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Spanish asbestos floor tiles (C) Daniel FriedmanReduce the Hazard of Asbestos Floors: FAQs

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Asbestos floor tile hazard reduction guide:

This document 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.



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Advice for Hazard Reduction for buildings with Vinyl Asbestos Floor Tiles

Asbestos suspect floor tiles (C) D Friedman D.R. 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]

Question: our home has asbestos-suspect floor tiles, prior flooding, and mold smells

I have a bedroom that smells of mildew and I know the room flooded once before we moved in.

There are 2 asthmatics who live in the house so I pulled up carpet and pad. I found several pounds of sandy fine dirt underneath and decayed tiles. I never thought about asbestos until I got to the tile.

I figured it would be cement foundation. I have looked at the different websites and not seen this particular tile and are kind of afraid to touch it now. I want so badly to clean with soap, water, and bleach but are unsure if it is safe?

[I have provided some photos including the one shown at left]

I live in an extremely humid south-texas area and my home was built in 1955 so the deed says. If you have any advice for me

I would appreciate it very much. Right now my husband is in the hospital with pneumonia so I am trying to rid our home of any possible mildew before he comes home. - D.R.R. 8/26/2012

Reply:

You are describing two different concerns: possible asbestos contamination from asbestos containing floor tiles under a carpet, and mold odors and a possible mold contamination problem in the building.

How to deal with asbestos-suspect floor tiles

The floor tiles in your (blurry so I'm unsure) photos look like vinyl flooring tiles that were made to resemble cork flooring. Some of these, depending on age, contain asbestos as fibers and filler.

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.

The material in most floor tiles is not particularly friable (as long as you're not doing a messy demolition), and asbestos release from such tiles while covered by carpeting would most likely be below the limits of detection.

More likely the dirt and debris you found atop the floor is soil that came through the overlaying carpeting, or it may be from deteriorating carpet backing or carpet padding. Best bet is to dispose of old, questionable carpets entirely, HEPA vacuum and damp-wipe clean the entire area.

Also see ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD LEVEL OF RISK and see ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE.

Readers who are considering removing asbestos containing materials should also see ASBESTOS REMOVAL, WETTING GUIDELINES.

How to deal with a possible indoor mold problem in the same area as the asbestos-suspect floor tiles

Because you note that a family member suffers from a respiratory illness, thus increasing the risks involved, you'll want to address household dust levels overall as well as a possible mold concern. Ask your physician for specific advice about exposures, risks, and cleaning in the home.

To further address a possible mold contamination problem you'll need to:

  1. Inspect for visible mold and remove or clean that mold up. Using bleach to "kill" mold is not necessary (MOLD KILLING GUIDE) but cleaning the moldy surfaces and removing moldy material that can't be cleaned are the basic approach. (MOLD CLEANUP, DO IT YOURSELF)
  2. Identify possible areas of hidden mold contamination and decide if further investigation is warranted.

    See MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? for help in deciding if it's cost justified and appropriate to bring in an expert. In my OPINION, given the history of flooding in the home, the mold smells, and the respiratory illness of a family member, it's likely that a thorough professional inspection is justified.

    Watch out: Do not just "do a mold test" as a "test" alone would be unreliable and even if it indicated a problem you'd be no wiser about where to start investigating more thoroughly nor how to remove and clean up the problem.
  3. Identify possible or most likely causes of high indoor moisture or leaks and correct those - as indoor moisture is a gating factor in indoor mold growth. It may be as simple as installing a self-draining dehumidifier in the basement, but a more through building inspection may be appropriate.

See ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT INDOOR MOLD for procedures for dealing with your mold worry.

Question: how do I know if the flooring in our house is safe or is an asbestos hazard?

Asbestos-suspect floor tiles damaged by flooding - is it a hazard (C) InspectApediaI would appreciate your help. I purchased a home that was built in the 1970's and recently had water damage and the insurance adjuster asked me to remove the tile so that the flooring underneath could dry.

I removed the flooring myself and now I have learned it may have asbestos. How do I tell and am I or my children in any danger because of this?

Reply:

Your photo shows a bunch of what looks like vinyl tiles in boxes outdoors; from the photo I'm doubtful anyone could or even should try to identify exactly what tile this is, nor assert whether the tile in the photo (or other unseen flooring in your house) has asbestos or not.

If you knew the age of the flooring in the home (prior to early 80's) it would be reasonable (and safe) to treat the flooring as presumed asbestos-containing floor tile (PACM).

If you recognized a specific tile pattern in our online photo guide to asbestos tile you would know more certainly just what's probably there (some look like others);

Or you'd need to send a sample to a certified asbestos test lab (we list those contacts too at InspectApedia);

For a floor that is in place, intact, and is not being ground up or smashed about by demolition the level of risk is probably below the limits of detection.

For floor tiles that came up intact as those in your photo the quantity of asbestos fiber release should also be very low, as you were not breaking up the tiles; floor tiles are not friable - are not easily crumbled into dangerous dust.

Watch out: some floor tile mastics also contained asbestos filler or fibers. Beyond demolition or grinding or chopping PACM floor tiles, the greatest hazard you might create in any event would be running a conventional vacuum cleaner, thus blowing dust and (if present) asbestos particles into the building air.

In the article above ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION (found if you search InspectApedia.com for "asbestos floor tile hazard reduction") you'll see expert advice on what to do to minimize the hazard from asbestos containing floor tiles or PACM.

Watch out: If in your home there remains flood-damaged flooring that is loose or damaged and has to be removed and you want to minimize risk of possible stirring up of asbestos containing dust, also see ASBESTOS FLOORING REMOVAL GUIDE.

Question: signs of amateur and incomplete asbestos removal - what now?

I cam across your website while searching the internet about asbestos and had a couple of questions. I bought a house 3 years ago and my husband ripped up the carpet in the basement. underneath were tiles that looked like they may be asbestos tiles, so we had a certified company come in and clean up the broken tiles.

We then laid carpet over the remaining tiles. I noticed recently that in the utility closet there seems to be small pieces of what looks like that tile on the floor, maybe left from a past contruction job the previous owner did. I would like to just paint over the floor to adhere anything that might be dangerous. is that a good option?

Also, the owner has a heat pipe running through the basement that was wrapped in asbestos. she seems to have had it removed and then built a sort of wooden enclosure from the ceiling around the pipe. I looked inside and can see from one of the openings a small piece of wrapping still remains. about a foot long. it looks like it has a honeycomb shape.

Half of it is off the pipe resting on the wooden enclosure covered in years of dust. can I just leave it alone? do I need to have it removed? it will be difficult to access it without removing some of the wooden enclosure. - S.D. 7/16/2013

Reply:

S.D. please take a look at the article above, beginning at ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION - where you'll see that painting over a floor consists of resilient tiles that are suspected of containing asbestos and that is securely bonded to its base is a possible option.

The other details you include describe clues of an amateur asbestos removal job - incomplete, which raises the real possibility that work was done without proper dust control and containment. If you have reason to be concerned you might want to test the home for problematic levels of contaminated dust, or save your test money and pu it towards more expert and thorough cleaning - discuss these options with your cleanup company.

Watch out: No one can safely offer any conclusions about the level of asbestos contamination or anything else in a home just based on an email conversation, but in general, even many asbestos materials can often be left safely in place, in fact with less risk of building contamination than if the materials are removed, provided they are encapsulated and are in an area where they will not be disturbed.

Watch out: I would be more concerned about exposed friable asbestos materials in an occupied space or in the air path of HVAC equipment than in an enclosed pipe chase, for example. But I'd keep in mind that even  asbestos left within an enclosed pipe chase may present extra costs when sooner or later someone needs to perform plumbing or other work in that very area.

Question: cleaning asbestos-containing floor tiles

Can you give me any insight as to how to clean 9X9 tiles that more than likely have asbestos? I know not to sand, burnish or strip the tiles. Thank you; - T.B., Juneau, Alaska 1/6/2014 tbristow@bartletthospital.org

Reply:

You already understand the concern - we don't want to make asbestos-containing dust when doing anything to an asbestos-containing floor surface. In addition to what you already point out (no grinding or sanding) I would suggest that you

- do not use any abrasive cleaning method. For example some commercial floor buffing machines use a steel wool pad to strip floors prior to re-waxing

- stick to liquid floor cleaners and strippers. I have had good results using the liquid floor stripping cleaners sold by companies who also sell flooring renovating coatings and sealants.

- if you decide to paint the floor surface

- something that may be done both as extra insurance against wear from foot traffic that may release (probably very small) amounts of asbestos - I'd use an epoxy floor paint.

- If flooring is damaged in very small areas, say an individual fragment has broken loose, and if the intent is to continue to leave the remaining flooring in place (which is usually the safest course) use a commercial leveling compound or epoxy-based filler/sealant to level out the damaged spot to avoid a trip hazard.

- Don't use a vacuum cleaner to clean up dust that you suspect may contain asbestos unless the equipment is HEPA-rated and dust containment has been set up.

Instead see ASBESTOS REMOVAL, WETTING GUIDELINES and ASBESTOS REMOVAL CERTIFICATIONS

More suggestions and citations to authoritative references are in the article above and the references at the end of this article.

Question: OK to cover asbestos floor tiles with carpet underlayment and put down laminate floor?

(Oct 4, 2015) Janice said:

From the identification guide it looks like we have asbestos containing tiles in our bedroom. We moved in two months ago and pulled up old carpet.

We have a couple of spots where it seems like the tile is turning to powder. Can we still cover it with the foam underlay and put down laminate?

Reply:

I would remove any loose material before covering the old flooring.

Question: scrubbing off floor scuff marks with an SOS steel wook pad = asbestos danger?

(Feb 21, 2016) Julie said:
I just finished taking paint thinner to remove paint marks on my (99% sure) asbestos flooring.

After the paint remover sat for 15 minutes I scrubbed it with an SOS pad then buffed it all clean with water and soft scrub with bleach. God I am such an idiot! It just occurred to me that the flooring could contain this harmful substance. Sure enough it matches the date and description in your article

Reply:

Juilie

Chances are that working by hand and using water it's unlikely that you removed a meaningful amount of asbestos-material. When the floor is clean and dry I'd consider using a hard clear sealant coating.

Question: remove glue from an old floor surface

(June 23, 2016) laura said:

Hi I have asbestos tiles throughout my entire apartment. I am unable to afford carpet or anything to cover it.

All of the tiles in all of the rooms have paint and Glue on them from where carpet has been down previously is there any way I can clean this?

Reply:

You may want to test some solvents on the glue, starting with water.

Also see

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

Or see ASBESTOS in GOOD CONDITION

Or see ASBESTOS FLOORING LEFT IN PLACE for more detailed procedures & products suggested for keeping an intact asphalt asbestos floor or vinyl asbestos floor in place

Suggested citation for this web page

ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION FAQs at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice or see this topic index:

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to ASBESTOS HAZARDS

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