Asbestos was a common building material in the early 20th century. Durable, non-flammable and inexpensive, it was used for insulation and in floor, ceiling and wall tiles. By the 1970s, researchers discovered that asbestos could cause lung disease and cancer, and its use was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. Since it was so common, many existing homes still contain asbestos tiles. As long as they are not friable--subject to crumbling when squeezed by hand--painting over asbestos tiles can encapsulate them and prevent fibres from being released.
Clean the tile. If it's asbestos vinyl floor tile, use a cleaner that will strip old wax build-up.
Prime vinyl asbestos floor tile with tinted shellac or oil-based primer designed to adhere to slick surfaces such as vinyl.
Spray or roll asbestos ceiling tiles with tinted shellac or oil-based primer.
Repair or caulk the primed tile as necessary. Avoid scraping or sanding the repairs. By doing repairs on the primed surface instead of on the tiles directly, you're less likely to release asbestos fibres.
Paint the tile with two coats of paint. Use oil-based floor paint, applied with a brush and roller, on floors. It's fine to use water-based interior paint on ceiling tiles.
Contact your state or regional Environmental Protection Agency asbestos coordinator for information and regulations regarding asbestos, especially if you are working on a school, day care or commercial building.
Do not scrape, sand or otherwise disturb asbestos tile. Doing so will release harmful asbestos fibres into the air or soil around your home. Painting acoustical ceiling tiles will reduce their sound-absorbing qualities.