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.

Reader Question: Is it likely that this bath ceramic tile black mastic in my 1986 home would contain asbestos?

Black tile mastic behind ceramic wall tile in the bath of a 1985-86  Australian home - asbestos? (C) InspectApedia.com KC

I posted a question in the Comments section regarding my bathroom Reno.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Shown here: reader's photos of ceramic bath tile and black tile mastic in a 1985-1986 Australian home.

My house is from 1985/86, the cement sheeting in the shower areas say “Manufactured With Asbestos”.

Before I remove the wall tile, I would like to know if there is any chance the adhesive could contain asbestos. I am sending images as requested.

Any information appreciated.

Although I can see some kind of fibre in the images, I have read that they can’t be seen without a microscope. Seems to be a lot of confusing info out there. - Anonymous by private email 2017/08/24

Reply: Australian & possibly some U.S. manufacturers stamped cement board as not made with asbestos in the late 1980's

In both the U.S. and Australia it would be unusual for new construction in 1985/6 to have used asbestos products.

At the time of my initial reply I had not yet seen your photos of the mastic used behind ceramic bath tile, nor your backer board photo, so I offered this general advice: I'm not sure if you saw my note or if I was clear before about the possibility of asbestos in tile mastic.

Black tile mastic behind ceramic wall tile in the bath of a 1985-86  Australian home - asbestos? (C) InspectApedia.com KCSee ASBESTOS-CONTAINING ADHESIVES - for floor tiles

and ASBESTOS MASTIC IDENTIFICATION - Tile Mastic or Roofing Sealant Adhesive that may contain asbestos: Identification

and ASBESTOS-CONTAINING MASTIC DANGEROUS? - Demolition or remodeling advice for old tile floors or for roofing flashings, sealants & mastics

From the fact that you saw asbestos-suspect wall materials it certainly believable that a contractor would have used a mastic that contained asbestos. However that's not a friable material unless you grind or saw to make a Dusty mess.

I would much like to see a photo of the printing on the cement board or asbestos board that you found.

Also if you tell me what your plans are for the wall I might be able to make a suggestion. That is are you just stripping tile or do you need to take the whole wall down.

Reader follow-up

Here is a picture of the cement sheet, (shown above) this on several of the sheets in the other bathroom in the house. I was planning on just removing the tile, but if I have to, I can certainly remove the whole sheets containing the tile.

... Oh ..., I just noticed on my first email that I put “Manufactured with Asbestos” it SHOULD HAVE READ “Manufactured WITHOUT Asbestos”

Reply: Australian cement board installed 1985-1986, manufactured without asbestos

Cement tile backer board that does not contain asbestos (C) InspectApedia - Australia

Aha so we found that the wallboard was marked as NOT containing asbestos. An easy misread to make when we're nervous about asbestos in a home.

The no-asbestos stamp on the cement board in your home reminds us that at the time your house was built, manufacturers as well as installers of fiber cement tile-backer board and other cement board products faced customers who wanted to be sure they were not being sold old-stock of asbestos containing products. One could speculate that the same contractor who installed such cement board would not have intended to use a mastic tile adhesive that contained asbestos.

OPINION: Adding that to the generally not friable nature of tile mastics the risk of asbestos from the wall demolition is likely to be low. Only if you were facing an unavoidable requirement to grind, chop, saw or otherwise make a dusty mess might you add asbestos to the general concern that you ought to have anyway about avoiding breathing demolition dust.

Also see this fiber cement tile backer board discussed at NON-ASBESTOS FIBER CEMENT BACKERBOARD examples found in CEMENT BACKERBOARD INSTALLATION - Editor

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