In a lot of old homes, it is common to see the flooring in the form of asbestos tile.
As time goes on and more and more homes are remodeled, there are fewer and fewer houses out there that still have asbestos tile.
If you have a house that was built before the middle of the 20th century, you may have a high chance of having asbestos floor tile.
What are Asbestos Floor Tiles?
For nearly four decades, flooring companies used asbestos when making vinyl tiles.
Asbestos is a material that is known for being fire resistant and making almost any material it is mixed with resistant as well.
Even so, the main goal of the flooring companies was to make the product more durable using asbestos.
They were also popular for their appearance; asbestos tiles were known for the texture they had that mimicked a handcrafted stone chip tile.
These floors were quite common and were advertised all across the United States at the time.
How to Identify Asbestos Tiles
There are some ways you can determine if your tiles are laden with asbestos or not. These include:
By brand. You can look at the brand of tiles that your floor has as a good indicator regarding its asbestos content or lack thereof.
May popular brand names of vinyl tile that used asbestos are Armstrong, Ever-Wear, KenFlex, Montgomery Ward, Congoleum-Nairn, KenTile, and Sears & Roebuck.
Since floor tiles don’t come imprinted with the names of the brand, try to find leftover tiles sitting around or look for the documentation of the previous owner stating the brand of tiles used.
You can usually find extra tiles in old homes hidden away in locations like crawl spaces, below-stair storage, high shelves, attics, and sheds.
By date. If the flooring was installed between the years 1952 and 1986, there is a chance your floors may have asbestos.
By location. Because asbestos tiles are quite durable, they were usually used in high-traffic areas, including mudrooms, hallways, and kitchens.
By lab testing. You can send a sample of your vinyl tile to a local testing lab that will look for asbestos for a fee.
If you only want to test a small sample of a vinyl tile, you can expect to pay between $50 and $100 if you drop it off or mail it in.
If the lab has to come to you and take the sample themselves, you can expect the price to triple.
Taking a sample usually means just cutting out a small one-inch square of the tile and then putting it in a bag to be mailed off and tested.
By checking the flooring. One way to deal with asbestos and its issues was to cover it up using the second layer of flooring.
This helps to trap the asbestos inside and makes it safe so long as you do not disturb it.
As long as the asbestos tiling is solid, you can cover it using a vinyl plank, sheet vinyl, engineered wood, laminate, solid hardwood, or any other kind of flooring you like.
If the tiles are not solid, you could install a sheet of underlayments such as cement board or thin luan wood.
You should keep in mind that the presence of one kind of floor sitting on another kind of floor doesn’t mean that there is necessarily any asbestos below.
Usually, covering one floor with another is done to avoid having to demolish the area and for no other reason.
What to Do if You Have Asbestos Tiles
After you have figured out that you do, in fact, have asbestos tiles, you have peace of mind knowing that as long as the tiles are not cut, sanded, removed, or otherwise disturbed in any way, there isn’t really a need for worry.
Only if you disturb the tiles do you have to worry about the asbestos fibers going into the air.
Due to this risk, it is best to just leave the tiles where they are and not remove them.
In a few cases, though, you might wish to take the asbestos tiles out before you install another kind of flooring.
One common instance of this is when planning to restore a wood floor beneath an asbestos vinyl tile floor.
This project is incredibly invasive and will cause the asbestos fibers to break up and scatter, meaning the utmost precautions are recommended.
Be sure to protect yourself using respirators and a suit and seal the work area up. When removing the tiles, try to keep them as intact as you possibly can.
This may be particularly difficult with older asbestos tiles since they will be brittle, stiff, and inflexible.
If you must remove asbestos tiles or any other form of it, it is best to hire professionals who know how to safely remove this hazardous material.
If you opt to do it yourself, be sure the area remains misted with water to stop the asbestos fibers from being airborne.
If the tiles have any sort of asbestos in them, the glue holding the tiles down will likely have it as well.
If you can, you should install your new flooring like engineered or solid wood, laminate flooring, and porcelain or ceramic tiles right over the vinyl tiles without removing them at all.
Any type of grouted tile you may have can be installed right onto the vinyl, but do not sand the asbestos tiles beforehand like you usually would with this type of installation.
This will ensure the asbestos is not disturbed. Instead, you can install a cement backer board first to make it smooth and level.
When it comes to laminate flooring, you might want to smooth the surface out by first installing plywood.
Engineered wood or hardwood flooring can also be installed right onto the vinyl flooring.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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