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Unwittingly removed asbestos floor tiles. What's the deal?

Can someone please explain something to me? What is the deal with asbestos? Really.

I recently removed a small, 17-square ft. area of old 9X9 1960Âs VATÂs (vinyl-asbestos tiles) and didnÂt realize it until two weeks later. I used a little bit of adhesive remover and a heat gun and scraped them up. NO mask. And, in fact, while we were preparing the surface for the new floor, the scraps of VAT were sitting in a bucket and in my dry vac canister.

There was no dust.

Anyway, upon realizing what I had done, I called my doctor who said, "two weeks exposure is an extremely short exposure time, and thereÂs really no reason to worry." My daughters pediatrician said the same thing, more or less. Still, I didnÂt calm down or stop worrying because of the latency period thing. That is, I was worried that any one of the people living in my house could get sick 10 to 50 years down the road.

Now, IÂm reading about how VATÂs are no/low-risk because the asbestos is bound-up in the compound. ItÂs "part of the matrix." A piece in the SF Gate even states that vinyl floor tiles that contain asbestos pose no risk even if they are disturbed because of the way they were manufactured. Also, from what I understand, VATÂs contain a comparatively low % of asbestos, anywayÂespecially compared to other residential asbestos products.

Anyway, should I be worried? Or should I let it go? There seems to be a lot of doomsday-ish, very grim asbestos information on the web, but IÂm now wondering how many of these websites are sponsored by law firms for whom asbestos torts = $$$. I have to admit, IÂm hard pressed to find either a single instance (online) of a person ever developing a long-term illness from a popcorn ceiling, VATÂS, or any other residential asbestos products.

Comments (364)

  • 5 years ago

    Good morning. I have read through most comments and have a question.

    We have asbestos tile tthroughout our basement. We are remodeling and will be laying ceramic tile. Previoulsy we have had 3 floods that loosened/cracked the asbestos tile. Can someone please tell me step by step i need to do. I do not want to have an abatement company remove. We aalalsalso have low ceilings. There are probably 10 tiles missing and others loose. We also would like to know if/how we coulf install electric heated flooring as well. So asking the process of installing new floors over exexisting loose asbestos with and without electric heated element. Thank you in advance.

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    Nicole

    As a contractor, I would not want to lay a heated floor somewhere unless the source of the leak/flooding has been repaired. Can you tell me what the source of the floodwater was?

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  • 5 years ago

    Yes it was the sewer line..i have bebeen told its getting old and causing tissue and soap/greegreese build up in the trap. We will probably be breaking the floor to replace with a Y pvc to ssolve the issue..again having to remove asbestos tiles.

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    Well you can't remove the floor without removing the tiles. I would speak to the plumbing company about it and see how they handle this. Generally they only have to remove a trench or so , not all the tiles.

    If your willing to forego the heated floor and have a low ceiling, I would gGlue down any loose tiles you have, then apply PerfectMembrane (by specialty solutions) over the whole floor to lock down and encapsulate the tiles. Then apply a new thin cement overly or epoxy over that.

    If you insist on a heated floor, then you can apply a new concrete floor directly over the old tiles and add the heating coils into that.

    If the ceiling is too low and you don 3ant to use the PerfectMembrane and decorative floor solution, then you have to remove and replace the existing concrete floor and tiles.


  • 5 years ago
    You can’t put anything over those tile and have it last. It will fail. Remove the tile. There is no danger to removing the tile unless you grind them up into a powder. Use a floor scraper. Most States allow home owners to do the work themselves. Hire someone and it will cost you. Use a decoupling membrane such as Ditra. If you’re going to heat the floor they -Schluter- have an excellent system and it is also a decoupling membrane. You’re going to want someone that knows what they’re doing to do the electrical work. Again. Removing tile doesn’t present a danger.
  • PRO
    5 years ago

    A 4" concrete slab laid onto the tile will never go anywhere. An overlay or epoxy applied directly onto the right bonding primer system as I mentioned before does last. I have been installing them for 15 years without a failure, I learned about this system from the US army corps of engineers who use it all the time to encapsulate rather than remove asbestos.

  • 5 years ago
    I would put my 40 plus years and degree in Architectural Engineering against your experience. Pour a 4” slab over tile to cover tile? Dumbest thing I heard of. Pull the tile up. Cut the slab to replace the sewer line. Pour concrete in the trench and put down the floor. Bonding agents over concrete is stupid. The floor moves - your tile cracks. Use a decoupling membrane.
  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Thanks SJ McCarthy, I am still trying to get a company to do this, it is a big hassle. One company has given an estimate with 4 different proposals which is very confusing, two of which are the same for removing furniture in the room with a different price for the same thing. I have contacted two other companies but one is too far away to given an in person estimate apparently, and the other came and seemed good and has not given us an estimate yet, over a week ago.

    I will ask about testing for mold as well. Does that need to be done before or after removing the floor and how is it done? It could be contributing to my symptoms. I have been changing my diet, treating with different medications and changing my clothes which has helped.

    The ins will be paying for the asbestos abatement since the pipe leak is covered but it still has to be negotiated with them. They have given an estimate for the new floor. I don’t know if they would pay for taking care of mold as well though? Each company said the air quality needs to be tested after the floor is removed waiting a period of 12/24 hours. I’m just wondering if that is necessary since the tile is not friable and I’m assuming no asbestos fibers are going to be released if they do it carefully.

    I will not be doing any of this myself obviously. Thank you for your advice, any other advice is welcome!

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    Yes, use a decoupling membrane like the PerfectMembrane we use. Keep in mind that you are spending someone else money here. Be judicious.

  • 5 years ago

    ThaThank you for your qquick responses. I think we will seal and tile without tthe heat element.

  • 5 years ago
    Yeah. As you judiciously recommend someone pour 4” of concrete over an existing concrete floor because it has tile stuck to it that may or may not contain asbestos. You’re not helping anyone with that kind of advice. Put ceramic tile to concrete is begging for tile failure i e cracks. Concrete is guaranteed to do one thing. Crack. I gave them the best option that is way less expensive than your solution.
  • PRO
    5 years ago

    A lot has changed in the last 40 years you know. Personally I use dozens of products now that didn't even exist when I went into business....like my cell phone, and a ton of new coatings. etc. Why don't you learn about PerfectMembrane and test it for yourself before making a conclusion, or even worse, damming it. I believe engineering, like contracting, is a constant process of learning and growing. Don't you?

  • 5 years ago
    Dude. I still do this work. 40 years using the newest best products on the market. Dealing with asbestos in all forms. Building schools, churches and countless other projects residential and commercial. I offered a common sense solution to a problem. You offered a stupid solution. You’re an idiot quite frankly. Let it go. 4 “ slab over an existing basement floor because there may or may not be asbestos is the stupidest thing I’ve heard since a guy told me he was going to put particle board over concrete
  • 5 years ago

    I worked with asbestos tiles and ceramic tiles for 34 years from 1965 to retiring in 2010. I'm 72, and had throat cancer from breathing in asbestos/silica dust! I have had surgery and 30 rounds of radiation. I realize through articles that throat cancer is low on the list, but dusts are breathed through the nose and mouth. Any thoughts on my case for help ? Do I have a case for compensation of some sort? I have enlisted legal help with little success!

  • 5 years ago

    @Richard. I'm sorry this has happened to you. You are best served by reaching out to a class action attorney who has already started the process. I know that in Canada there is now a limited time to get your name on a list for the class action suits. After that time has passed, it will be too late to receive compensation. You will need to find out if your state or your industry has a time limit to file. Getting your name added to a list of an existing suit might be the only way to receive compensation.


    You will also require industry leading experts in Asbestos based cancers agree that your form of cancer is more likely then not to have been caused by your asbestos exposure. In the USA, that gets very expensive very quickly. That's why you will want to join an existing suit.

  • 4 years ago

    We are taking a mobile home to the dump and the metal to recycle but discovered there is 9x9 tiles throughout the trailer underneath the other flooring. The trailer is early/mid 70's. Im sure once they see it at the dump it will be an issue. Is there anyone with ideas of how we could do this ourselves and get rid of this trailer/materials. Another one we had we just had a large machine come in and break it down and sort it. I really don't want to have to dismantle the trailer fully by hand. Any suggestions

  • PRO
    4 years ago

    Hi Guys.

    Asbestology here.
    If you have any questions in regards to asbestos removal, hole cutting, carpentry or when you need a licensed contractor, what is friable & what’s not, etc, feel free to email me on the below website.

    www.asbestology.com.au

    Kind regards.
    asbestology.com.au

  • 4 years ago

    If you have questions about asbestos removal and testing you can visit our website https://abcenviroteam.com/asbestos-removal

  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    My daughter's boyfriend thought he was helping and removed the tile from our basement in preparation for new flooring while we were away last weekend. MANY of them chipped as he was scraping. We came home to buckets of times that he'd removed. This morning, I was talking to a friend and she said "are you sure thise aren't asbestos tiles?" Now, I will admit, I haven't heard about asbestos in many years and never knew it was in residential floor tiles. Needless to say, nor did my daughter's 23 year old boyfriend. He had never even heard of asbestos. Today, I wet the tiles and covered the buckets, but that was a week after it happened, so it probably did no good. We have all been in and out of that room numerous times. We even swept and vacuumed the dust that was on the floor. I am concerned that we have tracked fibers all over the house. There is a couch down there that he just moved to the side as he removed the tiles. Should i throw it out. My house was built in 1959. I am VERY worried, what should I do?

  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Hi Hu,

    I would advise decontaminating all open areas & throwing out the couch, vacuum & anything else the fibres could've come into contact with. We can price this for you if you fill out our website quote form.

    If it has a paper backing then this is huge concern as that is the high percentage asbestos.

    Kind regards,

    Cole

    www.asbestology.com.au

  • PRO
    3 years ago

    I agree with Cole that you need to do your best to clean the space form fibers.

    In addition, once the area has been cleaned, you need to seal over that black mastic that held the tiles in place. To do that the easiest and least expensive way to properly achieve that is to use PerfectPrimer, and then apply a top coat of paint or epoxy. I hope this helps.


    Sincerely,


    Scott Richards

    perfectprimer.com






  • 3 years ago

    I would take most answers about asbestos with a grain of salt. It is exceedingly rare that exposure to small amounts of asbestos will have detrimental health consequences. Remember that California is covered in naturally occurring asbestos and in times of fires and drought (two things California sees on the regular) there will be a noteable amount of asbestos fibers in the air.

    Much of the crisis with asbestos was manufactured by litigation. Cancer and respiratory issues are significantly higher among people who worked with asbestos regularly in industrial or mining situations. Because of the nature of cancer, it is possible that a single exposure will lead to cancer, just as it is possible a single cigarette will, but that would be incredibly unlikely.

    I feel sure that I am going to get chastised by someone who makes their living off of that fear and I am not going to engage too far with this. Try to find some research studies on the dangers if asbestos from people who have no skin in the game.

  • 3 years ago

    For a house built in 1990: Today I removed a roughly 135 square-foot area of my kitchen vinyl flooring. Found the original vinyl flooring underneath. Pulled that up to. Used an oscillating handtool, but did not sand. Used a shop vac to vacuum up smaller bits of glue, tile, and vinyl backing. Wore a paper mask, didn’t notice a lot of dust, but am finding film of dust on counters and tables on that floor of the house. How concerned should I be about my family and I being expose? Flooring installers will be here in two days. I stopped and will do no more without knowing risk.

  • 3 years ago

    I've never actually heard of the plastic portion of sheet vinyl itself containing asbestos; it's the gray felt backing you need to worry about. That can contain a high percentage of asbestos; mine tested at 50% chrysotile (so, way worse than VAT, which gets all of the attention, but my house was built in the '60s). Sometimes you can end up with huge amounts of asbestos in the mastic, too, especially the black mastic, but I gather that trailed off after the '50s.


    If your house was built in 1990, it is exceedingly unlikely it contains asbestos adhesives or asbestos-backed sheet vinyl. I mean, sure, if someone put in old stock instead of something new, then anywhere that might ever have had asbestos could have it. If you still have samples of the felt backing of the vinyl and of the mastic, send both off somewhere like Western Analytics and have them tested.


    (Also, for those talking about 9x9 tiles, please note that the flooring manufacturers also made 12x12 VAT, though not in as many colors, at least at first. The VAT really isn't much of a risk if you heat it and slowly pry up one tile at a time because the asbestos is bound in a matrix. If you get a floor stripper and grind everything down, that's a different story, and you need to watch out for the mastic, too.)



  • 3 years ago

    I posted a while back that my daughters boyfriend removed basement floor tiles without knowledge of asbestos concerns. We had the time tested an it came back as 3% chrysolite in the tile and none detected in the mastic). I know that no amount is safe or , but how concerning is 3%? I placed a hepa air purifier in the room and we've stayed out of there pending results of the testing. My main concern is for him because he was pretty aggressive in the removal with no protective gear.

  • 3 years ago

    Since the event has already happened, there is nothing to be done except wait. The concern for the boyfriend is going to be 'long term wait and see'. A single exposure is HIGHLY UNLIKELY to cause illness (remember the bell curve...imagine moving as far towards NEGATIVE infinity as you can...that's the kind of 'unlikely' I'm talking about).


    The 'room' should be fine. So long as all surfaces were wet-down and then wiped clean (including ceilings...there are 6 sides to a cube) while you were wearing N95 mask and goggles you should be fine.


    The particles need to be prevented from flying up into the air (we call that 'friable') which is where the water comes in. Water keeps things from flying up into the air. Other than that...that's about all that can be done.

  • 3 years ago

    Agree with SJ McCarty. We should all avoid exposure, but one time is highly unlikely to cause an issue. Virtually every single person who worked / works in construction is exposed at some point. It's not worth losing sleep over, but he should take care not to repeat this mistake in the future.


    Just clarifying that I don't believe n95 masks are rated for asbestos. I believe you need P-100.

  • 3 years ago

    Thanks for the correction on the mask option. Got Covid on my mind (hey...I think there's a song in that!).

  • 3 years ago

    Thank you, I've had a couple of P100 masks in my Amazon cart awaiting the test results and will go ahead and purchase them so we can clean the room. The tiles are still submerged in closed buckets of water and now that i have confirmed they contain asbestos, I will contact a company to dispose of them. 2020 has been a hell of a year!!

  • 3 years ago

    Hi all!

    We recently pulled up the top layer of vinyl sheet flooring in the kitchen to find another layer of the same attached to the sub floor. Because of asbestos suspicion, I had the material tested and sure enough found chrysotile 20% in the backing of the first layer of vinyl sheet (attached to the plywood sub floor.) The other layers checked out negative. So at this point we of course are not going to remove any more of the asbestos containing flooring and so what is the best way to clean the top of this floor (we are putting down new vinyl sheet flooring on top) there is a lot of the top layer’s paper backing and the old mastic that adhered it to the original “bad” vinyl. What would anyone who knows suggest?

  • 3 years ago

    Ask your installer what they require. Or better yet have them do the cleaning for the prep. Yes it costs a lot more than you want to spend, but it is done to the NEW sheet vinyl's specs. The company who does the cleaning will be FULLY responsible for the adhesion of the new layer.


    S/he who cleans the subfloor is 100% responsible for the adhesion of the NEW floor. I would not want to muck it up before the floor was even laid.

  • PRO
    3 years ago

    We just seal/ paint the floor with perfectpaint. The special floor cleaner comes with it. You can lay your flooring right on top.

  • 3 years ago

    We recently found some very old vinyl tiles under a layer of concrete mesh tiles that was under a layer of ceramic tiles. We are testing the vinyl tiles. 1) Do we need to test the ceramic tile? 2) How do we remove the concrete mesh? Thank you!

  • 3 years ago

    Ceramic tile should not be asbestos containing. It's baked to make it hard, like bricks, and that type of material does not use fibers for strength. Cold-setting materials like concrete, plaster etc. is where asbestos is used.


    "Concrete mesh" sounds like cement board underlayment. If it has a mesh in it, I'm pretty sure that is fiberglas cement board, not asbestos. Usually it's nailed down, so you should be able to bust it out with a crow bar by prying from underneath, cutting mesh where you need to, and then pull any remaining nails.

  • 3 years ago

    You only need to test the vinyl tiles AND the adhesive holding the vinyl in place. Many adhesives had asbestos content...so you will need to have the glue tested as well. That will required a second sample.

  • PRO
    3 years ago

    The sampling kits also instruct in how to test and take samples by following the instructions this can be done by yourself but using mask and gloves for sampling procedure is essential.

  • 3 years ago

    I have a small bathroom sheet vinyl approx 1980 tested the sample came Back vinyl not asbestos but mastic is 4% white asbestos, now I don’t want to pull it up but there’s a couple edges not adhered down and the tile guy is worried about this the rest of the floor is adhered still not easy to pull up etc. so can I cut off the small area edge not glued and cover this with a coat of thin set to tile over it? What advice if any ?

  • 3 years ago

    No. Sheet vinyl doesn't like to grab anything. Because it has been contaminated by cleaners since the 80's. In many states (check yours) the homeowner has the right to remove a SMALL square footage of asbestos based product by them selves (DIY). I think I read 132sf somewhere. Bathrooms are RARELY this big.


    There are ways of taking up the vinyl (again..the vinyl is NOT asbestos) while keeping the mastic WET (ie. fibres cannot become airborne). There are primers or types of thinset that can be laid over the mastic (once the mastic has dried). This is the second easiest way to do this.


    The EASIEST way is to lay new substrate over the old vinyl (backer board or plywood) and then put down tile over top. That raises the height of the floor...but it is faster/easier than pulling sheet vinyl and then coating with primer/thinset.

  • PRO
    3 years ago

    If you strip the old sealers off this floor and coat it with PerfectPrimer, them any new mastic will bod to the floor, without raising it up. Just sayin....

  • 3 years ago

    So my fiance helped someone sand hardwood timber floors after vinyl had been removed but still had hard stuck on black sections which eventually came up with a professional sanding machine, he wore a mask but I’m worried that as this is an older house with known asbestos in other areas that the stuff he was in fact sanding may have contained asbestos????

  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    The black mastic usually has asbestos in it, yes. That said, content is all over the place. You'll see things that will tell you that the black mastic can have 80% asbestos content, and that VAT (9x9) can be very high. This is absolutely true if you're removing something from the '20s. It's also true that the asbestos content in both of these products declined over time, though. (Sheet vinyl, not so much.) My sheet vinyl tested at 25-50% asbestos (different products in different rooms), the ceiling popcorn at 1-2%, VAT 2-3%, and black mastic (under the VAT) at 2-3%. (All original material from late '60s.) There's not a lot that can be done about it after the fact, though, if he's already done the sanding, except maybe not do it in the future.

  • 3 years ago

    My wife and I scrapped floor sheet i 2019. Recently I realized the paper under it was asbestos. I decide to not let her know. There was some dust. I don't know what will happen.

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Here is a study on the effects of working with asbestos floor tile. I did not read the entire study. I just skipped to the bottom and read the "conclusion" section. It made me feel better about unknowingly taking up asbestos floor tile in the basement without any protection. Study on exposure to asbestos floor tile

  • PRO
    2 years ago

    People here are talking about how easy it is to cover up a mastic problem, but that's hiding, not solving a problem. In addition, covering up mastic does not allow you to then glue down flooring, apply paint, or put epoxy over it. In addition, when the house is sold, the unsealed mastic must be disclosed, and then becomes a problem once again.


    The EPA allows for asbestos mastics to be properly sealed as a true solution.

    There are many ways to seal it, but for our customers we have been using the perfectprimer.

    We do this because it seals the floors as well as primes it for tile, paint glue or epoxy.

    I hope everyone finds this information helpful.




  • PRO
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    I live in an old craftsman house built in 1928 in California. However there are a few rooms that are add-ons over concrete slab and I don't know when they were added.. Those rooms all have old floor tile that I assume contain some asbestos, but after reading here for many years I have not been concerned because i wassn't grinding these things up. However in the bathroom whenever water leaks on the floor old brown mastic just leaks up between the tiles making a mess and once wet it doesn't seem to have much adhesion anymore . I can lift those tiles right up and have often in the past just wiped up the mastic to clean the area and in some cases completely lifted the tiles, wiped up and removed the mastic and then glued them down again. I probably used epoxy at one time for some of those tiles. Now my mastic is light brown its not black. Is this mastic an asbestos problem? If so I've exposed myself plenty over the past 25 years.

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    @Business_Name_Placeholder - I have some rather bad news for you. If you live in Southern California then you likely breathe in asbestos with every breath. Airborne asbestos naturally occurs in much of California and people are exposed to it every single day.

    Asbestos fibers that have soaked through the floor during water leaks are unlikely to become airborne in concentrations necessary to present serious risks assuming you took typical measures to clean up the mess and didn't let large amounts accumulate.

  • PRO
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area. Thanks. It was always wet when I cleaned up. How much asbestos would be in the old light brown Mastic? I've thought of just covering over the whole thing with linoleum or similar . Its a small space. By the way i don't know that my tiles are asbestos - maybe vinyl? How do you tell? I have been a little concerned if I decide to pull up the ones I might have epoxyed.

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    You can cut off a chunk and send it off to a lab to test for asbestos content-- obviously, don't do that in an obvious place if you're not immediately planning on replacing it or covering it. If you can lift a baseboard and get material from the edge, then cover the missing section back over with the baseboard, that's often a good location. For the mastic, you can get it wet and scrape up some and send it off for testing. The lab will almost always have specific instructions on safe ways to collect material for testing and how much you need. Similar appearing materials are all over the place on actual asbestos content.

    Vinyl asbestos tiles tend to be square and have kind of a marbled look. They are often, but not always, 9x9. The vinyl asbestos tiles are generally quite low risk compared to the asbestos-backed sheet vinyl, because the asbestos fibers are bound in a matrix with the vinyl. Unless you pulverize them in removal, you're not going to get airborne fibers taking them out. If you contrast whatever your local recommendations are for VAT removal with sheet vinyl removal, they're usually pretty different-- the main thing people are concerned about with VAT is how you dispose of it. For sheet vinyl, though, they're really worried about how you take it up.

    Mastics can be pretty difficult to get up. For example, the black mastic was really easy to get up with Bean-E-Doo (whatever they call it now)-- anything else, though, forget it. The remnants of the Bean-E-Doo itself were challenging (lots of soap, water, scrubbing, etc.) However, though the same chemical said it works on old carpet adhesives, it didn't work at all for me. If you have things tested and the tile's asbestos and the mastic's not, the tiles are pretty easy to remove nondestructively with steam (e.g., a steam iron or a wallpaper steamer, or you can rent a big machine that heats the tiles for you). Then you can rent a big commercial scraper to get the mastic up, which is the most efficient. If the mastic does contain asbestos, either it shifts easily with heat or it doesn't, it's water soluble or oil soluble, etc. Use whatever people think is the best method for the specific type of mastic you have. Or paint over the mastic with one of the sealing compounds if the standard removal methods don't work. Since your tiles are loose, though, I'd take them out before putting any new flooring down.

  • 2 years ago

    Just wanted to add to the previous post: There are two kinds of asbestos containing materials (ACM): Friable and non-friable. Friable is crumbly material that can be reduced to dust in your hand. It would include boiler and pipe insulation, and paper-like materials. This is the most dangerous stuff and requires a high level of respiratory protection and dust control. Non-friable is material that can't be crushed by hand, such as vinyl asbestos tile, asbestos cement, and tile mastic. You only get airborne fibers from non-friable material if you cut it with a saw, grind, sand or otherwise pulverize it. Removal of non-friables, if you use the right methods, doesn't require as much protection as fibers are not released.


    Regulations will vary somewhat by state as to what homeowners can do and how they should dispose of any waste they generate. Check with your regulatory agency if you are considering doing work yourself.

  • 11 months ago

    @toxcrusadr So if you removed the tile and just start walking over old dried up mastic that has been through floods etc what is the dangers in that? I know a couple that sees no risk even though I can still see red and black glue on the concrete that was never epoxied over