Removing Asbestos Vinyl Flooring

February 16, 2006
flooring header

Background and History of Asbestos Vinyl

Asbestos vinyl flooring was widely used until 1972. Vinyl is made from a combination of ethylene and chlorine that result into a plastic resin. Back then, asbestos was the additional component that improves its strength and insulating properties. Apart from vinyl flooring, asbestos was also used in wallpapers and ceiling tiles.

If the vinyl is intact, it doesn’t pose any threat. However, problems started to arise when floorings are cut, damaged, or get worn out through time. Back then, those most susceptible to having asbestos related diseases were vinyl factory workers, floor installers and construction workers.

Don't Guess - Test and Have Peace of Mind!

When the dangers of asbestos became an issue, then careful vinyl flooring asbestos removal became an issue. One option is just covering asbestos flooring with the new flooring material like carpet, vinyl tiles or sheet vinyl, laminate or hardwood flooring, or even ceramic tiles and stone.

Testing for asbestos in vinyl flooring can be done by professionals or by yourself to determine “is there asbestos in my vinyl flooring” or not. Asbestos in vinyl flooring isn’t the end of the world, but asbestos and vinyl flooring do cause concern for your health. Use precaution if you elect to remove asbestos vinyl flooring so that its potential doesn’t become your reality.


Until 1972, asbestos was used in a variety of building material such as roofing, exterior siding, window sills and linings, and vinyl flooring. Asbestos is a group of minerals known for their strength, flame/heat resistance, and indestructibility, and was considered ideal for insulation and fireproofing. However, once it was discovered that asbestos fibers can result in severe illness and disease when inhaled, the use of asbestos was banned by the EPA.

How to Check if There is Asbestos Flooring in Your Home.


Unless clearly marked on the product’s label, asbestos is impossible to identify without examining a sample under a microscope.

A. Size of Tile

One easy way for you to know if it is an asbestos vinyl is through the size of the tile. Before the 1990s, these tiles were manufactured in 3 sizes: 9 x 9 inches, 12 x 12 inches, and 18 x 18 inches. At present, standard square vinyl tiles are only 12 x 12 inches.

B. Brand of Tile

If you can still find out which brand of tiles was installed, here are some brands that manufactured asbestos flooring: Excelon, Fashionflor, Flor-Ever, Gold Seal, KenFlex, KenTile, Sears and Solarian.

C. Laboratory Testing

Testing for asbestos vinyl flooring can be done by a professional asbestos contractor or by using a do-it-yourself sampling kit.

  • First, you would need to cut off a portion of your vinyl flooring as a sample. Spray water mixed with liquid detergent on the area where you're going to cut the sample from. The mist will ensure that asbestos fibers will not dissipate into the air.
  • Using a utility knife, cut a small strip of the tile, around 1/8 x 1 inch in size. Cut all the way to the bottom so you can include the backing and the adhesive in the sample.
  • Place the sample into the bag and ship it back to the testing laboratory.
  • Wait for the result and if the sample consists of more than 1% asbestos, then it means your floor does contain asbestos.

Your Options: Removal or Installing a New Floor On Top

If your asbestos vinyl flooring is chipped, crumbling, or frayed, it must be removed before laying a new floor. The asbestos fibers from the damaged floor can cause health concerns when the fibers are released into the air. However, intact asbestos vinyl flooring should not be removed because the removal of an intact floor poses a greater risk than simply covering over the old flooring. Leaving the old floor as is will be the most safe action you could take because you’re not disturbing the asbestos in the material.

Considerations and Risks Before Removal

If you determine that the asbestos vinyl flooring must be removed, asbestos abatement contractors are highly recommended. Homeowners living in a single family home may also remove the asbestos but legally, family members and friends who help must do so voluntarily and without pay. Moreover, if you as a homeowner are not confident in your ability to safely remove the asbestos vinyl flooring, hire a certified asbestos abatement contractor. Asbestos removal is difficult work, and can be physically demanding and potentially dangerous to your health.

Asbestos fibers are up to 1,200 times finer than human hair and when inhaled, they can directly penetrate your lungs. Even after 3 decades of inhalation, asbestos can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, breathing problems and heart failure. Even the slightest exposure to asbestos can be risky, that is why medical experts emphasize taking precautionary measures when dealing with asbestos in home improvement projects.

Tools and Gears Needed for DIY Removal

If you’ve accepted the health dangers involved, you can minimize the risk of exposure to asbestos fibers for do-it-yourself removal by wearing safety equipment such as a respirator, coveralls, gloves, rubber boots and safety goggles. You need to fasten your gloves to the coveralls with tape, to make sure that they won't come off. Plus, tools such as spray bottles, liquid detergent, putty knifes, a utility knife, a still floor scraper, plastic sheeting, duct tape, plastic garbage bags, a mop, and disposable towels will be needed. 

Check out this DIY video on how asbestos vinyl floor tiles are removed.

You can do better than the woman in the video by wearing the other required protective equipment. Note that breathing through a respirator can be challenging and the coveralls can be uncomfortable. Removing the tiles on your own will be time consuming. On average, a 2 square-meter area can take around 1 to 2 days. Do take careful consideration before embarking on a DIY floor removal project.

Steps in Removing Asbestos Flooring

Step 1: Protect The Area

The goal in removing the asbestos vinyl flooring is to remove it in whole pieces without causing any dust.

  • Before beginning, the work area must be isolated using the plastic sheet over heat registers, doorways, cupboards, ect. and the heating and air conditions system must be turned off.
  • All furniture and other moveable objects should be removed from the room to prevent contamination and to simplify clean-up.
  • Access to the work area should be limited to one doorway, with a slit in the plastic door covering to make the entrance as small as possible.
  • Post a sign outside the house or inform your friends and relatives that they cannot visit the house at this time.
  • Keep the pets away from the work area as well.
  • To further prevent asbestos fibers from spreading, the floor must be kept wet using a water bottle. The water will also help loosen the tiles and make removal mush easier.
  • Keep your supplies ready near the doorway, which includes water bottles, rags, buckets and trash bags.
Step 2: Removal
  • Once prepped and your safety gear on, cut the vinyl flooring into the manageable sections with a utility knife, and remove the pieces by pealing from the edges and using a flat scraper to lift the vinyl.
  • Continue to wet the flooring as you scrape and pull to minimize dust. Any vinyl backing that separates from the vinyl flooring can be removed by thoroughly wetting and scrubbing the floor with a pad.
Step 3: Clean Up and Disposal
  • As you remove the vinyl, place the pieces in sturdy plastic trash bags to avoid leakage and mark the bags "Danger! Asbestos-Containing Materials." Regulation also states that you should write your last name, address and removal date on the trash bag. The trash bags should be 33 x 50 inches in size and should be 6-mil thick polyethylene.
  • The asbestos debris can only be disposed of in a landfill that accepts asbestos-containing waste. Consider calling the land-fill before you go to ensure you understand all their requirements.
  • Careful clean-up is important when dealing with asbestos, and all potential asbestos dust and particulate must be removed from the work area to avoid future asbestos contamination.
  • Wet and remove all debris left on the plastic sheet used to cover the counters, furniture, and equipment. Then roll them carefully and place them inside the trash bags.
  • Twist the top of the bags and then seal them with duct tape.
  • Wipe all surfaces and scraping tools with a damp cloth. Frequently rinse the cloth and change the water so that the surface in the work area can get truly clean. Once you're done with the rags, dispose them properly.
  • Collect all your tools and put them in a bucket or plastic bag, so you can clean them later.
  • Next, stand on a plastic sheet and spray yourself or your companion with water to wash down any remaining asbestos fibers. Only then will you be able to remove your respirator, gloves, boots, goggles and coveralls.
  • Place your towels, mop heads, and coverall suit and gloves in the disposal bag. You can dispose of the boots or place in a plastic bag for cleaning later. Remove the filters in your respirator and dispose of them
  • To ensure that your skin and hair is free of asbestos, immediately take a complete shower and wash carefully.

Don't Guess - Test and Have Peace of Mind!

When the dangers of asbestos became an issue, then careful vinyl flooring asbestos removal became an issue. One option is just covering asbestos flooring with the new flooring material like carpet, vinyl tiles or sheet vinyl, laminate or hardwood flooring, or even ceramic tiles and stone.

Testing for asbestos in vinyl flooring can be done by professionals or by yourself to determine “is there asbestos in my vinyl flooring” or not. Asbestos in vinyl flooring isn’t the end of the world, but asbestos and vinyl flooring do cause concern for your health. Use precaution if you elect to remove asbestos vinyl flooring so that its potential doesn’t become your reality.




97 comments

Leave a comment: