Due to serious health risks associated with asbestos, products containing the element have been banned. Although this helped significantly to reduce exposure to asbestos, it doesn’t mean that existing products have been removed. Lots of homeowners have older homes that could have been built with materials that incorporate toxic asbestos. This is the case for tile flooring solutions because many of them used to contain asbestos.
Why was asbestos used? The material is durable in terms of heat and chemical resistance so it’s not surprising that pre-1980s floor tiles incorporate it. If you have a suspicion that floor tiles in your home could be crafted with asbestos-containing materials, it’s necessary to investigate further and remove them. This is particularly important if you have renovation plans that might disturb the tiles and release asbestos dust.
1. Health Risks of Asbestos Floor Tiles
How dangerous are floor tiles built with asbestos? There’s no easy answer because the form of asbestos fibers can influence the harmful effects of this element. It’s important to ensure that asbestos fibers won’t crumble easily because this makes it easier to inhale them and experience lung problems.
Asbestos dust can be particularly hazardous because the particles are odorless and invisible. You might breathe them in without even realizing it and expose yourself to long-term health risks such as asbestosis and chest pain. Complications can result in severe related diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
You need to be very careful about disturbing asbestos floor tiles. Basic renovation work like sanding or drilling can put you at risk of exposure. If you want to go ahead with your project, the first thing to do is analyze the floor tiles and figure out whether they contain asbestos or not. If it turns out that they do, you will be able to remove them safely with the correct procedures described below.
2. How to Identify Asbestos in Floor Tiles
Flooring in asbestos is fairly common if your house is older. The material could be present in many kinds of flooring tiles whether we’re talking about linoleum or vinyl. Even if asbestos isn’t used in the manufacturing of the tiles themselves, it’s still possible to find it in the adhesive used for the tiles.
If your home was built before 1980, there’s a good chance it contains asbestos in its flooring. Other factors that can serve as strong indicators include black adhesive and tiles that look greasy or discolored. It’s also worth focusing on floor tiles in certain rooms such as kitchens and hallways because durable flooring is typically installed in areas with a lot of foot traffic.
Even if your floor tiles may give a strong indication about the presence of asbestos, you won’t know for sure unless you properly test them. By using the services of a professional testing lab, it’s possible to precisely identify asbestos content in various materials such as those used for vinyl tile manufacturing.
3. How to Test Floor Tiles For Asbestos
There are two options you can try if you want to test the floor tiles in your home for asbestos. The first involves using the services of an asbestos remediation expert, which can be quite costly. Another solution is to get a DIY test kit. Similar to kits designed to test for mold, you will need to extract a sample from the floor tiles and send it to a specialized lab. Keep in mind that certain local building authorities prohibit these types of test kits and require only licensed experts to handle the job.
The DIY approach isn’t particularly difficult and much more affordable than professional testing even though you will also have to pay an extra processing fee for the lab testing. Check out this simple-to-use asbestos test kit on Amazon. The comprehensive instructions lead you through the process and help you take the necessary safety precautions when obtaining the sample.
4. Covering Asbestos Floor Tiles
Now that you’re certain about your floor tiles containing asbestos, it’s time to explore your options. While removing them seems like the best solution at first, this isn’t always the case. It all depends on whether the asbestos tiles are still in good condition. You can safely cover existing tiles using other tiles or flooring.
Encapsulation isn’t an ideal solution in the long term because there’s still a risk of somehow disturbing them and releasing asbestos dust into the air. Despite that, covering the asbestos tiles represents a good way to deal with this problem. Old tiles tend to be quite thin so there’s typically no issue of raising the height of the floor too much when bringing another flooring.
5. Removing Asbestos Tile Flooring
If you’re serious about remodeling the entire flooring, you will have to get rid of the old asbestos-containing tiles. Or maybe you simply feel uncomfortable about keeping the asbestos tiles in place. In that case, the safest option is to rely on qualified professionals such as asbestos remediation contractors. It can get quite costly but it’s highly recommended to avoid any risk of hazardous airborne asbestos reaching your lungs.
DIY removal is possible, however, but there are still many costs involved. You will need special bags to dispose of the asbestos floor tiles. Additionally, you will have to support costs from a facility specialized in hazardous waste disposal. Although cheaper, DIY removal of asbestos tiles can be quite the hassle. There are strict procedures needed to follow to ensure proper safety during the operation:
- Get an adequate respirator mask designed to protect against asbestos inhalation such as this model on Amazon. It’s just as important to protect the eyes with safety goggles.
- Wear protective equipment over your clothes. Alternatively, just use old clothing that can be disposed of afterward.
- Turn off the HVAC unit and seal the area to keep any asbestos fiber from spreading when demolishing the tiles. Contamination of the house can be avoided effectively with sealing tape.
- Use a pump sprayer with water to minimize the risk of releasing asbestos from crumbling tiles.
- Remove the asbestos tiles carefully one by one with the help of a metal floor scraper.
- Put all the asbestos-containing materials in the special disposal bags and seal them properly.
- Make sure you remove all the remaining pieces of adhesive and clean up the subfloor with a wet mop.