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Asbestos containing vinyl asbestos floor tilesAsbestos Flooring Hazard levels
Determine the hazard level & decide when asbestos-containing floor tiles should be removed

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Asbestos flooring hazard levels:

What is the actual risk level from asphalt asbestos floor tiles, vinyl asbestos floor tiles, or asbestos-backed sheet flooring? How do we decide if asbestos-containing floor tiles or sheet flooring can be safely left in place (and covered-over) or if the material must be removed?

What do asbestos-containing floor tiles in poor condition look like?

This article summarizes the probable risk of asbestos exposure from asbestos-containing floor tiles or sheet flooring as depending on the condition, covering, and location of the floor.

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.

What is the Level of Hazard of Asphalt Asbestos or Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles?

Armstrong vinyl asbestos floor tiles 1955 (catalog photo)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. - US EPA

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.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Article Contents

Asbestos-Containing Flooring Hazard Level Evaluation

The risk of asbestos particle release and thus asbestos exposure from asbestos-containing flooring depends on several variables that we list here.

Asphalt asbestos floor tiles as an asbestos fiber source in buildings

Asphalt asbestos floor tiles were popular in the U.S. from 1920 into the 1960's. Asphalt-asbestos floor tiles were produced at first in dark colors using a heavy asphalt binder combined with a very high percentage of asbestos filler fibers, principally chrysotile and amosite asbestos.

See ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE COMPOSITION.

It would be uncommon to find these floors still in use today, but if you encounter black or very dark asphalt floor tiles they are probably very high in asbestos fibers.

Source of High Levels of Asbestos in Asphalt Floor Tiles:

Asphalt-asbestos floor tiles were produced at first in dark colors using a heavy asphalt binder combined with a very high percentage of asbestos filler fibers.

It would be uncommon to find these floors still in use today, but if you encounter black or very dark asphalt floor tiles they are probably very high in asbestos fibers.

Black_White_Floor_TilesDepending on the particular mixture of asphalt, gilsonite, asbestos, limestone, and pigment used, these floor tiles could contain as much as 70% asbestos by weight.

One reason that so much asbestos was used in flooring tiles was simply the wish to find an application for asbestos waste product from asbestos mining operations.

The black and white floor tiles at left also may be vinyl not asphalt based since white tiles appear to have been laid at the same time as the black units. This home was constructed in the 1950's.

Since white resilient floor tiles would have been unusual to find before 1952-1955, we guess that the age of the floor may be consistent with that of the home in this photo.

While the asbestos fibers are mixed with a hard binder and the floor tiles are certainly not friable, we have read accounts of airborne levels of asbestos fibers being traced to the presence asphalt-asbestos floor tiles in areas either subjected to high volume foot traffic or to abrasive floor cleaning or maintenance procedures (like using steel wool pad floor buffing machines in a school corridor), or during demolition of this material.

Older nine-inch "thicker" vinyl or asphalt-based floor tiles, many more recent 12-inch floor tiles (1960 - 1980), and some more recent sheet linoleum as well as the mastic used to bed or glue down older flooring materials are likely to contain asbestos fibers and should not be disturbed by grinding, sanding, or demolition without taking the appropriate precautions.

We discuss the history and manufacture of asphalt-asbestos floor tiles in our Age of House articles

at FLOORING MATERIALS

We discuss the inspection, diagnosis, and repair of various flooring products
at FLOOR TYPES & DEFECTS.

At CERAMIC TILE, ASBESTOS / LEAD? we address the question of whether or not other forms of flooring such as ceramic tile contain an asbestos hazard.

Also see ASBESTOS DUCTS, HVAC a field identification guide to visual detection of asbestos in and on heating and cooling system ducts and flue vents.

Also see MICRO-PHOTOGRAPHS OF DUST FROM THE WORLD TRADE CENTER collapse following the 9/11/01 attack. Links to U.S. government and other authoritative research and advice are included.

Examples of Asbestos-Containing Floor Tiles in Poor Condition

Armstrong asphalt asbestos floor tiles in poor condition (C) InspectApedia.com MD

In addition to the page top photo of cracked loose asbestos-containing floor tiles, the reader below has sent additional examples of damaged asbestos floor tiles.

Even for these examples of damaged tile flooring we need to answer a few questions before determining that professional removal by an asbestos expert is necessary.

Reader Question: do these floor tiles contain asbestos?

My wife and I recently ripped up a rug in our small breeze way and planned on putting down tile.

When I ripped up the rug I found that there was previously old tile, some of which was cracked and brittle.

Attached below are the pictures of the tile. Our house was built in the 1950's and I am concerned that the tile might contain asbestos.

The tiles are 9 x 9. Do these tiles contain asbestos? - M.D., Connecticut, USA, 26 Jul 2015

Armstrong asphalt asbestos floor tiles in poor condition (C) InspectApedia.com MD

Reply: This floor is most likely an Armstrong 9x9 asphalt asbestos floor tile from the 1950's or 1960's.

Congratulations on sending along some of the most smeared over and breaking up Armstrong vinyl asbestos (or possibly still older asphalt asbestos) floor tiles I've seen in a while.

Take a look
at ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION PHOTOS 1949-1959

where you will find
Navaho Gray 781 Armstrong asphalt asbestos floor tiles from the 1950's that look quite like your example photos.

It would be prudent to treat the flooring as "PACM" or "Presumed Asbestos Containing Material" as I am virtually certain they are.

That does not mean we should panic nor that in all cases we need to undertake an expensive and dangerous asbestos removal project.

Armstrong asphalt asbestos floor tile Osage Green (C) InspectApedia.com

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.

Generally the safest approach is to leave such flooring alone and to cover it over with a coating or with another layer of flooring.

The Armstrong asphalt asbestos floor tiles shown at above-left are probably Armstrong's Osage Green

(see ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION PHOTOS 1949-1959) and may be in good-enough condition that a floor can be installed overtop.

A quick catalog of green Armstrong vinyl asbestos floor tiles is at

ARMSTRONG FLOOR TILES GREEN

However the tiles in your photos shown earlier on this page and in another example shown just below look rather broken up, enough that some cleanup is probably necessary.

Watch out: the tile mastic in these older asbestos-tile flooring systems also may contain asbestos.

Armstrong asphalt asbestos floor tiles in poor condition (C) InspectApedia.com MD

Don't let an unqualified contractor create a dusty demolition mess or the ultimate costs may increase by the need to clean other areas of your home where asbestos containing dust may have been transported.

On any of our asbestos-related InspectApedia pages, at More Reading you will find a complete

ARTICLE INDEX to ASBESTOS HAZARDS

See therein

ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION.

For a floor that is mostly securely glued down

see ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE. It is often the case that one can install a new layer of flooring atop the existing secure floor covering; if there are small uneven areas where tiles have been lost those may need to be filled in with a masonry leveling compound.

Other flooring systems such as floating clip-together laminate or engineered wood floors are easily installed atop a rosin paper layer placed over the older floor.

Red & black Armstrong vinyl asbestos floor tiles 1950's (C) InspectApedia.com Red & black Armstrong vinyl asbestos floor tiles 1950's (C) InspectApedia.com

For an asbestos tile or sheet floor that is is so badly uneven and broken up or loose (such as the water-damaged floor above) that you cannot seal and floor-over it, then see

ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE

Watch out: Meanwhile do not run a vacuum there unless it's HEPA rated as you may increase the hazard of airborne dust that might contain asbestos.

IF you want to have flooring a sample tested

see ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST and

if you need help collecting a flooring test sample

see ASBESTOS TESTING SAMPLE COLLECTION.

We would much appreciate hearing any comments, critique, suggestions, or further questions that you may have after you've taken a look at the articles I've cited.

Advice on Removing Asbestos-containing Asphalt or Vinyl Floor Tiles

Asphalt asbestos floor tiles in poor condition (C) Daniel Friedman

Details about asbestos-flooring product removal are
at ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE; excerpts are below.

The green Armstrong asphalt asbestos floor tiles shown at left are located in a business in Two Harbors Minnesota and are in poor condition.

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Antique Linoleum, Jute-Backed: not an asbestos product

Asbestos suspect sheet flooring from Justin Morrill Homestead

This sheet flooring covering backed with burlap fabric is probably more than a century old.

The material has not been tested for asbestos fibers, but where we see what is obviously a jute backing it's not likely that the product contained asbestos..

The possible origin of this product is discussed

at ASPHALT & VINYL FLOOR TILE HISTORY - history, dates, and description of the production process and ingredients in asphalt floor tiles, asphalt-asbestos floor tiles, & vinyl-asbestos floor tiles 1900 to present.

Asbestos-containing flooring was sold in both individual floor tiles and in rolls of sheet flooring. But just as with vinyl or plastic floor tiles, not all flooring contains asbestos. LINOLEUM & Other Sheet Flooring includes examples of sheet flooring that often did not contain asbestos.

To treat floor coverings in asphalt-based floor tiles or sheet flooring, or vinyl (plastic)-based floor tiles or sheet flooring, it is reasonable to treat flooring sold even into the early 1980's as PACM (Presumed Asbestos Containing Material).

Also the mastic or adhesive used to install flooring may also contain asbestos.

Keep in mind also that very often it is not necessary nor even recommended to remove PACM floor coverings. But if conditions require that it be removed,

see ASBESTOS REMOVAL GUIDE, FLOORING.

How to Dispose of Vinyl-Asbestos or Asphalt Asbestos-Containing Floor Tiles

Floor tiles that contain asbestos may require special disposal procedures depending on where you live (C) InspectApedia.com reader photoThe following advice for disposal of vinyl-asbestos or asphalt asbestos floor tiles is adapted from the Minnesota State Department of Health:

State health departments typically recommend that all asbestos debris and waste is disposed of in a landfill that accepts asbestos-containing waste.

There are three methods of disposing of asbestos waste and they are:

Watch out: if you are disposing of asbestos-containing waste yourself, you should contact your local state health department for detailed instructions.

For example, while a landfill may accept asbestos-containing-material (ACM) (as the material may be buried and thence non-hazardous, special requirements may apply to protect workers and buildings from asbestos dust during collection, bagging, removal, and transportation.

- Ref: MN DPH at REFERENCES

InspectAPedia.com is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information for the public - we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website.

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Continue reading at ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE - steps to avoid an asbestos hazard, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD LEVEL ASSESSMENT FAQs - flooring asbestos hazard level questions and answers posted originally at this page.

Or see DOES THIS FLOOR CONTAIN ASBESTOS?

Or see FLOOR TILE / SHEET FLOORING PHOTO GUIDES

Or see ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION COLOR KEY

Or see ASBESTOS TESTING LAB LIST

Or see ASBESTOS REMOVAL, WETTING GUIDELINES

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING DAMAGE HAZARDS what sorts of damage to an asbestos-containing floor covering are likely to require further action?

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION - things you can do to minimize asbestos particle or fiber release from an existing asphalt asbestos or vinyl asbestos floor: tiles or sheet flooring

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE - how to remove asbestos-containing flooring while minimizing the asbestos release or exposure hazard

Suggested citation for this web page

ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD LEVEL ASSESSMENT at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to ASBESTOS HAZARDS

Or use the SEARCH BOX found below to Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia


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