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First appearing in homes way back in the 1930s, vinyl floor tiles were and still are a popular choice for floor coverings.

Appearing for the first time at a Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago in 1933, the vinyl flooring on the show was an instant hit. But due to the disruption of World War II in the intervening years, the humble floor tile didn’t truly take off until after the war had ended.

As popular and versatile as the vinyl floor tile might be, it does sadly have a dark side (no pun intended).

Floor tiles that were laid in homes prior to the 1990s may have asbestos, and worse, the asbestos content is usually in the range of 80% – 100%

The asbestos is not present in the tile itself, but rather the backing is made up of this dangerous material and was done to cushion the tile.

This backing is also friable; meaning that it easily breaks down, and as this process occurs, the fine particles become like dust posing a risk to any inhabitants of the home.

Usually applied in sheet form, much of the asbestos-backed vinyl sheet flooring had a ‘terrazzo’ style pattern which generally resembles a faux marble pattern or stone chip.

Am I at risk if I have asbestos-backed floor tiles?

As the floor tiles are laid on with glue and sealed by the vinyl top layer, generally speaking, there is little to no risk of asbestos particles is low.

The risk increases when ageing tiles become cracked, worn or start peeling in any way.

Are there asbestos floor tiles too?

Unfortunately, yes. Some vinyl floor tiles were made with up to 30% asbestos contained in the tile itself. In fact, in some cases, even the glue used to bond the tile to the floor contained asbestos in the past.

What is the risk of exposure to asbestos-containing floor tiles?

Exposure from a floor tile, still in good condition, containing asbestos is thought to be very low.

If you think you might have asbestos-containing floor tiles, you can contact us for an inspection and quote to remove them for you.

Another short-term, and by no means permanent solution is to use a floor sealant. Two or more layers should be applied as a base layer, followed by one or more layers with a high percentage solids finish.  The “solid level” is simply the amount of material left, including polymer film, waxes, plasticisers, levelling resins, etc after water content and solvents have evaporated.

Can I polish a floor with asbestos in it?

Buffing or polishing an asbestos-containing floor surface should only be done if the floors have enough sealant on them where buffing will not expose the tile itself.

It is prohibited to use power tools or high-pressure washers when cleaning asbestos-containing materials.

Can I get a sample tested to see if it contains asbestos?

Absolutely, and we strongly advise that you do so. You can’t tell if a material contains asbestos just by looking at it. Only scientific testing of a sample can confirm this.  We have an asbestos testing service where we can come out to your home, take a sample and send it to a lab for analysis.

In conclusion

Unfortunately, asbestos in flooring is quite common. Particularly in any home built before the 1990s. Asbestos was a major component used in homes due to its fire-retardant capabilities, that is of course until the dangers were uncovered.

If you suspect asbestos might be present, not just in floor tiles, but anywhere in the home, please get in touch with us today for an obligation-free quote to diagnose and potentially remove the offending material.