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Vinyl asbestos tile kitchen floor (C) Daniel FriedmanHow to Seal Asbestos Floor Tiles to Leave In Place
Coverups Can Reduce the Hazard of Floor Tiles That May Contain Asbestos

  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs 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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Strategies for leaving asbestos-containing floor tiles or sheet flooring safely in place in a building:

Choosing an appropriate material to cover-up or coat the surface of a sound, well-adhered floor can protect against future damage or asbestos particle release in the building.

This article 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.

Page top photo: vinyl asbestos floor tiles in the kitchen of a 1970's home - before covering over with epoxy floor paint.

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.

How to Safely Leave Asbestos-Containing Floor Tiles in Place

Floor surface re-covered with ceramic tile (C) Daniel FriedmanAdvice About Covering or Sealing Asbestos Floor Tiles

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 most economical renovation procedure for asbestos-floor tiles would be to leave the tiles in place, picking up any very loose scraps for enclosure in plastic bags for disposal (your municipality may permit disposal as construction debris, or you may have to hand it over to an approved waste hauler - double-bagged it should not be an issue), followed by installing a new layer of flooring over the existing material.

Photo at left: ceramic tile installed directly over asphalt-asbestos floor tile in a 1970's home. [Click to enlarge any image]

Reader Question: What are the options for covering asbestos-suspect floor tiles or sheet flooring?

Vinyl asbestos floor tile identification photo U.S. Library of Congress

We are renovating a small bathroom that has resilient flooring of uncertain age, but from the style we think the floor tiles are from the 70s. We want to cover this floor tile to avoid an asbestos hazard. What are some options. - Anon.

Reply: asbestos-containing flooring in good condition is not "radioactive" and does not spontaneously emit harmful particles

Remember that the hazard from asbestos-containing floor tiles is not like something that's "radioactive" - if the flooring is not damaged, if you avoid making a dusty mess by demolition, and more, if it the flooring can be covered and protected from damage, it is not harmful if left in place.

Current best asbestos advice is to avoid the dust and mess of demolition of vinyl asbestos flooring if you can simply cover it with another material.

Question: how can we identify these 1950's 9x9" basement floor tiles to find out if they're "asbestos" ?

Asbestos-containing 9x9" floor tiles from a 1950's home (C) InspectAPedia.com WWe are planning to gut and remodel a basement in a house we have been living in for a few years now. The basement previously was used just for storage, but we want usable space there. About 400 Sq ft of the 700 we will be remodeling has existing tile while the rest is just painted cement floor.

Some of the tile is missing, one section cracked, but covered with foam play mats, which my wife installed initially when the house was purchased.

These are 9x9 tiles, and we have no idea about history or age.

The house is a 1950s home, but it is not clear when the basement tile was installed. A search online lead me to your site, and they do look like Armstrong tiles possibly, but I wanted to get an opinion from somebody with more expertise.

Me plan was to have the floor removed and to go with an epoxy floor covering, as it is a basement floor, where water is always a possibility and carpet is not something we want to risk.

If it is not advised, and it would be better suited to go with a different floor covering, we would still need to deal with the areas missing tile, but we have a contractor that can aide in this.

I will attach some photos that hopefully can help identify the tiles in question. - Anonymous by private email 2018/06/02

Reply: asbestos-containing flooring does not mean we have to undertake an expensive and dangerous asbestos removal project

You will find an exact match to your flooring in the ID-library of asbestos flooring beginning

at ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION PHOTOS 1949-1959- (floor tiles) where you'll see your flooring in the early Armstrong (or similar manufacturers) vinyl asbestos or asphalt asbestos 9x9" (and other sizes) flooring.

Asbestos-containing 9x9" floor tiles from a 1950's home (C) InspectAPedia.com WDo you need to test the floor for asbestos?

From the age and appearance of the floor, I would not bother testing it for asbestos, spending instead on proper cleanup and sealing of the surface.

Even without testing, given the appearance and known age of your floor, it would be prudent to treat such flooring as "PACM" or "Presumed Asbestos Containing Material".

The presence of known asbestos-containing flooring does not mean we should panic nor that we should undertake an expensive and dangerous asbestos removal project.

Do you have to remove the existing floor tiles?

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 with a coating or with another layer of flooring.

Keep in mind that even if you removed the floor tiles the remains of the mastic adhesive below would make use of an expoxy floor paint problematic - it may not properly adhere. You'd need to also remove the adhesive (which may also contain asbestos), and then clean the surface to make it bond with the floor paint.

All of that demolition and cleaning, performed properly and safely, would be quite costly. If the rest of your floor is sound and well-adhered, that expense is probably not necessary.

Options for leaving the flooring in place

For the situation you describe,

see ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE where I describe using an expoxy coating on a floor in generally good condition and provided that the remaining floor tiles are well-adhered to the floor below.

You can buy floor tiles that can fill-in the voids in the existing floor. Select a floor tile of the same thickness and surface texture (not embossed). Armstrong as well as other floor tile manufacturers sell floor tiles in various thicknesses, one of which should match the thickness of the existing tiles.

Other advice on various options for an asbestos-floor tile is

at ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION

Asbestos-containing 9x9" floor tiles from a 1950's home (C) InspectAPedia.com WFor a floor whose tiles are well adhered except for small areas of damage such as you show, I would prefer to damp-wipe clean up a few broken tiles, replace missing ones with new tiles of the same thickness, then expoxy-seal or otherwise cover-over (sheet vinyl) the existing floor.

If you must remove the 9x9 asbestos-suspect flooring

Watch out: If when you remove the rest of the current covering over the floor you find a significant number of loose, poorly-adhered, or broken floor tiles, OR if for other reasons you are compelled to remove the floor (not the recommended option)

see ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE .

Watch out: Do not run a conventional vacuum cleaner over such areas as you'll just cause more particles to become airborne.

On any of our asbestos-related InspectApedia pages, at More Reading you will find a complete ARTICLE INDEX to ASBESTOS HAZARDS

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

InspectAPedia is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information provided free to the public - we have no business or financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website. We do not sell products nor services.

Examples of asbestos floor tile or sheet flooring cover-ups that can work

Watch out: We do not recommend installing ceramic tile over a wood-framed floor before you have checked the flexibility of the floor system, in particular if the floor framing covers a larger span, say a dining room, or an area of heavy usage, say an entry hallway. The worry is that flexing floor framing may cause cracks in the ceramic tile job. Usually the floor can be stiffened sufficiently to avoid cracking either by reinforcing framing from below or by adding a layer of stiff underlayment.

Watch out: when adding a new layer of floor covering that requires underlayment or leveling compound, the increase in floor height where it abuts adjacent flooring of other rooms can create a trip hazard.

Advice for Coating or Painting Over Asphalt Asbestos Flooring

or Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles Using Epoxy Paint and/or a Rejuvenation Sealer or Gloss Coat

Vinyl asbestos tile kitchen floor (C) Daniel Friedman

Our photographs demonstrate the use of an epoxy floor paint to provide a durable and safe coating for a vinyl-asbestos tile kitchen floor that was otherwise in good condition.

The original asbestos-flfloor (shown above), installed when the home was built in the 1970's, was cleaned to provide a good bond for the epoxy floor paint.

No sanding, ginding, or other dust-producing methods were used.

For periodic maintenance, the black epoxy floor is cleaned and re-sealed (above right) using the floor rejuvenation products shown below.

Vinyl asbestos tile kitchen floor (C) Daniel Friedman

The original expoxy paint coating was made in 2000; the photo above shows the condition of the floor around 2015, more than a decade later.

Floor rejuvenator cleaner © D Friedman at InspectApedia.com

Reader Question: how can I seal vinyl asbestos floor tiles so that I can leave the flooring in place?

I am looking for information on Armstrong diecut inserts from around 1952. Also are there any recommended ways to seal these floors so you can enjoy the look but without any asbestos concerns? Thanks, Sarah

[This Q&A originally appeared

at ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION PHOTOS 1949-1959, June 2011.

Reply: residential vinyl-asbestos floor tiles in good condition can be gently cleaned and clear-coated or sealed - vinyl tile floor restoration

As we noted in quoting the US EPA and other sources,

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.

About sealing vinyl-asbestos tile floors, especially in residential use where school or public regulations and public access worries don't apply, I've had great success using epoxy paints but you may find a shorter-term less durable but safe coating using clear-coating floor restorer products.

You will need to repeat the coating from time to time.

We did this recently in a New York home following this procedure:

Floor rejuvenator cleaner © D Friedman at InspectApedia.com

if you maintain a hard clear coating on top of the floor surface you won't be releasing any measurable level of asbestos fibers by normal foot traffic.

Watch out: We advise against using any power equipment such as sanders, grinders, saws, or even steel-wool buffers on vinyl-asbestos flooring out of concern for the effect of grinding of the surface and concomitant release of asbestos particles into the building air.

Reader Question: Armstrong asbestos floor tile diecut inserts from around 1952 - ways to seal these floors?

Am looking for information on Armstrong diecut inserts from around 1952.

Also are there any recommended ways to seal these floors so you can enjoy the look but without any asbestos concerns? Thanks, Sarah - Sarah 6/23/11

Reply: gentle cleaning followed by floor restorer clear coating protects from asbestos fiber release

Sarah:

Our photos show examples of some of the diecut flooring inserts from the 1950's; I'm not sure what other information you seek.

About sealing vinyl-asbestos tile floors, especially in residential use where school or public regulations and public access worries don't apply, I've had great success using clear-coating floor restorer products.

We just did this recently in a New York home. The floor was washed with mild detergent and water. Then we used a spray cleaner recommended by the floor resetorer manufacturer.

The spray cleaner removes old wax residues. Next we used a magic marker to color in some gouges that had marred the floor surface. Finally we coated the flooring with the floor restorer product. The floor looked new, and great.

In sum, if you maintain a hard clear coating on top of the floor surface you won't be releasing any measurable level of asbestos fibers by normal foot traffic.

Also see ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION for more ways to reduce the asbestos hazard in asbestos-suspect or presumed asbestos-containing flooring.

Stripping Asbestos-Containing Asphalt Floor Tile or Sheet Flooring

Before sealing or painting-over an asbstos-containing floor that is to be left in place you will need to clean the floor surface of loose dirt and to remove wax coatings so that the sealant or epoxy floor paint will bond to the floor surface.

As we discussed earlier in ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE, we used a spray cleaner recommended by a floor restorer manufacturer.

The spray cleaner removes old wax residues. See our photo of Rejuvenate™ floor cleaner there.

Watch out: do not use any floor cleaning method that involves abrasion, such as stainless steel buffing pads, sanding, grinding, chopping, scraping, NOR solvents that can damage the floor as these may increase the hazard of asbestos exposure to workers and occupants as well as damaging the floor.

Watch out: take care when selecting cleaners or floor stripping chemicals or treatments. Some of these can stain, damage, or even dissolve the flooring.

The following advice on stripping a floor, provided by US Chemical (cited below) was written in general terms and was not intended to apply only to asbestos-containing asphalt-based flooring, but it's still pertinent.

There are 2 types of strippers, alkaline strippers and solvent strippers. Both strippers are diluted with hot water.

Alkaline strippers contain caustics, silicates or monoethanolamine that breaks the polymer bonds of the floor finish.

Strippers containing silicates should not be used on marble, because the silicates can turn the granite gray.

Alkaline strippers can also damage asphalt tiles but are a better choice than solvent strippers on asphalt tiles. Alkaline strippers are generally faster than solvent strippers but need more thorough rinsing.

Solvent strippers contain glycol ethers or alcohols to break down the finishes.

Alcohol based strippers should only be mixed with cold water and should not be used on asphalt, rubber, terrazzo or linoleum floors.

Solvent strippers are the best for stone floors and alkaline strippers are the best for resilient floors.

New tiles have a finish applied during manufacturing, called a mill finish, that needs to be stripped off before the tiles can be sealed or finished.

Solvent based strippers should not be used on tile floors that are less than 2 years old as they can lift the tiles by dissolving the adhesive.

Asphalt tiles (usually 9” squares) should not have solvent based strippers used on them, because the solvent leaches the color of the tile.

Solvent strippers will remove the paraffin from rubber floors, making them brittle.

When used on terrazzo they can leave glycol ether residues, which can be reactivated by a water-based finish. This can strip the floor from the bottom up.

Stripping solution should be applied with a mop and bucket, not an auto scrubber.

If an auto scrubber is used, stripping solution can be left in the scubber, which can damage the scrubber, and then the scrubber can’t be used for the rinse water.

Before measuring the stripper, make sure that the mop bucket is marked with gallon increments. This allows for easy measuring of the stripping solution.

A diluted gallon of stripper solution will strip approximately 600 sq. ft. of floor with an average number of coats of sealer and finish on it. - US Chemical (2016)

Managing Asbestos in Place in buildings

Red & black Armstrong vinyl asbestos floor tiles 1950's (C) InspectApedia.comWatch out: if your asbestos-containing floor looks like the one in this photograph, sealing such a floor is not a reasonable approach.

Removal of the flooring is required, and possibly the mastic adhesive needs to be removed as well.

Quoting below from the following U.S. EPA references includes some advice on managing asbestos in place in buildings:

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

Additional Asbestos Exposure Prevention Measures for Asbestos Hazards

...


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

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE FAQs - questions & answers posted originally at this page.

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING IDENTIFICATION

Or see these

Asbestos Flooring Hazard Articles

Suggested citation for this web page

ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to ASBESTOS HAZARDS

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