How to Test Vinyl Floor Tiles for Asbestos

Written by tom king
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How to Test Vinyl Floor Tiles for Asbestos
Identifying asbestos vinyl tile take skill. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Asbestos vinyl flooring is impossible to identify for certain without examining it under a microscope, unless the sample is labelled and you can identify it in a database of asbestos vinyl flooring brands. Properly identifying asbestos vinyl floor tiles is work for a professional. If your vinyl floor tiles were made prior to 1972, there is a good chance they include vinyl in the tiles themselves or the glue that holds them down.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Plastic zippered food storage bag
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Dust mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Water spray bottle

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Examine the floor to see if there is a broken or loose piece of vinyl tile that you can reach. You need a sample about the size of a nickel. The lab prefers three samples if you can get them but don't attempt to cut or break off a piece yourself. If there is a loose piece proceed to step two. If not skip to step 4

  2. 2

    Open a gallon-sized zippered storage bag and lay it on the floor beside the broken piece of tile or loose tile. If a full tile has come loose, have a bag large enough to handle the whole tile without breaking or cutting it. Spray the area with water mist to settle any loose dust. Wear gloves, eye protection and adust mask while doing the sample collection.

  3. 3

    Pick up the tile sample with needle nose pliers. Wear a dust mask and rubber gloves while removing the sample. Be careful not to disturb or stir up any dust. Slip the sample of the tile into a plastic bag and zip it shut. Spritz the area with water to hold down any dust. Blot up any dust with a paper towel and seal the damp paper towel in a plastic bag before disposing.

  4. 4

    Contact the Environmental Protection Agency office in your area or a professional asbestos abatement contractor. They can tell you where to take your sample for testing or tell you who in your area will collect a sample for you. The testing facility will tell you whether you have asbestos tiles or not and advise you on what to do.

  5. 5

    Avoid do-it-yourself home sampling kits. If your flooring is not already chipped it may be safer for you to lay a new floor over the old one and encapsulate the old tile to prevent fibres from escaping. If the tile is chipped, cracked or frayed, hire professionals to remove it.

Tips and warnings

  • When in doubt about whether or not your tile contains asbestos, always treat it as though it does. Asbestos fibres in your lungs can cause serious health problems even if you only receive a short exposure.
  • Keep people away from areas where there are damaged asbestos containing materials and avoid doing anything to disturb or damage those materials until they can be safely removed.
  • Never try and remove asbestos tiles yourself or to do repairs that involve puncturing, sawing, sanding, scraping or drilling holes in asbestos vinyl tiles or wall coverings.
  • Never dust, vacuum or sweep dry materials that may containg asbestos dust. Avoid using brushes, power strippers, floor sanders or abrasives that can create asbestos laden dust.
  • Cover and encapsulate old asbestos vinyl flooring if possible. Removal is always a last resort due to the dangers inherant in thee process.
  • Clean asbestos containing dust with a wet rag or mop, then bag it and throw it away. Don't track wet asbestos containing dirt and dust through the house. It will dry and if even slightly disturbed can become airborne.
  • Never remove asbestos vinyl tile yourself. It's far too dangerous to risk. Professionals will remove the old materials safely so it does not contaminate the surrounding building and leave you a clean surface ready for new tiles.

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