Painted-over asphalt paper backed floor tiles (C)  IGAsphalt-Paper-Backed Floor Tiles
1940s-1950's think asphalt-backed floor tile ID

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Do asphalt-impregnated paper-acked floor tiles contain asbestos?

Thin bituminous-impregnated paper-backed floor tiles are similar in composition to sheet flooring used in many countries in the 1940's and 1950's, perhaps later. Cut into 9x9" squares and adhered to a subfloor the tiles shown here were later painted to form a "rug" pattern desing.

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Asphalt-Impregnated Felt Paper-Backed Floor Tiles

Painted-over asphalt paper backed floor tiles (C)  IG This article series explains the origins, history, production, and ingredients of asphalt-based and vinyl-asbestos based resilient flooring.

First this excerpt from FLOOR TILE HISTORY & INGREDIENTS:

Rosato described use of a felt underlayment to produce flooring materials:

Another application of asbestos with vinyl tile involves the use of asphalt saturated asbestos felt applied under 1/8 inch thick tile. This felt underlay provides for smoother finished flooring.

It is possible that this development is what led to continuous-sheet asbestos-felt-underlayment backed sheet flooring. But we point out that continuous sheet flooring and asphalt tile flooring has an older history.

[Click to enlarge any image]

The original resilient floor covering, linoleum, was used as a floor decking on British naval ships. Asphalt tile was first made as a mastic type of floor covering. The mastic was troweled on as a deck covering over wood. The original mixes included asphaltic binders, with fillers of asbestos; mixing was done on a rubber mill. - Rosato cited at the references section of this page.

The floor tiles shown on this page are probably what Rosato was describing, and they are similar if not identical in construction to asphalt-backed sheet flooring described at SHEET FLOORING NON-ASBESTOS EXAMPLES and also at IDENTIFY SHEET FLOORING TYPE, HOW TO.

But here the 9"x9" square asphalt-impregnated paper-backed tile flooring material was pre-cut into regular gray-colored squares installed as glued-down floor tiles in a U.S. home built in 1953. Our second photo above sports green lines showing (roughly) the positions of the original, now painted-over, floor tiles.

The homeowner who asked about this flooring explained about these painted, 9x9-inch asphalt-paper-backed floor tiles, painted-over here with a more-traditional sheet flooring "rug" pattern:

Painted-over asphalt paper backed floor tiles (C)  IG

I am hoping you may be able to give some direction based on the photos attached. There are different tiles throughout the house but this room has damaged tiles from heavy furniture and some from water.

I am worried that they may contain asbestos as they are exposed now. I cannot identify much about the tiles as they have been painted about twenty years ago. They were all grey with a design of all green tiles around the middle of the room.

One photo shows the grey tile where water has removed the added paint but because the tiles are significantly cracked I cannot tell if they were plain grey or had any variations of grey in them. The other photo shows where furniture has worn through the tile. The added paint is multi colored but the green on the edges was the tile and I was hoping the black interior of the tile might give you some clue. They were installed in the house when it was built in 1953.

The entire floor was painted, the burgundy and floral pattern are acrylic paint covered with water based varnish that has been there about 20 years. It is difficult to see the lines separating the individal floor tiles because of the paint on top but the tiles are 9 x9 inches.

The [original, think 9x9 felt paper-backed floor ] tiles themselves were actually all grey with a square in the middle of the floor of all green tiles.

I will probably cover the floor as is but I have a few concerns about whether the fact that the tile is breaking will make for an unstable base, it is bulging in areas from the weight of furniture or even a computer chair. I don't know if it deterioration due to age.

Also whether there is room to fit new flooring, probably wood flooring, under the old radiators or would it be too difficult to lift them after all of these years. In an old house with low ceilings every inch of height counts, and I don't know if some sort of subfloor would be needed under new wood flooring to make it stable or safe.

In the meantime I have just covered the newly discovered areas where the tile is broken through with clear tape in the hopes that might keep any dangerous particles in place.

- Anonymous by private email 2017/05/07


These look like a very early floor tile made using the same process as sheet flooring comprised of a color layer and an asphalt-impregnated paper backer - that was a successor to true linoleum.

While your 9x9" felt-paper backed floor tiles may in fact be asbestos-free, knowing their age (ca 1953) and that some asphalt-impregnated paper backers contain asbestos you'll want to avoid a dusty demolition; we would not know for sure about the asbestos content of your asphalt-paper-backed floor tiles without a lab test. If you do not damage the tiles nor create a dusty mess the potential asbestos exposure hazard is likely to be below the limits of detection.

Painted-over asphalt paper backed floor tiles (C)  IGYour third photo, shown here with a tear in the flooring, shows a green component in the painted floor surface and the thin asphalt-impregnated paper (felt paper) backing of the floor tiles. The paper, impregnated with a bituminous compond or simply thinned asphalt, imparted both a moisture resistance to the flooring and a strength to the paper backer.

See ASPHALT-ASBESTOS FELT FLOORING for sheet flooring that was quite similar in composition and where we point out that asbestos was used in bituminous-impregnated building papers and flooring underlayments in some products.

ADVICE: For buildings with floor tiles or sheet flooring that can be assumed to have been installed in North America before 1986 it would be prudent to treat the flooring as "PACM" or "Presumed Asbestos Containing Material".

The presence of known or assumed asbestsos-containing flooring does not mean we should panic nor that we must undertake an expensive and dangerous asbestos removal project.

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.

Generally the safest approach is to leave such flooring alone and to cover it over with a coating or with another layer of flooring. There are some thin real-wood laminate products that are quite nice, durable, and that do not add as much thickness to the finished floor as full 3/4" thick wood flooring.



IF you are faced with a requirement for demolition and if you are uncertain about the flooring's asbestos content and cannot identify it through our guides, then you have a sample tested.



Continue reading at FLOOR TILE HISTORY & INGREDIENTS for a guide to floor tile identification, history & composition, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



Or see FLOOR TILE / SHEET FLOORING PHOTO GUIDES - list of photo guides useful to recognize & identify asbestos-containing floor tiles or sheet flooring



Our complete list of asbestos-containing products is at ASBESTOS LIST of PRODUCTS

Or see these

Asbestos Flooring Key Articles

Suggested citation for this web page

FELT-PAPER-BACKED FLOOR TILES at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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