All You Need to Know About Removing Asbestos Floor Tiles
Asbestos Floor Tiles were very common in older homes. Your home is one of your most prized possessions, some even consider it a long-term investment. And rightly so; a home provides you and your family with a roof over your heads, protecting all of you from exposure to the elements. It’s a place in which you can wake up every morning to the smell of coffee and sleep restfully every night. But a home can become a health hazard pretty fast, especially if there is exposed and disturbed asbestos in it.
Where can you find asbestos in your home
You may or may not know already that asbestos is a fibrous mineral substance whose fibres can wreak a lot of havoc inside your body. Unfortunately, you can also find this substance in your home if it was built before the 2000s. It was pretty common back then to use asbestos as an additive in construction. Anyway, you can find the fibrous substance in:
- Guttering and pipe insulation
- Roofing material especially corrugated roofs in older homes
- Insulation boards
- Vent insulation and ducts
- Cement used in walls and ceilings of older homes
- Asbestos floor tile
- the adhesives used to hold the tiles together
What the HSE Has to Say About the Asbestos
The health and safety executive says that you have absolutely nothing to worry about if your home’s asbestos containing materials are not disturbed, crumbling, flaking or cracking. It is better to leave them alone if they are in good condition. The problem may arise if you are looking to remodel your home to give it an uplifting look. You may have to look at the asbestos floor tile removal costs among other things.
Floor tiles can look really beautiful in your rooms but repeated scraping may disturb the tiles and the adhesives used to hold them together. You need to be extra cautious and avoid getting any cracked, flaking or crumbling tiles.
Is There Really Asbestos in Your Tiles?
Some asbestos is more easy to spot than others. You can tell from the surface. Others may have adhesive and backing in them that contains asbestos. Not all floor tiles have asbestos backing, however. Some may look very suspicious at first and they may not have it at all in the end. The first thing to do is to get it tested. Get different samples from the floor and areas taken out first. But make sure that you get the sample tested from a UKAS certified laboratory. The costs are nominal and it is necessary when carrying out any remodelling or renovation.
A full survey would be even better to see how much deep water you are in. A full asbestos survey done properly by professionals may cost around £160-£400, with the average being around £250. The testing of the sample from the lab is separate. If it’s just one room that has the asbestos floor tiles then you’ll need to have one sample taken which costs around £20-25. If it’s multiple rooms where removal needs to be done, then the prices start to decrease per sample. Up to 25 or more samples can be sent to the lab for testing for separate rooms.
How to take a Sample
If you need to remove a sample yourself, you can but it is not recommended due to the health risks involved.
Taking a sample usually involves removal of a piece of floor heat register or floor moulding with the tile present in it. Use a razor sharp utility knife to remove to remove the flooring after wetting it to make sure that no fibres come off and enter your body the piece can be one-inch long (depth) and 1/8th of an inch wide. The supposed asbestos flooring sample should have the first layer of sheet vinyl flooring, and all other layers of flooring including the backing and adhesive holding it together.
Cut all the way through till you reach the hard underlayment. keep applying mist of 8 parts water and one-part liquid dish soap to the area to make sure that the asbestos fibres don’t escape into the atmosphere.
Seal the sample in a bag and send it on its way to a UKAS accredited lab for testing.
Just how dangerous are Asbestos Floor Tiles?
Asbestos has been known to cause many different diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. These diseases can be (and some of them are) lethal when diagnosed. The fibres contained in the asbestos floor tiles can enter the body through your breathing when disturbed. Asbestos itself is not harmful, it’s the fibres that are.
The fibres may become trapped in your nose and throat’s mucous membranes. They can be removed from there. But those that escape deep into your airways and into the lungs. or even make it to your digestive tracts. This is where they cause cancerous growth. Asbestos is more dangerous in its friable form. This is when the asbestos can easily be crushed in your hands. Sprayed-on asbestos and even adhesives are considered to be highly friable, making them a threat to your health as well as your family’s.
Which leads us to the main question, are Asbestos floor tiles dangerous in themselves? The answer is No, they are not. In fact, most asbestos floor tiles, undamaged cabinet tops, asbestos ceiling tiles, sliding and non-sliding shingles and fire doors are not dangerous in themselves. That is unless, they’re disturbed to release the fibres.
Damaged and deteriorated tiles containing asbestos increase in friability as the fibres are now exposed and break off into the surroundings, including the bodies of people in the area. Some of the causes of increase in friability of asbestos floor tiles are:
- Physical damage resulting from buffing, striking, cutting, sawing off, drilling into or grinding the tiles,
- Water Damage to the tiles
- Physical aging of the tiles
- Increased and continuous vibration of the tiles
So make sure that you and your family members avoid whatever can be avoided to the highest possible extent. This will lead to a higher chance for the asbestos floor tiles not to be removed.
Understand That Doing This Yourself Will Be Difficult
Doing asbestos removal projects for remodelling or renovations can be physically challenging and come loaded with dangers for you and your family if you decide to do them yourself. You need to have protective gear such as a suit and respirator gloves, boots. Not only that, you need to have the area contained to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres.
Some of potential difficulties you may face in removing the asbestos yourself are as follows:
- The area that you are working in will definitely become humid when you spray the water to wet the asbestos floor tiles every step of the way.
- The protective gear may get hot and stuffy, causing discomfort. This may affect your ability to work properly on removing the asbestos.
- If you’re working with something other than asbestos floor tiles, such as ceilings, walls, attics, roofs or sidings. You may have to climb up to the places and work in uncomfortable positions, making your work even more difficult.
- Protective goggles can be uncomfortable for some people and they may even get foggy due to circumstances. All of this can result in poor concentration and visibility.
- Respirators can be difficult to breathe through. They can even place additional stress on your lungs and your heart. So if you have a health condition that may be exacerbated because of the work, it’s best you leave it to professionals.
Pre- and Post-Work Air Testing
There are a number of tests that need to be done before the actual removal takes place. Among those tests is the air quality test. You need to have a qualified air testing surveyor make sure that the number of fibres per millilitre of air is not more than 0.1 as ordained by the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012.
This needs to be done before and after asbestos material removal. These air tests will include exposure or leaked asbestos air tests, background asbestos air tests, controlled asbestos air tests and a clearance or reassurance air test at the end. These are to make sure that the work you or a professional you hired to do the job did it correctly and was a success.
If You Don’t Want Removal What Should You Do?
You’ve got a couple of options when it comes to dealing with asbestos floor tiles. There is an option of covering them with additional layers of flooring. This can be done if and only if the tiles themselves are not cracking or ageing badly. Having concrete poured over the existing tiles is a great way to mask and seal them off.
If that seems like it’s going to be too expensive, you can also go the alternate route to have carpeting done to it. But you also have to make sure that the carpeting has rubber backing to trap any released fibres beneath the surface. Vinyl and linoleum coating done to the tile is also effective in sealing up the areas where the asbestos floor tiles have begun to crack. Remember that only the damaged and friable asbestos is going to cause health risks and serious ones at that.
Covering up the flooring comes up with its own risks if you plan to sell your house in the future. You have to notify the buyer(s), even potential ones too, that you have asbestos tiles underneath the concrete. This way you’re playing your part in letting the buyer know that he is buying a home with asbestos and if they do buy it, you, the seller will not be responsible for the consequences if they later decide to tear up the concrete to see what’s inside.
You may become liable for the costs of repair and damages that resulted from the undisclosed asbestos content in your house when you sold it.
Read On for DIY Removal
Again, it is important to note that it is best to have the asbestos removed by a professional. They can best guide you on what to do and remove the asbestos floor tiles safely if it is truly needed.
If you have decided to take on the risks of removing asbestos tiles yourself, you should be aware of the HSE and CAR 2012 regulations surrounding the removal in the UK. A general guideline and procedure recommended by the HSE to be followed for removal is given below.
Preparing the Working Area
For preparation of the area, it is first very important to limit the number of people who can enter the work area. Close all the doors and windows in the area to make sure that fibres do not escape into the surroundings. Make it clear to people that you’re working with sensitive material and also make sure that there is enough light to allow you to work properly.
What You’ll Need
You’ll need warning tape to cordon the area off, a class H vacuum cleaner to clean up larger areas of the dust and fibres. You’ll also need a scraper, a sharp knife (A Swiss Army Knife will also do in some cases), a shovel, hammer, garden sprayer, bucket of water, rags, clear polythene bag and asbestos waste bags for disposal. Don’t forget the protective gear like a respirator cleared for asbestos work, a hooded disposable overall and non-laced boots.
Put your scraper in the joints in between the tiles and very carefully lift the tile up. Be careful not to break it. Tap your scraper with the hammer to pry off hardly affixed tiles. If the area is large, you can speed up the process by using a shovel instead of a scraper. You’ll not need to kneel, too. Use the water sprayer to keep the space underneath the tiles wet, so fibres are kept in control.
Be careful of asbestos paper that was used as it can tear and cause fibres to spread. The backing is often made of this material. Wet this paper too. Scrape the mastic and adhesive very gently from the tiles after softening it or making it brittle with dry ice. Place the polythene in an asbestos waste bag after putting the debris inside the polythene bag.
Dispose this according to the rules in a proper landfill site to avoid any problems with the law later on.