Many types of asbestos containing floor tiles are still around today. They were originally used because they were comparatively cheap, flexible and strong, and were widely used in properties built from the early 1950s right through to the 1990s. Usually asbestos floor tiles were laid directly on to the floor screed of the ground floor of houses. In blocks of flats, where you have concrete floor slabs on every level, asbestos floor tiles were commonly used throughout the whole block including communal stairwells and lift lobbies.
Often asbestos floor tiles only come to light when a carpet or flooring is being changed. In our experience, many carpet fitters either don’t know about the potential for asbestos in the floor tiles or choose to ignore it. This becomes an issue when the carpet fitter needs to install new gripper rods to the perimeter of the rooms.
The thermoplastic tile is one of the most common types of asbestos floor tile, and one of the most brittle. When the fitter tries to nail gripper rods to thermoplastic floor tiles they easily shatter and break up. Although the tiles will not release significant amounts of airborne asbestos fibre this approach is a long way from best practise.
For many homeowners the first instinct when they learn they have asbestos floor tiles is to get them removed. Unfortunately, many asbestos floor tiles were stuck to the floor screed with a black bitumastic adhesive which also contains asbestos. Even with the asbestos floor tiles removed, you are still left with a black sticky mess that still contains asbestos. In most cases, you are better off leaving the asbestos floor tiles in place and overlaying with new flooring.
Due to the nature of bitumastic adhesive, the cost of removing it is often far greater than the cost of removing the floor tiles.
Common types of asbestos floor tiles and asbestos containing sheet flooring
Thermoplastic floor tiles
Thermoplastic floor tiles can be very brittle. They are usually adhered to the floor with a black asbestos containing adhesive, and whilst they remain well adhered to the floor and in one piece, they will last for decades.
These floor tiles in particular were very common in social housing built between the 1950s and 1980s.
Thermoplastic floor tiles contain a relatively high asbestos content when compared to other asbestos floor tile types. They usually contain chrysotile (white asbestos) but have been found to contain some of the less common types of asbestos such as tremolite and actinolite.
Common thermoplastic floor tiles
Chequered pattern thermoplastic floor tiles
Thermoplastic floor tiles being analysed in the lab
Asbestos Vinyl Floor Tiles
Softer and more flexible than thermoplastic floor tiles, vinyl floor tiles are easy to confuse with modern non-asbestos floor tile types. The only way to be certain about the asbestos content of any floor tile is to have them sampled and analysed by a UKAS accredited asbestos laboratory.
Asbestos vinyl tiles contain predominantly white asbestos, with asbestos content usually no more than 1%.
Often used to replace damaged thermoplastic floor tiles, it’s common to have a mix of both types of tiles in a single room. When new vinyl tiles have been used as a replacement ,you can end up with both asbestos and non-asbestos floor tiles side by side.
Patterned grey asbestos vinyl floor tiles
Red & grey asbestos vinyl floor tiles
Tan coloured asbestos floor tiles
Vinyl sheet flooring and Linoleum
Asbestos containing sheet flooring and linoleum is still being found during asbestos surveys. The most common asbestos occurrence with this type of flooring is an asbestos paper lining found on the underside of the flooring. Although the upper layer of the flooring can be asbestos free the backing layer can be up to 100% asbestos.
Apart from the flooring types detailed above it is also possible to have yet another asbestos issue with your floors. Believe it or not, some types of floor screed can also contain asbestos. Usually red or pink floor screeds contain a small amount of white asbestos. Asbestos floor screed is very low risk but needs to be identified so correct procedures can be adopted when undertaking work to repair or replace flooring.
Sampling and analysis of asbestos floor tiles
Some key points to remember when sampling floor tiles:
- Ensure that all the different types of floor tile are sampled in case you have a mixture of asbestos and non-asbestos floor tiles
- Check room perimeters, particularly around gripper rods as you may be able to pick up a loose piece instead of having to cut or snap off a new piece for analysis
- Always gently wet down any sample points, including the underside of the flooring just in case there is a layer of asbestos paper or adhesive concealed beneath
Our DIY asbestos testing kit is ideal for sampling asbestos floor tiles.
For more information on sampling and analysing floor tiles, sheet flooring and floor screed please contact us on 01923 661144.
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