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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

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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.



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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

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:

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.

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

Our photographs below 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 floor (below left), 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.

Vinyl asbestos tile kitchen floor (C) Daniel Friedman Vinyl asbestos tile kitchen floor (C) Daniel Friedman

For periodic maintenance, the black epoxy floor is cleaned and re-sealed (above right) using the floor rejuvenation products shown below. The original expoxy paint coating was made in 2000; the photo at above right shows the condition of the floor around 2015, more than a decade later.

Floor rejuvenator cleaner (C) D Friedman

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 by YEAR, 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.


Floor rejuvenator cleaner (C) D Friedman

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.

Managing Asbestos in Place in buildings

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

Asbestos Flooring Hazard Articles

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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 FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION

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

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Questions & answers 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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