We bought our home (built in 1950) a year and a half ago. This past
week, we were in the process of getting estimates for a ceramic tile
floor to replace our peeling vinyl tiles in our kitchen, bathroom, and
mudroom, when we discovered that beneath this vinyl floor, there exists
another floor. One of the tile stores that came out to estimate the job
explained that these were old 9x9 asphalt tiles and were secured by a
thick black gooey mastic. In the estimate provided, he quoted $350 to
remove the existing two layers of floor, including these old asphalt
tiles. After visiting several other tile stores in our quest for a new
floor, we were alarmed to be told that these old tiles & mastic are
almost certain to contain asbestos. We'll be contacting an inspector
tomorrow to get this tested.
We do not consider simply tiling over these existing floors to be an
option. For one thing, the condition of both the top vinyl floor as
well as the asphalt tiles are very poor and will not provide an
adequate foundation for a new subfloor and ceramic tiles. So, we'll
need to contact a qualified asbestos abatement company to remove the
old tiles. I was wondering if anyone reading this has had experience
with asbestos tile removal, and if they could offer any insight into
the cost of removal. The total square feet of the affected area is
about 250 feet.
Jennifer in New Hampshire
My company often has to do asbestos abatement of VA tiles during
remodels of city projects, etc. It is about the only time that this
type of tile is abated due to the cost. Your floor will probably
cost between $1,000-1,500 to have it removed. Check with an
abatement company for actual prices.
If possible, the floor should just be sealed and then go over it
with a floor leveler to create a surface for your ceramic tiles.
Most tile installers remove this themselves and dispose of the
asbestos tiles and mastic. I have never seen a tile installer call
in an abatement company (a special field, licensed by the state).
The asbestos tiles have been in use for longer than I have been in
business (over 30 years) and have been in public buildings and homes
for decades with no ill effect. The asbestos only becomes friable
(airborne) if disturbed, sanded, burned, etc. It is stable while
installed on your floor. The name of the tile is Vinyl Asbestos
tile. That gives you a clue as to its content.
Remember that you do not even know that this is VA tile at this
point. Even if it is, there is nothing to be alarmed about.
How's the subfloor? Is it structurally sound with no flex? If so,
just install wonderboard on top of the old floor so nothing has to be
If you hire an asbestos abatement company it'll cost a fortune.
Did the tile store say they wouldn't touch the job?
The asbestos tiles won't create any health risks unless they're
shredded or ripped.
If the tile store is legitimate why question what he saw and base your
decision on something a sales clerk is assuming? Your quote of $350 to
remove both layers seems fair and an air quality test can be done afterwards
if you are troubled by the process.
I'd not contact an inspector just yet. Chances are the tiles are asbestos
as they were very common back then. Certain types of asbestos can be
removed and safely landfilled with no special abatement procedures other
than double bagging. Do some investigating first. The wrong decision could
end up costing you a lot of money for no good reason.
Only if the tiles are broken or torn is the asbestos possibly released to
the air. There are a couple of web pages that outline the proper handling
of tiles and siding. IIRC, the EPS has information on it; I saw it but
never bookmarked it.
I'd probably pay the $350 and be done with it. It is a situation where
people sometimes panic when the hear "asbestos", but in fact, in solid form
like your tiles it is inert and perfectly safe. It is when the fibers get
loose and you breath them that problems may eventually occur.
I had a similar situation in my house. The biggest problem was the fumes
from the asphalt mastic after I removed the tiles. No one could stand being
in the room. JASCO (about $25.00 a gallon) makes a tile adhesive remover,
which will easily loosen the adhesive, but scooping the goop up has to be
one of the worst home improvement projects I have ever undertaken.
Often about the same (or even less) work to pull up entire floor down to the
joists, and start over. Of course, this means pulling the base cabinets and
such in most cases, but if entire kitchen is being redone anyway, an option
worth considering. This <does> mean sawing through the VA tile, but if you
work it wet (spray mister), and have a helper hold a shop vac hose right by
the saw, the mess is suprisingly minimal. Just saw floor between joists in
chunks small enough to rock and crowbar out. Bonus is you end up with a
flatter, stiffer floor, using modern adhesives and decking, screwed down.
(Nails under ceramic are best avoided, IMHO.
If you call an inspector, you run the risk of having your house condemed. At
a minimum, if you know for sure you have asbestos, you are obligated to tell
subsequent buyers of the house (for all I know, you may also have to tell
any guests and run the risk of having your children taken away from you). If
you are officially told you have asbestos, the entire piddly project just
went up in cost by several thousand dollars and many additional months of
Even if you have all the asbestos removed, you may still have to disclose.
It will be like telling prospective buyers you discovered graves in the
backyard, but all is okay now because you had the remains re-located.
Try to put cemet or other leveling over the suspect tiles. If you REALLY
have to have the tiles-of-unknown-material removed, hire someone who will
NOT tell you they think the tiles are asbestos.
First thing, dont go for the inspector. It can really cost you in the
Asbestos removal, disclosure when selling the home etc.
In any case there are a few ways to handle this stuff.
(BTW some of the black cutback adhesives has asbestos in
it too.... EVERYTHING was made better with asbestos then!)
What I did was to first remove the tiles whole. Using a dry ice block
attached to a rigged up 2 x 4 frame to hold it, I was able to put it
a tile, let it sit for a minute and the tile would pop off.
glue's properties end when its frozen)
With some luck it mostly stays on the tile too. In any case
wearing a nice respirator and having a shop vac handy sucking air
If some tiles broke, spray then with water and dispose.
In your case with 650 to remove the whole thing? Go for it. What I
was a pain in the ass! I get too involved with my own projects
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