Asbestos fibres were used in the production of vinyl and linoleum tiles, and in the adhesive binding them to the floors, until the early 1970s. These tiles may have been installed in homes until the mid-1980s, leaving many homeowners wondering if their floors could contain this hazardous material.
While the only definitive way to determine if a floor has asbestos in it is with a lab sample, there are many characteristics to look for that can indicate the probable existence of asbestos in a floor. If asbestos is suspected, a sample can be taken or the floor encapsulated.
Look for any records that indicate when the house was last remodelled, built or the floor installed. Production was stopped on asbestos materials in the 1970s, and the last materials used by the early to mid-1980s. A vinyl or linoleum floor from the mid-1980s to present day is very unlikely to contain asbestos fibres.
Measure the tiles. Many asbestos-containing tiles measure 9 inches or 13 inches square, as opposed to the 8 or 12 inches that are more commonly seen today.
Look at the colour of the tiles. Black or dark-coloured tiles such as hunter green or burgundy are more likely to contain asbestos fibres than are lighter coloured tiles. Asbestos was one of the ingredients used in pigmenting vinyl and linoleum tiles, which resulted in a dark colour.
Look at the colour of the adhesive. If the tiles are loose or missing, check the colour of the adhesive. Black adhesives are the most likely to contain asbestos fibres in their make-up.
Do not attempt to handle suspected asbestos tiles or to remove them to bring them to a lab for sampling yourself. Call a trained professional to remove a sample if desired. Otherwise, treat the floor as if it does contain asbestos and encapsulate it or have it removed by a trained professional.