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Asbestos Vinyl Flooring: The Basics

Asbestos vinyl flooring was widely used until the early 1970’s and so many homes in this area have asbestos containing tiles or flooring mainly in basements and often in kitchens. Typically 9 inch square tiles can be presumed to contain asbestos although testing for asbestos done by a certified asbestos inspector will confirm if it is or is not with other size tiles such as 1 foot square tiles. Also the glue that was used often contained asbestos as well. A material with greater than 1% asbestos fibers is considered to be an asbestos building material.

Vinyl tiles in good condition are considered to be “non-friable” which basically means they cannot be crushed or pulverized with hand pressure. Unlike thermal insulations such as pipe wrap which is considered to be “friable” because it can be easily disturbed to send asbestos fibers airborne.

Asbestos is a group of minerals known for their strength, flame/heat resistance, and indestructibility, and was considered ideal for insulation and fireproofing. However, it was discovered that asbestos fibers can potentially become a health risk and the EPA banned its use. Floor tile forms of asbestos are some of the most commonly used in households. Most household scenarios do not pose an immediate risk, but it is a good idea to know what you have before you decide to take some action yourself

There is a lot of misleading information regarding asbestos and its dangers, but the following are some facts and considerations specific to tile forms which may be helpful to you:

  • In good condition, vinyl tile can be left in place or covered with carpet / padding.
  • If vinyl asbestos tile is mechanically pulverized such as what would occur with a jack hammer to break up a concrete slab, this will send fibers airborne and cause possible contamination. This scenario actually occurs often when basement waterproofing is performed so know what you have before beginning a waterproofing project.
    In a residential setting, in small surface area, asbestos tile can be removed by the homeowner. It is best to be removed in whole or nearly whole tiles. Otherwise if there are a lot of tiles, consider using a professional abatement company.
  • Do not use hammers or means to break up the tile given this causes a “friable condition” which releases fibers into the air* Wear an N-95 or P-100 dust mask if you think dust will be generated.
  • When performed professionally, the goal in removing the asbestos vinyl flooring is to remove it without causing any fiber or dust broadcast. Before beginning, the work area is isolated by installing plastic sheeting over all heat registers, doorways, cupboards, etc. as well as turning off the heating and air conditioning system. All furniture and other movable objects will be removed from the room or covered to prevent contamination and to simplify clean-up. Access to the work area will be limited to one doorway, with a slit in the plastic door covering to make the entrance as small as possible. A machine called a negative air unit will draw the air through a filter to capture fibers if there are any which go airborne.

Careful clean-up is important when dealing with asbestos, and all potential asbestos dust and particulate must be removed from the work area with special vacuum cleaners called HEPA vacuums.

If you suspect that there may be asbestos flooring in your home and wish to have better insight to determine the severity of the problem, give RTS a call to discuss this with a certified mold inspector, please contact RTS Environmental Services at 1-800-722-5589 – www.rtsenvironmental.com