How to Identify and Remove Asbestos Floor Tiles

By Amanda Lutz Updated January 31, 2024

Every homeowner or renter who’s moving into a new place should examine floor tiles for traces of asbestos. The heat-resistant, fibrous, and silicate material was popular in construction projects until 1989, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sought to ban it for posing health risks such as cancer. We’ll help you to identify asbestos, offer tips on how to remove it, and explore its connection to flooring in the guide below.

Why Asbestos Develops In Floor Tiles

Asbestos became popular in the United States in the 1950s because of its durability, hand-crafted appearance, and resistance to heat. American flooring companies routinely manufactured vinyl floor tiles using asbestos, and it quickly became a standard of laminate flooring.

The dangers of asbestos became clear in the 1970s, and in 1989, the EPA issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule, which aimed to enact a full ban on the production and sale of building materials and other products containing asbestos. The ban wasn’t completely successful, and the United States continues to circulate products that contain asbestos even though health risks have become common knowledge.

The use of asbestos was extremely common in homes built before the mid-20th century, primarily between 1952 and 1989. It’s important to inspect for asbestos fibers if you have vinyl flooring. If the asbestos-containing flooring is damaged, asbestos fibers leak into the air and cause health risks.

Identifying Asbestos Floor Tiles

Vinyl sheet flooring, vinyl tiles, and linoleum flooring might contain asbestos, especially in high-traffic areas such as hallways and kitchens. Look out for brand names such as Kentile, KenFlex, Armstrong, Congoleum-Nairn, Everwear, Sears & Roebuck, and Montgomery Ward, which have distributed flooring that may have contained asbestos. The following could also be signs that you have asbestos floor tiles:

If you decide to test for asbestos yourself, use an official kit to remove a small piece of the flooring in question and mail it in the provided envelope to an asbestos-testing lab. Kits come with everything you need to take and send the sample, including a dust mask to wear during collection and gloves to keep your skin protected. Expect to spend between $10 and $45 for the at-home kit and another $20 to $50 fee for lab processing.

Hiring a professional is more expensive, but it will give you more immediate results and eliminate the hassle of removing flooring yourself.

Be safe while you await your results, and only proceed with floor renovation or replacement projects when you have conclusive test results.

Health Risks of Asbestos

Asbestos exposure can cause asbestos fibers to get stuck in the lungs and irritate lung tissue. Asbestos has been linked to the following serious health concerns:

Not everyone who comes into contact with asbestos develops an illness or health condition. The risk of disease depends on many factors, such as whether the affected party has preexisting conditions, the length of the exposure, and how much asbestos leaks into the air.

If you think you have asbestos in your flooring, take immediate action to identify asbestos through lab testing. Once you have confirmation, you can take steps toward remediation, such as replacing your flooring.

A homeowner can legally sell a home with asbestos, but they must provide a disclaimer to the buyer if they’re aware of asbestos. Some states might require testing for asbestos during the home inspection process, but most traditional home inspections don’t include testing for toxins. If you’re interested in purchasing a home built between 1952 and 1989, request asbestos testing.

If you’re buying an older home, mention any potential concern about asbestos to your realtor, and see what information they provide. If you’re selling a property and you think it might bear traces of asbestos, ask your realtor how to proceed. If there aren’t any damaged flooring tiles or materials, the realtor might recommend leaving everything as is. If there is damage, it’s a good-faith act for the future buyer to get the property tested for asbestos.

Removal and Treatment Options

Here are the best ways to deal with asbestos flooring: 

Cover With New Flooring

Asbestos is only dangerous when flooring incurs damage and releases asbestos fibers into the air. If you confirm there’s flooring with asbestos but the flooring is in good condition, you can leave the old tiles in place and cover them with a brand-new alternative. Experienced flooring installers can place carpet, tile, laminate, hardwood flooring, or new vinyl over old asbestos vinyl tiles. Seal your selection with a coat of epoxy floor paint.

If you choose to cover asbestos with new flooring, let any future buyers know that there’s asbestos in the home.

Removing the Asbestos Flooring

If you want to get rid of any trace of asbestos in your flooring, you can remove the existing flooring completely. This is an invasive DIY project that involves asbestos fibers entering the air, so ensure you have a safety plan in place. Always wear protective gear to remove the flooring materials, and keep asbestos materials wet using a pump water sprayer. This keeps fibers from entering the air. 

It’s illegal to dispose of asbestos materials with regular trash, so you’ll need to find a landfill or a trash service that accepts asbestos and other hazardous waste. Give yourself plenty of time to research options.

Hiring an asbestos abatement company is the best option when it comes to tackling a substantial asbestos removal project. Professionals are more expensive but can expertly remove and dispose of asbestos while ensuring you stay safe.

Our Recommendation

The prospect of asbestos can be frightening, especially when you consider the associated risks of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and breathing problems. Remember that simply being in a home that has asbestos doesn’t mean you’ll get sick or that you’re going to develop an illness. Be proactive about inspecting properties that were built between the 1950s and 1980s, address potential asbestos accordingly, and decide how to remedy any traces of asbestos. Diligence and proper research will keep you safe.

Asbestos Floor Tiles FAQ

How can I be sure my floor tiles contain asbestos?

The only way to be sure that your floor tiles contain asbestos is to commission a licensed lab or professional to test a section of the flooring. You can test flooring by purchasing a kit, or you can hire a professional to visit your home and perform a test.

What should I do if I discover asbestos floor tiles in my home?

If you discover asbestos floor tiles in your home, take action. Hire a professional to remove any flooring that is damaged, or remove the flooring yourself while using the necessary safety equipment. Once the affected flooring is gone, you can install new flooring.

What years was asbestos used in flooring?

Asbestos was prevalent in flooring from the 1950s until the 1980s because it was durable, professional-looking, efficient, and inexpensive. Many older homes built during this time still have asbestos in the flooring.

Should asbestos floor tiles be removed or covered?

Asbestos floor tiles can either be removed or covered depending on their condition. If the tiles aren’t damaged, you can cover them or remove them. If they are damaged, remove them immediately or hire a professional to remove them.

What are the health risks of asbestos floor tiles?

Damaged asbestos floor tiles pose health risks such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.