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How to Remove Asbestos Floor Tiles

Asbestos abatement—can you do it yourself?

© 2012 by Sarah Harris; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.

Asbestos fibers; image courtesy EPA

Information often takes a little bit of time to catch up with technology, as in the well-known case of asbestos. After its development, this material was commonly used in construction and plumbing for a number of years.

Why? Many reasons; primarily because it is an inexpensive mineral, boasts impressive fire-retarding properties, and of course it is an excellent insulator.

From the early 1950s to the mid-70s, asbestos filled thousands of homes and offices until its eventual ban when experts realized that it posed serious health risks to humans, particularly lung cancer and mesothelioma.

If your house was built between the 50s and 70s, there is a good chance that you have asbestos somewhere in your home. Floor tiles are a common spot for asbestos to hide, and many people don’t even realize it.

Can You Do Your Own Asbestos Abatement?

Site Disclaimer: The first thing to do is to investigate whether your local codes and regulations even allow you to perform this job yourself. It is likely that you will be required to find a dependable and licensed contractor through a service like Angie’s List.

Do you even have this material? Unless you can readily identify it, consulting with an independent testing lab is the only way to be sure. These are the same folks that test for leaded paint.

Be Safe with Personal Protective Gear

To start removing asbestos from your home, you’ll need to take significant safety measures. Asbestos moves through the air undetected, so you’ll need to protect yourself, your coworkers, and your family by insuring that no asbestos gets into the air or anyone’s lungs.

Dress yourself and anyone who will be working in the area in protective clothing. Hazmat suits are ideal, and they are well worth the investment.

Head coverage is very important here, as is breathing apparatus. Obtain high-quality respirators or gas masks for yourself and assistants. Wear goggles

The work area itself should also be protected. Block off the perimeter of your work area and limit traffic through the affected rooms until the job is totally finished.

Use heavy plastic to hang from doorways and windows to keep any airborne asbestos confined to one area. If you have any pets or children, keep them out of the house until the job is complete.

This should be a one shot-deal; remove all the tiles in a single work session for best results. Otherwise, you risk spreading asbestos through the entire house.

Floor Tile Removal

To remove the asbestos tiles, start by moistening the tiled area with a mix of warm water and dish detergent. This will help you to weaken the adhesive used to bond the tiles onto your floor, making for easier removal.

After this has been done, use a hammer and putty knife to remove the tiles. The putty knife will act as a wedge that you’re driving between the tiles and the floor to pry them up.

Dispose of all tiles in heavy plastic garbage bags. Many locales require double bagging and disposal only in approved areas.

Use a chemical solvent and scouring pads to scrub away any remaining adhesive on the floors where asbestos can still linger, and clean the floor thoroughly afterward. Dispose of all trash and work clothes immediately.

When the job is done, you can air out the work area and start thinking about what kind of flooring you want to replace your old tile. Jarrah flooring is an option that’s become increasingly popular in homes due to its remarkable color and durability, but you may also want to consider another tile treatment depending on the room.

Whatever you choose, be sure to check and make sure that no dangerous materials are hiding in your new floor.

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