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Community and Q&A

Asbestos tiles – how much cracking is too much?

jpritzen1 | Posted in General Questions on

I’ve learned that I have floor tile in my basement that might contain asbestos. I was told as long as I don’t disturb them I really have nothing to worry about.

However, a lot of them are already cracked & they crack even further the more I walk on them. I’ve swept up the ones that crack into small pieces, but for the larger ones I leave them be.

Question –
If these tiles are so brittle that they crack that easily, does this mean it’s time to just break them all up just to get it over with? I’m concerned because this is the furnace room & I don’t want them to crack into small enough pieces to be circulated by the blower.

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  1. Expert Member

    If the process of removing them safely is too onerous, you could encapsulate them by laying another floor on top.
    That's a practical solution. What your insurance and code might say is another matter.

  2. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    J. Pritzen,
    The correct answer is that you should (a) have a sample tested to see whether your flooring contains asbestos, and (b) contact an asbestos abatement contractor for advice if the sample tests positive.

  3. charlie_sullivan | | #3

    In general, floor tiles are less "friable" than other types of asbestos containing materials, and so are less of a concern. But the rampant cracking you are referring to sounds different from the asbestos containing tile I have experience with. So it sounds more likely to be dangerous. Sweeping is about the worst thing you could do--gives the dust a chance to get airborne while you are right there breathing it. And deliberately breaking them only worsens the hazard. Note that the mastic gluing them down could also contain asbestos.

    Encapsulating asbestos is often cheaper and safer than trying to remove it. The only downsides of that are:
    1) An asbestos abatement contractor is more likely offer removal than encapsulation.
    2) You are probably legally required, and certainly ethically required, to disclose the fact that there is asbestos tile under the new floor when you sell.

    I found it difficult to find an asbestos abatement contractor who was interested in doing it carefully, rather than figuring out the minimum they could get away with while not getting in trouble with the regulators. I'd check references diligently.

  4. jpritzen1 | | #4

    Well of the whole area of the floor, it appears it was initially 100% covered with these tiles. But now it's about 50% in-tact tile, 10% cracking tile, and 40% black glue (tile that's been removed).

    These are in the basement on top of the basement floor in the furnace room so is building a whole floor really necessary?

    I can guarantee it's probably a little late to worry about breathing in the air if the glue has asbestos because the furnace sits on this floor. I figured small pieces were the problem. This might be the reason why we've gotten sick since getting this house. Is there anything I can do short-term to minimize exposure?

  5. Chaubenee | | #5

    Asbestos won't make you sick. It will possibly give you lung cancer in its fiberous form. I am not in the position to give advice, but if it was my old floor in my old house, I would be considering a thin cement that can be squeegeed on to a depth of 1/2 or so. Like a floor leveling cement? That would encapsulate it and I sure don't think anyone would be further exposed to anything. An asbestos remediation company will undoubtably want better than four figures. It is an outrageous racket in my opinion. In a few years they will be fixated of remediating fiberglass so get ready for that.

  6. jpritzen1 | | #6

    Thank you, Joe - I like practical solutions. I don't see paying 4 figures for a worn out furnace room floor that will not see any traffic except during maintenance. Only want to remediate since I know my duct work in the furnace room is not sealed tightly.

    Maybe I'm too new & starry-eyed of a homeowner to be poking into issues like asbestos & mold, but if I can change stuff for the better, why not. I'm not worried about selling this house anytime in the near future - eliminating the "bad" (when it makes sense) is what I want to do since my family's health is my priority.

    I read somewhere that under 350 square feet, a homeowner can do removal himself. The area I have is 7ft x 15ft, or about 100 sqft, way under that threshold. Simple solutions that work is what I'm after, not some "looks good on paper but cost me a ton of money" solution.

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