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Asbestos Vinyl Tiles

Asbestos Can Lurk Even In This Common Material...

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Asbestos Vinyl Tiles

Asbestos Vinyl Tiles

Copyright Armstrong
The first time I ever ripped up vinyl tiles, I was told that asbestos might be contained within the tiles. It seemed too preposterous to believe, so I kept on ripping up those tiles.

In my mind, asbestos could only be found in deep, dark recesses of the house--wrapped around pipes, contained in insulation. But modern vinyl tiles? No way.

As it turns out, the story was true. One entertaining commercial from Armstrong in 1965, for its Excelon Vinyl Tiles, has a peppy Sixties cocktail lounge beat as the narrator tells about the, "...vinyl asbestos with the beauty and texture of a hand-crafted stone-chip design."

It looks like so much fun to dance on an asbestos vinyl tile floor. But should you be worried?

Q: Can vinyl tiles have asbestos?

A: Yes.

Q: What is the time period for asbestos vinyl flooring?

If the flooring in question was installed between 1952 and 1986, your vinyl flooring might contain asbestos.

Q: Which brand names of vinyl tile might contain asbestos?

Armstrong, Congoleum-Nairn, Ever-Wear, KenTile, KenFlex, Montgomery Ward, and Sears & Roebuck are some of the brand names of vinyl tile that might contain asbestos.

Q: How can I find out the brand name of the vinyl tile?

The safest, easiest, and most obvious path is to search for excess tiles left by the installers. If you have owned your house for awhile, it's almost certain that you would have run into these already. But if you have recently purchased your house, you might find these tiles secreted away in strange locations: in the triangular storage area below basement stairs, worksheds, crawlspaces, attics.

Failing that, the back of a loose tile may identify the manufacturer and brand-name. Prying up vinyl tiles may stir up the asbestos, so I recommend only looking at loose tiles.

Q: Can you narrow down specific makes of vinyl tile flooring that could contain asbestos?

Daniel Friedman of Inspectapedia offers an exhaustive photo guide to potentially asbestos-containing vinyl floor tiles (linked below).

Q: Can I have a lab test my vinyl flooring for asbestos?

Absolutely. It's a far better option than trying to identify asbestos-containing tiles yourself. Local testing labs will test your vinyl tile for reasonable fees. To get an entire home tested for asbestos might run you $400 or more, but to test an individual sample of vinyl tile (if mailed or dropped off at the facility) would cost you about $40-$60, based on local Seattle-area rates. For the lab to come to your house and take the sample, you can triple the price.

Taking a sample usually involves little more than cutting out a 1" square of the vinyl tile in question and sealing it up in a Zip-Loc bag.

Q: How do I remove asbestos vinyl tiles?

Don't. I highly recommend against removing asbestos vinyl tiles, if at all possible.

I can think of few instances where you actually need to remove your vinyl flooring before installing another type of flooring. One notable instance is if you plan to restore the wood flooring underneath the vinyl tile.

But you can easily install ceramic or porcelain tile, laminate flooring, and solid hardwood and engineered wood over vinyl tile--without removing the vinyl flooring first.

Any kind of grouted tile will require the installation of a cement backerboard first. For laminate flooring, you may wish to smooth out the surface by first installing a thin plywood underlayment. Hardwood or engineered wood flooring may be installed directly on the vinyl flooring.

Q: But I really want to remove my asbestos vinyl tiles! How do I do this?

Seal the work area, protectively suit yourself up, and remove the vinyl tile while taking care not to break it up. This can be a hard thing to do with older vinyl tile, which will be friable and not flexible. A link to the Minnesota Department of Health, below, details safe methods of removing asbestos vinyl tiles.

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