Vinyl asbestos floor tile identification photo U.S. Library of CongressHow to Remove Asbestos Containing Floor Tiles, Resilient Flooring or Sheet Flooring
Asbestos removal procedures

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How to Remove Asbestos Containing Floor Tiles or Sheet Flooring:

This article describes the proper procedure for removing vinyl-asbestos floor tiles. We also discuss leaving good-condition vinyl asbestos tile (VAT) in place, cleaning it and treating the surface with a clear coat sealant or flooring restorer/rejuvenator. This document series 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.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Guidelines for Removing Asbestos-Containing Floor Tile (Vinyl-Asbestos Tile / Asphalt-Asbestos Tile)

Spanish asbestos floor tiles (C) Daniel FriedmanIs Asbestos-Containing Floor Tile Removal Necessary?

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.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Article Contents

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 FLOORING IDENTIFICATION, the US EPA points out in ADEQUATELY WET ASBESTOS 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:

Flooring that contains asbestos, when intact and in good condition, is generally considered nonfriable and is not hazardous.

Heat, water, weathering or aging can weaken flooring to the point where it is considered friable. Friable flooring includes any material containing more than 1 percent asbestos that can be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder with hand pressure. This includes previously nonfriable flooring material which has been damaged to the extent that it may be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure. Flooring can also be made friable during its removal. Friable materials can release asbestos fibers into the air. Once in the air, asbestos fibers present a health hazard to people who inhale those fibers.



the US EPA points out in ADEQUATELY WET ASBESTOS GUIDANCE, EPA340/1-90-019

Non-friable miscellaneous ACM includes floor tiles, asbestos cement sheet (transite board), siding shingles, asphalt roofing shingles, laboratory bench tops and even chalkboards. These materials may become friable with age, and under harsh conditions.

Category I non-friable ACM must be carefully examined to determine if the material is in poor condition, that is, if the binding material is losing its integrity, exhibited by peeling, cracking or crumbling; and is also friable. When Category I non-friable ACM has become friable it is subject to the NESHAP.

If Category I or II ACM is sanded, ground, cut or abraded it is also covered by the NESHAP. Category II non-friable ACM which is damaged to the extent that it has or will become crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder due to demolition/ renovation activities, is subject to the Asbestos NESHAP.

Miscellaneous materials are wetted in manners similar to those used to wet other categories of RACM.

Coverings are saturated with a wetting agent before removal and the asbestos-containing portions fully penetrated with the agent prior to, during and after their removal, while stored in the removal area, and while being placed into disposal containers.

Miscellaneous materials that don't absorb water readily (e.g., asbestos-concrete products, and floor tiles) are only required to have wetted surfaces. A misting sprayer may be used to diminish airborne asbestos fiber levels.

Advice on Leaving Asbestos-Containing Flooring in Place in a Building

Leaving old ACM or PACM flooring in place in a building is the first choice approach where that flooring is itself no longer serviceable.

Leaving the asbestos-containing flooring material in place will generally be the lowest-risk approach as it is the disturbance (by removal) of asbestos containing material that significantly increases the risk of airborne asbestos in buildings.

Where loose floor tiles or damaged sections of sheet flooring have left shallow holes, uneven surfaces, or depressions in the original tile or sheet resilient floor covering there are these approaches to producing a suitably smooth surface over which new non-asbestos sheet or tile floor coverings can be installed atop the old flooring:

Specific Advice on Removing Asbestos-containing Asphalt or Vinyl Floor Tiles or Sheet Flooring

Assumption of asbestos content: unless you know from specific test or other certain data that [in our opinion pre-1985] resilient floor tile or sheet flooring, floor backing, adhesives, and underlayment are free of asbestos, for safety, assume that the material contains asbestos

- treat the material as Presumed Asbestos Containing Material (PACM) or as Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) if that is known.

No mechanical disturbance: do not bead-blast, chip, drill, dry-scrape, mechanically chip, pulverize, or saw (or use any other mechanically disruptive method) on any resilient flooring (tile, sheet flooring, underlayments, subflooring), floor backing, felt linings or underlayments, or on (generally black) asphalt-based cutback adhesives or other adhesives (some tan adhesives contained asbestos as well). - adapted from RFCI (2011).

Here is the US EPA's general Asbestos Advice for Homeowners, quoting from Asbestos in Your Home, U.S. EPA with minor additions of explanation and adaptation from additional sources.

Asbestos Containing Flooring Do's And Don'ts for the Homeowner

Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for safely handling asbestos.

Minor repairs should also be done by professionals since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed.

Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended since improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed.

Removing Asbestos-Containing Floor Tiles Should Be Considered a Last Resort

Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material.

Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.

Asbestos Floor Tile Removal Procedure, Guidelines, Standards, Regulations

Monitoring for Asbestos Fiber/Particle Contamination During Flooring Removal

MANAGING ASBESTOS in PLACE: A Building Owner's Guide to Operations and Maintenance Programs for Asbestos-Containing Materials ("Green Book"), web search 08/11/2010, original source:

How to Develop and Maintain a Building Asbestos Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Program, This information is designed to assist building owners and managers in understanding how to develop and maintain an operations and maintenance program for asbestos-containing materials in their buildings.

Monitoring Asbestos-Containing Material (ACM), U.S. EPA, web search 08/11/2010, excerpts from this original source:, quoting:

Periodic Visual Re inspections and Air Monitoring

A visual re inspection of all ACM should be conducted at regular intervals as part of the O&M program to help ensure that any ACM damage or deterioration will be detected and corrective action taken.

EPA recommends a visual and physical evaluation of ACM during the re inspections to note the ACM's current condition and physical characteristics.

Additional Asbestos-Contamination Prevention Measures

Supplemental Air Monitoring

As part of an O&M program, a carefully designed air monitoring program to detect airborne asbestos fibers in the building may provide useful supplemental information when conducted along with a comprehensive visual and physical ACM inspection and re inspection program.

For employees who are, or may reasonably be expected to be exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers above the permissible limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), regulations require that the employer conduct both initial and periodic air sampling.

For more information about the OSHA exposure monitoring requirements, see the regulations at 29 CFR § 1910.1001(d). [OSHA web page]

If the ACM is currently in good condition, increases in airborne asbestos fiber levels at some later time may provide an early warning of deterioration or disturbance of the material.

In that way, supplemental air monitoring can be a useful management tool. If an owner chooses to use air monitoring in an "early warning" context, a knowledgeable and experienced individual should be consulted to design a proper sampling strategy. (See Useful Links for more information on air monitoring.)

This air monitoring should supplement, not replace, physical and visual inspection. Visual inspection can recognize situations and anticipate future exposure (e.g., worsening water damage), whereas air monitoring can only detect a problem after it has occurred, and fibers have been released.

Sampling Methods

Note that the collection of air samples for supplementary evaluation should not use aggressive air sampling methods. Aggressive sampling methods, in which air is deliberately disturbed or agitated by use of a leaf blower or fans, should only be used at the completion of an asbestos removal project inside the abatement containment area.

Methods of Air Sampling Analysis

The most accurate and preferred method of analysis of air samples collected under an O&M program requires the use of transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Phase contrast microscopy (PCM), which is commonly used for personal air sample analysis and as a screening tool for area air monitoring, cannot distinguish between asbestos fibers and other kinds of fibers which may be present in the air. PCM analysis also cannot detect thin asbestos fibers, and does not count short fibers.

TEM analysis is more expensive than PCM analysis.

However, the more accurate information on actual levels of airborne asbestos fibers that can be derived from TEM should be more beneficial to the building owner who elects to use supplemental air monitoring in the asbestos management program.

TEM analysis is most reliably performed by laboratories accredited by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and who follow EPA’s quality assurance guidelines. (See References, U.S. EPA, Dec. 1989, Transmission Electron Microscopy Asbestos Laboratories: Quality Assurance Guidelines. Washington, DC: EPA 560/5-90-002).

Selecting a Lab

Selection of a reliable and experienced air monitoring firm and analytical laboratory is important, if the building owner elects to conduct supplemental air monitoring under the O&M program.

A consultant knowledgeable in air sampling and analysis protocols can be contacted for recommendations if the building owner or APM has limited knowledge in this area.

See this ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST or contact your state asbestos regulatory agency (5 pp, 17k,) for information on how to find an accredited asbestos professional.

In addition, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) maintains a listing of accredited asbestos laboratories under the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). You may call NIST at (301) 975-4016.

Reader Question: does this floor I'm demolishing contain asbestos?

Messy demolition of asbestos-suspect flooring - DON"T DO THIS (C) InspectApediaWe were hoping you could take a look at this image fo determine if it contains asbestos? The house was built around 1970, but we arent sure if this is the original tile. - J.S. 2/11/14

Thank you,
Jared Spicer


Jared, no one can say for sure what a material contains from just a photo, but the image indeed looks like a 1960's vintage asphalt or vinyl asbestos floor installation, possibly a Kentile floor as those used many pattern inserts.

Watch out: it looks as if the breakup is making a dusty mess - something to be avoided in any case.

If you are facing a costly demolition then it would make sense to confirm asbestos content using a certified asbesto test lab - ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST

Else it makes sense to treat the material as "presumed asbestos containing" or "PACM" flooring based on age and appearance.


Continue reading at ASBESTOS REMOVAL, WETTING GUIDE or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE FAQs - questions and answers about the right way to remove asbestos floor tiles or sheet flooring, posted originally on this page

Or see this

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