Many older homes contain asbestos tile flooring, as it was a common additive for both vinyl sheet flooring material as well as individually-formed tiles.
Like with siding and other materials, asbestos was added to asbestos ceiling tiles and asbestos tile flooring due to its fire-resistant nature and for the extra strength it adds, making otherwise fragile and brittle material more flexible and durable.
Once the health risks of mesothelioma and absestosis become known, asbestos-containing materials (ACM) were banned from use in commercial and residential construction.
The damage was done, unfortunately, and a dangerous legacy still remains with an estimated 20% of the buildings in the U.S. containing some form of asbestos.
Identifying Asbestos Tile Flooring
Identifying flooring that contains asbestos is similar to detecting asbestos in other materials; it can only be done through proper testing by a certified lab.
While asbestos floor tiles often share similar characteristics and sizes, there’s no way to be 100% certain just from looking at it as to whether or not asbestos was added.
Some manufacturers at the time did add asbestos while others didn’t, so only testing can tell you if your old floor tiles or sheet flooring contains asbestos.
Once you collect a sample and send it off to a lab, you’ll often have the results back in less than a week for a small fee.
Assess Your Options If You Have Asbestos Tile Floors
If you do determine that you’ve got asbestos tile flooring in your home, be sure to consider all of your available options.
Removal can be very costly and expensive and is often more risky than simply leaving the old flooring in place and installing a new floor on top of it.
Asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed and the fibers are friable and airborne, so in many cases it’s safer to leave the old floor tiles as they are.
Another issue to consider when debating whether or not to remove asbestos tile flooring is the disposal of the material, as asbestos tile disposal adds another potential headache and costs depending on local and state laws and regulations.
More and more states are restricting where materials containing asbestos can be disposed of, so even if asbestos tile is removed it still needs to be disposed of properly.
Tile and Flooring Removal Options
Unlike asbestos siding — which can be safely removed by a homeowner — trying to remove old flooring is too difficult and dangerous for the vast majority of homeowners.
It’s next to impossible for the average homeowner to remove the asbestos-containing material without breaking the tile or tearing the sheet flooring, which can potentially release large quantities of dangerous fibers into the air.
Since the material is located indoors, the problem is exacerbated by those fibers then being recirculated throughout the house.
If you do decide on removal you’ll have to go with a contractor but not just any from the Yellow Pages, as they must be certified and trained to handle asbestos materials.
Be sure that any contractor that removes asbestos material from your home is properly licensed and has the necessary safety equipment.