no mould growth (more hygienic!) and low maintenance.
Q. Where can contractors get hold of the panels?
A. The panels are supplied through builders’ merchants across the UK.
Fibo and Professional Builder would like to thanks Smiths Interiors for their help in compiling this article.
For more information on Fibo click here.