The industrial use of asbestos was banned in the United States in the 1970s. Any buildings built before that time probably contain asbestos products in one form or another.
Asbestos flooring is one concern for anyone planning to remodel a home built before the ban on asbestos use. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as adopted a series of guidelines pertaining to the use, repair, and removal of asbestos flooring and other products.
It’s impossible to tell by looking if your home does indeed contain asbestos flooring. Unless there are labels visible, a professional trained to detect the presence of asbestos is required.
Older homes are likely to have asbestos flooring if the home contains any form of resilient floor tiling. This includes tile made from vinyl, asphalt, or rubber, as well as vinyl sheet flooring materials.
In addition to the asbestos flooring itself, the backing of the floor covering and the adhesive used to install it can contain asbestos.
Floor ducts to heating systems may contain asbestos insulation and so might any cement sheeting, millboard, or paper used for flooring under or around a fireplace, furnace, or wood-burning stove.
EPA guidelines recommend leaving alone any asbestos flooring that is intact. Unless the flooring is cracked or broken, the asbestos is most likely sealed safely inside the product.
For peace of mind, however, many homeowners choose to seal or cover the asbestos flooring whenever possible.
Repairing or removing any asbestos flooring should be left to professionals only. Handling the product, including sanding, scraping, or dismantling it in any way, is likely to release the dangerous asbestos particles into the air.
Repairing broken or damaged asbestos flooring is less expensive than removing and replacing the entire floor. However, should the floor need to be repaired or replaced at a later date, the cost is likely to increase with inflation.
When damage to asbestos flooring is suspected, the EPA strongly advises that the area of concern be avoided as much as possible. It is vitally important to avoid further damage to the flooring.
It is also wise to minimize any activities such as sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming that may produce increased air flow in the area of the damaged asbestos flooring. Redirect any fans, ventilation vents, and air coming in from open windows and doors.
Never attempt to repair, refinish, or remove asbestos flooring. This is never a do-it-yourself remodeling project. Your safety depends on hiring specialists trained to handle asbestos flooring products.