Asbestos tile remains an issue in many older homes, due to the fact that it was added to ceiling tiles and floor tiles for many decades.
Once the health risks of asbestos exposure were known, asbestos was banned from being used in home building products. Until then, however, it was used widely as an additive due to its fire resistance and durability.
When asbestos material is undisturbed and inert, it isn’t dangerous. When it is friable — able to be crumbled by hand — and disturbed, serious health risks can arise.
Long-term exposure to airborne asbestos fibers has been directly linked to diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung diseases.
Asbestos Tiles in Your Home
If you believe you have asbestos tiles in your home (most commonly found in floor tiles), don’t despair. You have several options available to you, including several that don’t involve extremely expensive asbestos abatement or removal services.
While the threat of asbestos is very real, in some instances the actual risk has been overblown due to overzealous lawyers chasing class act asbestos settlement claims.
Health risks typically only arise after prolonged exposure (think years) to very heavy concentrations of asbestos fibers in the air, such as at mining operations or in shipyards.
Assess Your Options
The real danger of asbestos — whether in floor tiles, siding, insulation, or drywall — comes from when it’s broken up and sent into the air.
Flooring that contains asbestos doesn’t always have to be removed, and in many cases the act of removing it may very well increase the health risk.
This is especially true for sheet flooring that can’t be removed without ripping up the flooring and scraping or sanding off remaining adhesive — which may also contain asbestos.
In many cases the safest course of action is to simply leave the old flooring in place and cover it with carpet or another material. This will encapsulate the asbestos material and prevent it from ever becoming airborne.
Safely Removing Asbestos Tile
If you do decide to remove the asbestos tile in your home you’ll need to hire a licensed contractor that has special licenses to deal with asbestos abatement; it’s simply too risky to try to remove the tile or flooring yourself.
Specialists not only have the proper equipment to tackle the job but also can properly dispose of the waste.
This can be very difficult for homeowners even in areas where they’re allowed to remove asbestos material from their homes themselves. Laws ofte require that asbestos material must be labeled and disposed only in landfills that are licensed accordingly.
As you might guess, that specialized experience and equipment comes with a cost, as many asbestos removal projects can run into the tens of thousands of dollars for residential homes.
Removing asbestos tile is also just half the battle — you’ll still have the expense of having new tile installed.
Identifying Asbestos Tile
It’s impossible to tell from a visual inspection whether or not floor tiles, ceiling tiles, or any other material contain asbestos.
Asbestos was added to some products and not to others; simply because tiles are old doesn’t mean they have asbestos.
No amount of experience or training can help anyone tell if material contains asbestos simply from looking at it. The only way to know for certain if you have asbestos in your home is to have samples tested at a reputable lab.
Be sure to take proper precautions when gathering any samples for testing, including using disposable gloves and a safety respirator rated for use with asbestos containing materials.