Black tile flooring, maybe not asphalt basedAsbestos-Containing Floor Tile Adhesive, Mastic or Roofing Sealant Identification

  • ASBESTOS-CONTAINING MASTIC DANGEROUS?- CONTENTS: What are the health hazards that may be encountered from cutback or mastic adhesives used in flooring, roofing, and other building applications? Demolition or remodeling advice for old tile floors or for roofing flashings, sealants & mastics
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the asbestos content in cutback adhesives & roofing mastics
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How to recognize roof or floor adhesive, mastic, or sealant that may contain asbestos. This article provides dates of manufacture of asbestos-containing adhesives, mastics, sealants, and includes photographs and text describing the appearance of such products.

While an expert test by a certified asbestos testing lab is required for sure identification of the asbestos content of most materials, we point out that some materials can be recognized as asbestos-containing by simple visual inspection, and others may be treated as presumed asbestos containing products based on the product type, age, and ./ or date of installation.

This article series answers questions about floor tile, sheet flooring, or roofing cutback adhesives or mastics that may contain asbestos.Does or did roofing mastic products & sealants contain asbestos? What are the hazards of demolishing or working on floors or roofs where asphalt-based asbestos-containing mastics, cutback adhesives, or sealants were used? Page top photo of black mastic floor tile adhesive provided courtesy of reader G.M.

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Asbestos-Containing Floor Adhesive / Mastic Identification & Age

Asbestos containing vinyl asbestos floor tilesReader Question: when was asphalt-asbestos cutback adhesive manufactured & how can I Identify It

When was asbestos asphalt cut back adhesive manufactured and is there an easy way to identify it? I have a house that was built in the mid 1970s and there is black adhesive on the kitchen floor. There was sheet linoleum over it. - C.H. New Jersey, 12/5/2012

Reply: how to decide if flooring mastic, cutback adhesive or similar products contain asbestos

A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem or hazard from handling cut-back adhesive or mastic that may contain asbestos in a flooring application as well as in roofing mastics. That said, here are some things to consider:

Dates of Black Asphalt-Based Asbestos-Containing Cutback Adhesive

Cutback is the black asphalt-based adhesive that was frequently used to install vinyl asbestos tile, asphalt tile and vinyl composition tile. We're uncertain of its precise history, but we found it mentioned in a 1937 patent for composite panel board,

Patent number: 2232762
Filing date: Nov 27, 1937
Issue date: Feb 25, 1941

A patent by Vicenzi filed in 1986 describes an asbestos-free product intended for similar uses

Patent number: 4759799
Filing date: Aug 21, 1986
Issue date: Jul 26, 1988

So excluding time to move from patent into production, it seems reasonably safe to guess that asbestos-containing cutback adhesives were in use at least until that date, possibly a bit later.

Tan or Brown Latex-Based Tile Mastic / Adhesive - some might contain asbestos

Having examined asphalt-based adhesives used in floor tiles as well as in roofing mastics from a variety of installations, I cannot say that there is an easy way to recognize which contain asbestos and which do not simply by visual examination of the adhesive itself.

There are both dark and lighter tan tile or flooring adhesives that may look alike but be chemically very different - some can be softened by simple water, others not. However these related observations will be helpful:

  1. Floor installation date: Consider the probable date of application and use of the adhesive and assume that before 1988 it may have contained or was even likely to contain asbestos
  2. Floor covering materials: Consider the materials with which the cut-back adhesive was being used. For example, if the adhesive was used for asphalt-asbestos floor tiles or vinyl-asbestos floor tiles, then it would be reasonable to suspect the adhesive of also containing asbestos.
  3. Water-soluble tile mastics: Some floor tile mastics that appear difficult to remove using common solvents may in fact be water based and are removed by soaking with ordinary water; but beware that depending on age, these non-asphalt mastics may also have contained asbestos.
  4. Non-friable asbestos flooring mastics: Finally, where (most) asphalt based and other mastics and cut-back adhesives are generally not friable, the potential asbestos exposure hazard will be affected more by the means used to remove the material than by the material in its applied-state. Follow recommended wetting and cleanup guidelines.


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