Asbestos is a toxic material present in some older vinyl tile
Lab testing to identify asbestos flooring costs $150 to $300
Avoid disturbing asbestos, as this releases toxic particles
You can contain some asbestos by installing new floors on top
Asbestos removal and disposal should be done by professionals
You may have heard about the dangers of asbestos, a once-common toxic material that is typically found in some older homes. It’s important to know if you have asbestos in your floors, but removal can be costly and isn’t always necessary. In fact, you can often safely test for and contain asbestos at a much lower cost.
Learn more about asbestos and how to best deal with it.
What Are Asbestos Vinyl Floor Tiles?
Asbestos is a mineral that was commonly used to manufacture vinyl flooring from about 1950 until 1980. It gained popularity among flooring companies due to its fireproofing qualities and its strength and durability in the face of scratching and humidity. Another attractive feature was its appearance, as some asbestos tiles had the texture of a hand-crafted stone-chip design.
Though it was widely advertised and very popular in all parts of the United States for about 35 years, it was eventually discovered that asbestos fibers are toxic. Inhaling asbestos particles can scar your lungs or lead to a range of diseases including cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma, according to the Cleveland Clinic. By the 1980s, asbestos was virtually wiped out as a building material.
Nowadays, some older homes still feature vinyl floors that contain asbestos. Exposure can occur whenever the toxic fiber particles enter the air, which happens as the flooring wears out or is disturbed. Until this point, asbestos doesn’t otherwise pose a health risk. You can safely live with asbestos in your home—as long as you don’t disrupt it.
How to Identify Asbestos Vinyl Tile Flooring
As time goes by, more homes are being remodeled and asbestos is becoming far less common. However, if you have an older home, your floors may contain asbestos.
It can be hard to identify asbestos because you won’t be able to tell just by looking at your floors. Instead, consider the following methods.
If you have access to records of when the flooring in your home was installed, you can determine whether asbestos was still in use at the time. Vinyl floors that were installed between 1952 and 1986 may still contain asbestos.
Location in the Home
Asbestos tiles are highly durable, so builders often installed them in high-traffic areas. Old vinyl flooring in kitchens, hallways, and mudrooms may contain asbestos.
Check Underneath Your Flooring
One way to deal with an asbestos problem is to cover the tiles with another layer of flooring. This contains the asbestos, rendering it safe as long as it isn’t disturbed. The presence of multiple flooring layers does not always mean asbestos is present, but it can be a sign.
Solid asbestos tiles may be covered with just about any type of flooring. There may also be a sheet of underlayment such as Luan wood or cement board between each floor layer.
This is the safest and most reliable method of asbestos identification. If you plan to do any sort of renovation that would involve disturbing older flooring, hire a pro to test for asbestos. You can have a lab representative come to your home to take an individual sample of your vinyl tile for testing, which usually costs $150 to $300.
Should You Treat or Remove Asbestos Tile Flooring?
If you can avoid removal, do so. The safest thing you can do with asbestos flooring in your home is to leave it alone. Disturbing it via removal, sanding, or cutting will cause it to break down and release toxic particles.
In some situations, you can place new flooring on top of the asbestos tile, as long as you don’t disrupt it. If you have asbestos vinyl tile in your home, you can install ceramic or porcelain tile, sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl plank, laminate, solid hardwood, or engineered hardwood on top of it.
However, if you are faced with a circumstance in which you need to remove asbestos tile before installing new flooring, the best way to avoid the serious potential health risks of asbestos inhalation is to hire a local asbestos abatement company. On average, asbestos removal costs $2,000, although whole-home remediation can cost $15,000 or more.
The Professional Asbestos Removal Process
To keep asbestos particles from entering other parts of your home, the removal team seals off the room they are working on with plastic. They wear disposable protective suits and gloves, as well as respirators to allow them to safely breathe as they work.
Once removal is complete, they wipe down all surfaces and clean dust using vacuums with high-efficiency filters. All materials used during the project will be bagged and turned over to a specialized asbestos disposal site.
Finally, to ensure that all asbestos has been eradicated, have a third-party inspector test your home’s air. A tester independent of your removal company is more likely to be a neutral party with no conflict of interest.