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Asbestos-containing sheet flooring or resilient flooring product identification:
This article describes sheet flooring products known to contain significant levels of asbestos.
We describe sources of asbestos in older forms of sheet flooring including felt-backed flooring, rubber-backed flooring, and vinyl cushion-backed resilient flooring products. We include research citations on asbestos use in sheet flooring backer materials.
We also include photographs for identification of known asbestos-containing resilient sheet flooring as well as unknown flooring submitted for identification. The article gives safety and asbestos testing advice for sheet flooring products.
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Bottom line: asbestos-containing sheet flooring in good condition in a residential environment is not a high risk of causing airborne asbestos hazards as the material is not friable. The safest as well as least-costly course of action is to leave such flooring in place, and to cover it over with other flooring material.
However if such flooring installed in North America before the early 1980's is in very poor condition or if it must be demolished as part of building renovations, it should be treated as presumed to contain asbestos and handled accordingly.
Flooring adhesives or mastics also may contain asbestos.
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The sheet flooring shown above and illustrated further just below was identified by a reader in a 1964 home. She found remnants in the bottom of a kitchen cabinet on which was imprinted "Armstrong".
The reader asked "Is it linoleum?" A closer look at the product including its backing would be needed. It could be, but this pattern looks more modern to us and is very probably an Armstrong vinyl sheet flooring product. More information about this marble chip pattern sheet flooring is given just below.
Asbestos test lab results have been obtained by readers or by InspectApedia.com confirming that the sheet flooring shown in this section contains asbestos.
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The sheet flooring photograph shown above, provided to us by a reader, was tested for asbestos content. Our reader reports:
The house where this sheet flooring is installed was built in 1966 to 1967. We assume this was the original flooring put down by the previous owner who built the house - we are the second owners of this home.
There was no other flooring under or on top of this, and there is no sign of other layers of flooring below it, so I think it's safe to assume they put it down in 1967. There is no way to know brand since its on bottom, and we haven't removed the floor covering.
We did have the linolium tested and it was positive for 15% chrysotile. Just thought you may want to add this for your catalog. As such we will just leave it undisturbed and cover over with hardwood. - Anon, by private email 10/21/2015
Note: Although many people refer loosely to resilient sheet flooring as "linoleum", the sheet flooring above is a vinyl product and is distinct from true linoleum floors. Linoeum floors do not contain asbestos.
See LINOLEUM & SHEET FLOORING for details about that product.
If the vinyl resilient sheet flooring backing material were dry-sanded or scraped during building demolition, for example, or if the sheet flooring is worn through so that foot traffic continues to damage the backing material, it is possible for unsafe levels of asbestos fibers to be released in a building. --EPA Guidance
During demolition or removal, this material should be disturbed as little as possible. Additional demolition, renovation, and installation advice for dealing with resilient sheet flooring materials can be obtained from the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, by obtaining their publication on the topic.
At ASBESTOS FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION PHOTOS 1951-1980 we include a reader report of lab testing performed on this flooring and confirming that it contained "70% asbestos". While the reader referred to this as "Armstrong Congoleum sheet flooring", Armstrong and Congoleum are separate individual companies.
The flooring shown just above is identified as an Armstrong World Industries resilient flooring product.
Armnstrong sheet flooring products that contained asbestos included products sold under the Solarian name at least prior to 1980. It is possible that "new old stock" asbestos-containing Armstrong sheet flooring was sold later into that decade. Also see Armstrong asphalt-asbestos and vinyl-asbestos floor tiles discussed beginning at ARMSTRONG FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION.
Below are two more identification photographs of the same flooring contributed later by reader R.B. who shows us the Armstrong® imprint on the reverse side of this product [photo at below right]. This confirmed the flooring brand: Armstrong.
Don't mix up product names. Armstrong is a separate company from Congoleum-Nairn. Both companies produce several types and many patterns of sheet flooring. As we discuss at CONGOLEUM FLOORING HISTORY, Linoleum flooring advertised in 1955, here the Congoleum Gold Seal series, was sold in both sheet and tile forms.
Shown below is very similar but more rectangular marble-chip type sheet flooring contributed by a reader - August 2015.
Armstrong tile flooring in the company's wide range of floor tiles (12x12" 9x9" or smaller rectangular glue-down floor tiles) is discussed & identified in detail at ARMSTRONG FLOOR TILES - 1950's.
Armstrong's sheet flooring is described at ARMSTRONG SHEET FLOORING (this article)
Armstrong and Congoleum, Linoleum sheet flooring are different products: these are different companies, although the word "linoleum" was widely used generically and some people will apply it (incorrectly) to vinyl sheet flooring or other products.
Below: two pages advertising Armstrong "Linoleum" sheet flooring from 1961.
Adding to the confusion about use of the term "linoleum" is this Armstrong Cork Co. Catalog:
Above" Armstrong embossed linlaid "linoleum" #5610 from the catalog below. Other popular patterns included brick, solid colors, and Marbelle that we illustrate below.
Above and below: examples of Armstrong's "Linoleum" sheet flooring products.
Above and below: Embossed Inlaid Armstrong "Linoleum" flooring patterns.
Below: Armstrong's straight line inlaid "linoluem patterns"
and more straight inline inlaid linoleum.
OK so we ran out of space and had to move the details of this topic.
Please see SHEET FLOORING BRICK PATTERN ID (separate article)
If the flooring has what looks like burlap - a jute backing - on its reverse it's probably very old and not an asbestos-containing product.
If it has a smooth, non-fabric backing it may contain asbestos and should be treated as PACM - presumed asbestos containing material. From your photo (above left) this looks like a very-widely used sheet flooring with an impregnated asphalt felt backer - let me know.
Some such felt backers included asbestos. As we report below, a reader obtained an asbestos test lab report on a sample of flooring that looks like that above: the lab did not report finding asbestos in that sample.
Don't panic, just don't create a dusty mess by using power tools, saws, grinders;
Watch out that the mastic used to adhere old sheet flooring may also contain asbestos. After trying various solvents on a black mastic years ago I discovered that it was water soluble and came up easily once I let it sit wet for a few hours. Try that.
J.W. Indeed I've found other similar flooring patterns to those in your photo that by date, records, tests, were confirmed as having asbestos in the vinyl backing; it would be prudent to treat the material as presumed-asbestos-containing material. Don't panic; non-friable materials like this can usually be handled with a minimum of dust and debris - provided the floor was not glued down.
The flooring shown at above left, installed in the 1980's did not contain asbestos.
Details about brick pattern sheet flooring are at SHEET FLOORING BRICK PATTERN ID
The flooring shown at above right in a white brick pattern (these are tiles not sheet flooring) contained asbestos.
If you are facing a large cost or have other reasons to be concerned about asbestos contamination in the building it would not be costly to have a small sample of the floor tested. The advice at these 3 articles should be helpful.
Without a close look it can be difficult to distinguish between sheet flooring and floor tiles that used essentially the same flooring pattern.
Shown here is Armstrong's Solarian Devonport White floor tiles that were also matched by some sheet flooring products.
Similarly, this White Romford Brick sheet flooring pattern (below, Armstrong but not a Solarian product) was sold also as vinyl-asbestos floor tile.
See ARMSTRONG FLOOR TILE IDENTIFICATION 1974-1979 for more examples of this flooring type.
Does Armstrong Sheet Flooring or Armstrong Solarium Contain Asbestos? Yes, depending on the specific product and age or time of manufacture, as we discuss below.
The resilient flooring shown above was a popular pattern and has been confirmed as containing asbestos. This is an Armstrong brick pattern sheet flooring product. More images of this floor pattern are at ARMSTRONG BRADFORD BRICK SHEET
In one of the asbestos pages of your site ( this page - Ed.), your second photo is of a sheet layment. The text about the photo clarifies that the person who sent the photo was confused about Armstrong and Congoleum.
I wanted to let you know that I have that exact same sheet layment and had it tested. It's 70% asbestos. Thought you may want to let readers know so they can save the cost of testing and just deal with the issue accordingly.
I appreciate your site. Thank you for taking the time to put together all the information. - D.H. 10/11/2012
Thank you so much D.H. for the floor covering test result confirming asbestos content in this material. We a welcome critique, questions, or content suggestions for our web articles, and as your feedback illustrates, working together and exchanging information makes us better informed than any individual can be working alone.
Also see old pebble-pattern floor tile for a similar product image.
Watch out: confusion among sheet flooring names and terms can make it difficult to sort out which products contain asbestos. For example we've read websites claiming that "in 1980 asbestos in linoleum was already banned" but in fact true linoleum, a type of sheet flooring discussed at LINOLEUM & SHEET FLOORING is not and never was an asbestos-containing product.
The confusion stems from the use of the word "linoleum" as a generic term for "sheet flooring". Linoleum does not contain asbestos. But many sheet flooring products do contain asbestos in a white or light colored core or in a black asphalt-impregnated felt backer. Some readers have reported that their test of 1980-era Armstrong Solarian sheet flooring contained asbestos. Without confirming that the floor was properly identified and without seeing the lab report such reports may be true and accurate but still they're anecdotal.
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Attached are photos of some tile removed from my basement. I believe the backing says it is Armstrong brand tile. I can't find anything in your database about whether this contains asbestos but I have a small child in the house ... I wanted to check. Any information would be greatly appreciated. - Anonymous by private email 2016/06/21 Jake Barrett email@example.com
[Click to enlarge any image] and you can just make out the Armstrong A in a circle that we point to with the black A and arrow in the photo above.
This flooring may be a rubber-backed product and may contain asbestos. Our research, cited below, confirms that some Armstrong flooring products included an asbestos-containing rubber-backing material. (Whitman 1975 et als). I have also seen older asphalt-backed sheet flooring products in similar designs.
Lab test results for asbestos in the Armstrong red-backed (probably rubber) flooring shown above are pending (June 2016). This floor covering was found in a U.S. home dated ca 1900.
If you avoid making a dusty mess such as by vacuuming with a non-HEPA-rated vac, chopping, grinding, sanding, chances are you're not stirring up measurable dust, asbestos or not.
If you search InspectApedia.com for ASBESTOS FLOORING HAZARD REDUCTION you'll see more suggestions for minimizing risk.
We speculate that this Armstrong rug-pattern red-backed sheet flooring dates from the 1940's. Below: a view of the red-colored back of this floor covering. This may be a rubber-backed sheet flooring product similar to some red-backed Congoleum flooring of the same era.
Armstrong World Industries, earlier Armstrong Cork Co., has a long history in the production of an enormous range of types and designs of floor coverings. Armstrong's flooring literature including for its current commercial flooring products and floor cleaning products includes "rubber tile" and stair treads, rubber wall base, as well as "linoleum" in product descriptions. Armstrong points out in the company's current floor maintenance instructions:
It is important to know the type of floor before cleaning. Rubber or linoleum could be confused with vinyl or luxury vinyl tile (LVT) could be confused with wood or laminate. - Armstrong World Industries, "Maintenance Recommendations and Procedures, Commercial Resilient / Hardwood / Laminate", [PDF], Armstrong Corporation, retrieved 2016/06/21, original source: http://www.armstrong.com/assets/commflooringna/literature/downloads/F8663.pdf
Details about identifying Congoleum and its properties are in this separate article: CONGOLEUM-NAIRN FLOOR TILES & LINOLEUM; excerpts are below.
At below left is Congoleum Gold Seal Jackstraw pattern, and below right, Congoleum "Square Dance" sheet linoleum sold in a 9" x 9" tile pattern. Congoleum also marketed linoleum sheet flooring in color flecks or scatter such as their SEQUIN PATTERN [photo of flooring].
The reader-contributed photographs below illustrate Congoleum's Gold Seal™ linoleum in a braided rug design or pattern. [Click to enlarge any image].
At LINOLEUM & SHEET FLOORING where these photos also appear (though this is not true, classic jute-backed "Linoleum"), we list the ingredients found in linoleum floor coverings.
This discussion has moved to IDENTIFY SHEET FLOORING TYPE, HOW TO
See LINOLEUM & SHEET FLOORING for a description of linoleum products that do not contain asbestos.
See SHEET FLOORING NON-ASBESTOS EXAMPLES - separate article
We moved this material to VINYL SHEET FLOORING POSSIBLE ASBESTOS - 1920-1988
The discussion of Finland or Finnish flooring that may contain asbestos has moved to FINLAND VINYL SHEET FLOORING POSSIBLE ASBESTOS - separate article.
This discussion has moved to SWEDISH TARKETT FLOORING POSSIBLE ASBESTOS - separate article
This discussion has moved to SHEET FLOORING NON-ASBESTOS EXAMPLES - separate article
Shown above: traditional linoleum flooring.
Continue reading at SHEET FLOORING INSPECT / TEST or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Or see FLOOR, RESILIENT VINYL or CORK - best installation practices for modern sheet or resilient flooring
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