At Home With Asbestos: Floors
Part Four in a Series About Asbestos in Your House
As we enjoy cool relief following the doggiest days of summer, you may be thinking about updating a room in your home. Your kitchen, perhaps? An old garage-turned-game room or den? An outdated bathroom or a converted basement? If your home was constructed before 1980, then these rooms, in particular, are more likely to have old linoleum or sheet-vinyl on the floors, or maybe asphalt or vinyl floor tiles. Topping them with another floor covering is always an option. But if you are planning to install a floor-based radiant heating system or need to remove the floor covering for some other reason, then beware! Before you rip up those old layers, consider this: most vinyl and asphalt floor covering manufactured before 1980 contained the toxic mineral asbestos, which can cause severe lung disease and even the deadly cancer mesothelioma.
Sheet Flooring and Floor Tile
If your old floors are covered with nine-inch by nine-inch vinyl or asphalt tile, it is quite likely that tile was made with asbestos fibers. Sitting there on the floor, your antiquated tile or sheet vinyl won’t cause harm. But as it ages, it becomes brittle and can break apart, releasing microscopic asbestos fibers into the air. So don’t try to pry up the floor yourself.
Even the sticky black adhesive used to glue that tile or sheet flooring to the substrate contained asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s. Some 12-inch by 12-inch asphalt tile also contained asbestos, and so did some sheet linoleum. Far better to be safe than sorry. Contact your local municipality to see what the asbestos-abatement regulations are in your area. You can find a list of certified asbestos testing and abatement contractors near you by checking with the Better Business Bureau. Have an authorized inspector determine if there is asbestos in your floor covering and, if there is, make arrangements to have a certified abatement contractor remove and dispose of it.
If you suspect you have asbestos flooring in your home, should you panic? No. Walking on the floor or topping it with carpeting or new tile is not necessarily harmful. Danger occurs when the asbestos fibers in the old tile are disturbed and released into the air. So don’t drag the refrigerator (or anything else) across that old kitchen floor. Don’t chip or scratch any aging tile. Don’t hammer or drill into it. And most importantly, don’t rip up the old flooring without first consulting a qualified abatement professional to determine if your floor covering contains asbestos.
There is nothing better than enjoying the results of a remodeling project. Just be sure you do the work safely!