Asbestos and Vinyl Floor Tiles: What You Need to Know

Asbestos is a material that was commonly found in construction products up until the early 1980s. After this time, the health hazards of asbestos became more well-known, and manufacturer's began phasing out the use of asbestos. If your home was built before 1989, there is a possibility it may contain asbestos. One of the places where asbestos may be found is in old vinyl floor tiles. If you are considering removing old vinyl floor tiles to install new ones, and you suspect the floor tiles may contain asbestos, you may have many questions. Here are a few of the questions you may have, and the answers.

What are the Signs Vinyl Floor Tiles Have Asbestos?

Asbestos was used in the adhesive that held vinyl floor tiles in place. Unfortunately, you can't tell just by looking at the flooring whether it contains asbestos or not. But, there are some key indicators that let you know that you may want to have the flooring tested for vinyl. Asbestos wasn't found in vinyl flooring until the 1950s. Therefore, if your flooring is older than that, it most likely doesn't contain asbestos. Likewise, asbestos was phased out of flooring in the 1980s. If your flooring was installed in the 90s, or later, it probably doesn't contain asbestos.

Another sign to look for when determining whether your flooring may have asbestos is the size of the tiles. Asbestos was primarily used on vinyl floor tiles measuring 9'x9", 12"x12' and 18"x18" inches. If your vinyl flooring is sheet vinyl or has different measurements, it may not contain asbestos.

If you think that your vinyl floor tiles may contain asbestos, you will want to have it tested before removing the floor. This is because asbestos is only harmful when airborne. If you don't disturb the tiles, the asbestos isn't harmful. Either you or an asbestos professional can cut away a small portion of the tile, while wearing a mask and gloves, and have it sent to an asbestos testing lab to find out if it contains this material.

Can Asbestos Tiles Be Covered?

If the results come back that your flooring does contain asbestos, you may be wondering whether you have to rip the asbestos tiles up or whether you can cover them. As long as the tiles are in relatively good condition, they can be covered up. They can be covered up with carpet, linoleum or a new vinyl material. However, if the vinyl flooring is cracked or tiles are peeling, you may have to have the damaged tiles professionally removed or sealed prior to installing a new floor, or you may have to have the entire floor removed. This is because asbestos may be released through these cracks and they can also cause your new floor to not lay flat.

What is the Process of Removing Asbestos Tiles?

If your existing vinyl floor is in poor condition, you may have to have the tiles removed in order to lay new flooring material. This must be properly done to prevent the spread of asbestos. It is highly recommended that you hire an asbestos abatement contractor, such as American Abatement, to handle this situation for you. The room will be sealed off with plastic tarps to prevent asbestos from leaving the area that the contractor is working in. Ventilation tubing will also be used to keep the area well-ventilated for workers. Workers will be wearing safety gear, including masks and gloves, to prevent exposure. As they work, the contractors will moisten the floor to minimize dust containing asbestos. They will scrape up the floor and any glue or adhesive residue. As they do so, they will place the asbestos in biohazard bags. When the project is done, the material will be disposed of at an asbestos disposal facility, as products that contain asbestos can't be disposed of in a regular landfill. Once all of the old tile is removed, you or your desired flooring contractor can install your new flooring.

If you are looking to lay a new floor in your home, and you suspect your old vinyl floor may contain asbestos, you may have questions. Getting answers to these questions will help you determine whether your flooring may actually contain asbestos and what to do if you suspect it does.