Asbestos floor tile hazard reduction guide:
This document assists building buyers, owners or occupants in reducing the risk of asbestos exposure from flooring that contains or is suspected to contain asbestos.
We provide photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.
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Asbestos is safe and legal to remain in homes or public buildings as long as the asbestos materials are in good condition and the asbestos can not be released into the air.
I live in Spain, in a house built in 1967, and I'm quite worried because I suspect that the floors of my house may contain asbestos. I have a baby is 9 month old crawling around the house.
[Click to enlarge any image]
In several rooms I have a flaming ground, looking quite similar to many of the photos seen on your site. In some areas has deteriorated and has holes that emit or accumulate dust.
I'm not sure my flooring matches those shown on your site. I am sending photos (see image at left). if you are able to recognize or catalog. I really did not even know if this flooring vinyl or other material.
The floor tiles are quite thick (about 3 cm), with a thin layer of material seen (a few millimeters) and then a mortar or something similar. The asbestos-suspect floor tiles measure 25x25cm.
I hope you can advise me on the matter, think that contain asbestos? If so, what I can do at home? -- I.B., Spain
We have not seen this exact tile pattern before, but from our records it looks a bit like some of the Kentile flooring made in the U.S. (though yours is unlikely to be Kentile and your material is much thicker). Quite possibly your flooring was produced by a European manufacturer and is none of the brands for which we have data.
Our opinion includes the consideration that while foremost it is important to avoid creating an asbestos hazard by improper handling, and while it is usually reasonable to cover over asbestos floor tiles with a new layer of flooring, it is also important that you proceed properly, with local expert advice, so as to avoid creating inappropriate fear on the part of other users of the building.
The US EPA in their "Asbestos NESHAP Adequately Wet Guidance" defines "friable asbestos material" as
Properly defined in plain english, "friable" asbestos means that one can easily produce powdered material, for example by rubbing asbestos pipe insulation between one's fingers to produce a crumbly dust. In this regard your floor tiles are a mix of asbestos and vinyl or asphalt, and are not readily friable.
The definition of friable asbestos is important, because non-friable asbestos-containing material is less likely to be an asbestos hazard in buildings, unless it is mechanically ground or pulverized.
What produces measurable airborne asbestos-dust is either running equipment that mechanically grinds or sands the tile surface (including some industrial floor polishers) over the floor surface, or using aggressive means of demolition that produce lots of small fragments of broken tiles during renovations.
Because asbestos is a harmless material if not airborne and breathed-in or ingested, it's not as if the floor tiles are "radioactive" or harmful just sitting there, or better still, if covered the tiles will be protected from wear, damage, and future asbestos particle release.
Reader Question: How do I Determine if this 1930's Flooring Contains Asbestos & Can the Floor be Retained?
I am trying to find out what my floor is made of (photo at left). Also if it contains asbestos. It was installed in 1935 when the house was built. Thank you so much.
I have had a hard time keeping a protective finish on it. It hates water and will turn opaque where water gets on it as you can see from the picture in the foreground. - S.T. 2/17/2014
I can't say for sure from just the photo but the colors make me think of a cork floor product; Can you send me some sharp photos giving a closer look at the floor surfaces?
You bet!! The measured the depth of the floor is 3/16 of an inch. The material is solid color throughout. (pictures 3,4,5) There is no backing, just solid material. (see picture #6)
The chocolate brown is in 2 pieces for each square. The pieces are 18" by 36” and 10” by 36” for a total size of 28 X 36. There are approximately 77 squares.
The copper color measures 3” by 36” and the blonde is 1” by 6 ft (largest piece I could find)
This is a large room about 20 X 40ft.
This house was built in 1935 by my great grandmother and has a lot of art deco elements. I have a lot of the original receipts but nothing I recognize as flooring.
I have a piece of the flooring and took pictures (2,3,4,5) with my cell phone.
I have trolled online looking for information but it seems to be very hard to determine the material. I don’t believe it is cork. I think it is solid vinyl.
The other floors in this house are 9” chocolate brown linoleum. I was unable to save those floors because they shattered when I tried to remove the carpet tack strips my parents used with wall to wall carpet in the 1970’s. The linoleum was much less flexible than this floor. With this floor material I was able to carefully remove the tack strips. It is actually flexible. It will break if bent too far but it will bend a little. This picture was taken right after finish was still drying. Shows the 2 pieces of the chocolate brown.
About all I can guess from just photographs and without lab testing (which I'm not sure is justified) is:
Photo at above left looks like solid something - vinyl most likely from the color. See my comment below about rubber floor tiles;
Photo at above right looks like cork in cross section. If the floor is in good shape and you don't want to ruin its look by an epoxy paint, if you have not already completed applying a hard clear surface sealant (which I suspect you have) I'd look at liquid wax stripping and cleaning followed by coating with a clear sealant like the ones I discuss in this article series. If the floor surface is sealed and un-damaged it's not going to be a particle source.
Rubber Floor Tiles?
There were also some rubber flooring products but the ones I'm familiar with were red or black in cross section; Rubber flooring would be more flexible; usually older asphalt-asbestos or even vinyl asbestos (excluding the self-adhesive lines) are by now quite brittle and would break rather than bend unless heated.
I would be to preserve what can be preserved, sealing the top surface with a clear coat; and for any cleanup of damaged flooring follow the safe procedures like wetting & HEPA vacuuming discussed at ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE
Curiously some of my references assert that even rubber-based floor tiles up to the late 1970's or very early 80's contained asbestos filler.
Guidelines for Removing Asbestos-Containing Floor Tile (Vinyl-Asbestos Tile / Asphalt-Asbestos Tile)
We begin by suggesting that you should not remove asbestos-containing floor tile unless it is really necessary. As with asbestos-containing products in general, the asbestos hazard at a building may be greater from disturbing asbestos-containing materials (ACM) than if they were left alone or covered up. But in some cases, particularly during certain building renovations or when asbestos-containing flooring is in poor condition and cannot easily be left in place, removal may be necessary.
As we point out at ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION, the US EPA points out in Adequately Wet Guidance, EPA340/1-90-019 that asbestos-containing floor tiles are considered non-friable materials but the materials can become friable with age or by grinding, sanding, demolition, etc.
Here is what the University of Minnesota has to say about the hazards of this type of asbestos-containing floor tiles:
Details for this topic are found at ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE. Excerpts are below.
First, here is the US EPA's general Asbestos Advice for Homeowners, quoting from Asbestos in Your Home, U.S. EPA
Asbestos Do's And Don'ts for the Homeowner
Please see complete details at ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE
Here are some general OPNIONS that can help reduce the risk of a floor-tile related asbestos particle risk in the building:
Asbestos Advice for Building & School Building Operators (may apply to other public buildings such as churches)
A good introductory explanation to the possible risk of asbestos in schools and similar buildings is at The ABCs of Asbestos in Schools (August 2003), U.S. EPA, Web search 08/17/2010, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/abcsfinal.pdf - aqui se encuenta la misma documenta escrito en Espan~ol: El ABC del Asbestos en las Escuelas, (copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Asbestos_ABCs_Schools.pdf ) fuente original: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/spanishabcs.pdf
Quoting from that document:
Operators of schools and other public buildings should see the U.S. EPA's Asbestos regulations for schools (the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, "AHERA") (PDF) (96 pp, 589k), web search 08/17/2010, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/2003pt763.pdf, require that an accredited inspector reinspect school buildings at least once every three years to reassess the condition of ACM.
Continue reading at ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE for more detailed procedures & products suggested for keeping an intact asphalt asbestos floor or vinyl asbestos floor in place or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Suggested citation for this web page
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: our home has asbestos-suspect floor tiles, prior flooding, and mold smells
I have a bedroom that smells of mildew and I know the room flooded once before we moved in. There are 2 asthmatics who live in the house so I pulled up carpet and pad. I found several pounds of sandy fine dirt underneath and decayed tiles. I never thought about asbestos until I got to the tile.
I figured it would be cement foundation. I have looked at the different websites and not seen this particular tile and are kind of afraid to touch it now. I want so badly to clean with soap, water, and bleach but are unsure if it is safe?
[I have provided some photos including the one shown at left]
I live in an extremely humid south-texas area and my home was built in 1955 so the deed says. If you have any advice for me
I would appreciate it very much. Right now my husband is in the hospital with pneumonia so I am trying to rid our home of any possible mildew before he comes home. - D.R.R. 8/26/2012
You are describing two different concerns: possible asbestos contamination from asbestos containing floor tiles under a carpet, and mold odors and a possible mold contamination problem in the building.
How to deal with asbestos-suspect floor tiles
The floor tiles in your (blurry so I'm unsure) photos look like vinyl flooring tiles that were made to resemble cork flooring. Some of these, depending on age, contain asbestos as fibers and filler.
The material in most floor tiles is not particularly friable (as long as you're not doing a messy demolition), and asbestos release from such tiles while covered by carpeting would most likely be below the limits of detection. More likely the dirt and debris you found atop the floor is soil that came through the overlaying carpeting, or it may be from deteriorating carpet backing or carpet padding. Best bet is to dispose of old, questionable carpets entirely, HEPA vacuum and damp-wipe clean the entire area.
Also see Asbestos Flooring Hazard Level of Risk and see ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE. Readers who are considering removing asbestos containing materials should also see ASBESTOS REMOVAL, Wetting Guidelines.
How to deal with a possible indoor mold problem in the same area as the asbestos-suspect floor tiles
Because you note that a family member suffers from a respiratory illness, thus increasing the risks involved, you'll want to address household dust levels overall as well as a possible mold concern. Ask your physician for specific advice about exposures, risks, and cleaning in the home. To further address a possible mold contamination problem you'll need to:
See ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT INDOOR MOLD for procedures for dealing with your mold worry.
Question: how do I know if the flooring in our house is safe or is an asbestos hazard?
I would appreciate your help. I purchased a home that was built in the 1970's and recently had water damage and the insurance adjuster asked me to remove the tile so that the flooring underneath could dry.
I removed the flooring myself and now I have learned it may have asbestos. How do I tell and am I or my children in any danger because of this?
Your photo shows a bunch of what looks like vinyl tiles in boxes outdoors; from the photo I'm doubtful anyone could or even should try to identify exactly what tile this is, nor assert whether the tile in the photo (or other unseen flooring in your house) has asbestos or not.
If you knew the age of the flooring in the home (prior to early 80's) it would be reasonable (and safe) to treat the flooring as presumed asbestos-containing floor tile (PACM).
If you recognized a specific tile pattern in our online photo guide to asbestos tile you would know more certainly just what's probably there (some look like others);
Or you'd need to send a sample to a certified asbestos test lab (we list those contacts too at InspectApedia);
For a floor that is in place, intact, and is not being ground up or smashed about by demolition the level of risk is probably below the limits of detection.
For floor tiles that came up intact as those in your photo the quantity of asbestos fiber release should also be very low, as you were not breaking up the tiles; floor tiles are not friable - are not easily crumbled into dangerous dust.
Watch out: some floor tile mastics also contained asbestos filler or fibers. Beyond demolition or grinding or chopping PACM floor tiles, the greatest hazard you might create in any event would be running a conventional vacuum cleaner, thus blowing dust and (if present) asbestos particles into the building air.
In the article above ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION (found if you search InspectApedia.com for "asbestos floor tile hazard reduction") you'll see expert advice on what to do to minimize the hazard from asbestos containing floor tiles or PACM.
Watch out: If in your home there remains flood-damaged flooring that is loose or damaged and has to be removed and you want to minimize risk of possible stirring up of asbestos containing dust, also see ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE.
Question: signs of amateur and incomplete asbestos removal - what now?
I cam across your website while searching the internet about asbestos and had a couple of questions. I bought a house 3 years ago and my husband ripped up the carpet in the basement. underneath were tiles that looked like they may be asbestos tiles, so we had a certified company come in and clean up the broken tiles. we then laid carpet over the remaining tiles. I noticed recently that in the utility closet there seems to be small pieces of what looks like that tile on the floor, maybe left from a past contruction job the previous owner did. I would like to just paint over the floor to adhere anything that might be dangerous. is that a good option?
Also, the owner has a heat pipe running through the basement that was wrapped in asbestos. she seems to have had it removed and then built a sort of wooden enclosure from the ceiling around the pipe. I looked inside and can see from one of the openings a small piece of wrapping still remains. about a foot long. it looks like it has a honeycomb shape. half of it is off the pipe resting on the wooden enclosure covered in years of dust. can I just leave it alone? do I need to have it removed? it will be difficult to access it without removing some of the wooden enclosure. - S.D. 7/16/2013
S.D. please take a look at the article above, beginning at ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION -
Watch out: I would be more concerned about exposed friable asbestos materials in an occupied space or in the air path of HVAC equipment than in an enclosed pipe chase, for example. But I'd keep in mind that even asbestos left within an enclosed pipe chase may present extra costs when sooner or later someone needs to perform plumbing or other work in that very area.
Question: cleaning asbestos-containing floor tiles
Can you give me any insight as to how to clean 9X9 tiles that more than likely have asbestos? I know not to sand, burnish or strip the tiles. Thank you; - T.B., Juneau, Alaska 1/6/2014 firstname.lastname@example.org
You already understand the concern - we don't want to make asbestos-containing dust when doing anything to an asbestos-containing floor surface. In addition to what you already point out (no grinding or sanding) I would suggest that you
- do not use any abrasive cleaning method. For example some commercial floor buffing machines use a steel wool pad to strip floors prior to re-waxing
- stick to liquid floor cleaners and strippers. I have had good results using the liquid floor stripping cleaners sold by companies who also sell flooring renovating coatings and sealants.
- if you decide to paint the floor surface
- something that may be done both as extra insurance against wear from foot traffic that may release (probably very small) amounts of asbestos - I'd use an epoxy floor paint.
- If flooring is damaged in very small areas, say an individual fragment has broken loose, and if the intent is to continue to leave the remaining flooring in place (which is usually the safest course) use a commercial leveling compound or epoxy-based filler/sealant to level out the damaged spot to avoid a trip hazard.
- Don't use a vacuum cleaner to clean up dust that you suspect may contain asbestos unless the equipment is HEPA-rated and dust containment has been set up. Instead see ASBESTOS REMOVAL, Wetting Guidelines and ASBESTOS REMOVAL CERTIFICATIONS
More suggestions and citations to authoritative references are in the article above and the references at the end of this article.
Questions & answers on how to minimize the risk of asbestos contamination in a building due to the presence of asbestos-containing floor tiles or asbestos-suspect floor tile coverings.
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