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How to Identify Asbestos Floor Tiles

Updated: Apr 28

black asbestos floor tiles

Without using a testing kit it is impossible to tell if a tile contains asbestos. Old vinyl asbestos tiles were manufactured before 1999 usually in squares measuring 9x9, 12x12 and 18x18 inch sizes which gives you some visual indicator.


In this Article:


What is Asbestos?

Asbestos was a common material used in housing until 1999 when the UK banned it.

Asbestos can still be found in thousands of houses today that were built before the ban. It can most commonly be found in loft insulation as well as asbestos floor tiles, vinyl and cement. It was even used for wall and ceiling tiles.

The asbestos was used by bonding it to a material such as vinyl to create the tiles and the adhesive used often contained asbestos material as well. Tiles are most commonly used in bathrooms and kitchen areas which have a high footfall traffic meaning that the strength and durability of asbestos was a perfect material to use.


What Do Asbestos Floor Tiles Look Like?

grey asbestos vinyl floor tile

  1. Colour - Asbestos floor tiles which were made from vinyl or plastic were often in a range of lighter colours such as green, pink, blue and cream. If the asbestos floor tiles were made from asphalt, then the tiles would be darker colours due to the material.

  2. Shape - The most common shape of asbestos floor tiles is square and the size of the tiles were most commonly manufactured in 3 main sizes including 9x9 12x12 and 18x18 inches.

  3. Texture - The thickness of asbestos floor tiles is usually thin and brittle which can easily be broken and scraped up for removal.


How to tell if floor tiles are asbestos

Asbestos is a material that consists of long and thin fibrous crystals that cannot be seen by the naked eye. It is a mineral that is found in rock and soil and is extremely harmful when ingested or inhaled as the fibres become trapped in the body.

As the fibres are too small to be seen without a microscope, it can be hard to tell if the floor tiles have asbestos. The most obvious indicator is finding out when the tiles were first installed. The majority of asbestos floor tiles were installed between 1920 and 1970 but can still be discovered in housing that was built up to 1999.


Asbestos Sample Testing 

A trained individual can collect a sample piece of the area, or you can send in a piece to a special asbestos disposal site where the suspected piece will be sent to the laboratory to be tested for asbestos. You will be provided with results fairly quickly and if it is confirmed that it is asbestos, then the best option is to have it removed as soon as possible.


How to Seal Asbestos Floor Tiles


Encapsulation involves the application of several layers of PVA glue or primer over the tiles to seal the asbestos so it is unable to escape.

If the asbestos floor tiles are still in good condition and haven’t begun to deteriorate yet, sometimes it may be better to leave them as they are. This is a safe option because asbestos only becomes a problem once the tiles are damaged and begin to release dust and fibres into the air which are then inhaled and can cause health problems.

It is highly advised to simply seal the asbestos floor tiles which prevents the dust from escaping and affecting the household members.



How to Cover Asbestos Floor Tiles


A wide range of flooring can be used to cover the asbestos floor tiles such as vinyl, hardwood, laminate, carpeting and ceramic slate and it effectively covers the asbestos and prevents the fibres from being released into the air.

This is a popular and cheaper option than removal of asbestos floor tiles. Although it is recommended to remove asbestos wherever possible, you are able to cover up the asbestos floor tiles with new tiles made of a different material.

If you book external contractors to cover the floor, it is essential that you inform them of the existence of the asbestos and they will then assess the risks for themselves and implement any safety measures required.


How to Remove Asbestos Floor Tiles

asbestos coating underneath vinyl tile

Asbestos floor tiles can be removed from domestic properties as there is no law regarding removing asbestos by yourself. However it is strongly advised that you do not try to remove them yourself as this can put you and your family at risk.

If you know the floor tiles are asbestos, you should contact a local asbestos removal company who will carry out the removal safely and professionally.

If the property is commercial or non domestic, then the HSE provides legislation regarding the safe removal of asbestos which you would need to follow. Specialist training is required to be able to remove asbestos and sometimes a licence is also needed depending on the job.



When Were Asbestos Floor Tiles Used?

Asbestos tiles became a popular material for housing and businesses between 1920 and 1970 due to its strong, durable and heat resistant qualities. However, by the 1980s it was becoming increasingly aware that asbestos was a hazard and many manufacturers began to stop using it.

Houses were still built into the 1990s with asbestos floor tiles until the ban came into fruition in 1999. Studies were taken which discovered that the inhalation of asbestos can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. The asbestos floor tiles that are still fully intact are generally considered safe until they begin to deteriorate.


What to Do With Asbestos Floor Tiles


If the asbestos floor tiles are still intact, it may be a good idea to leave them undisturbed for as long as possible and perhaps seal them to reduce the risk of harm. However, if the asbestos floor tiles start to deteriorate then you must immediately remove and dispose of them correctly.

A professional asbestos removal company with fully trained asbestos workers is the ideal option. They should also dispose of the asbestos for you but if you do it yourself, there are certain tips you should know on how to correctly dispose of asbestos floor tiles.


How to dispose of asbestos floor tiles:


  • Some local councils may have the facilities to dispose of small amounts of asbestos from housing properties.

  • If you are having a house makeover and currently have a skip, do not put the tiles in there. This can contaminate the other items in the skip and cause problems for the skip company.

  • There are licensed asbestos waste transfer stations owned by private companies such as Smart Asbestos who will dispose of your asbestos for you. You should never dispose of asbestos anywhere that isn't licensed to receive it.

  • A common option is to double bag the asbestos with a strong tie and also attach asbestos warning labels to the bags if you have some.



When Did Asbestos Floor Tiles Stop Being Used?


Asbestos floor tiles stopped being used completely by 1999 when a ban was placed on using asbestos material. Blue and brown asbestos was first banned in 1985 in the UK but it wasn’t until 14 years later when white asbestos was banned.

It is predicted that 50% of houses built before 1999 still have asbestos tiling that hasn’t since been renovated. The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations was also introduced in 2002 which states that you must have a license to work with asbestos and that all asbestos must be identified and managed correctly.



What Percentage of Asbestos is in Floor Tiles?

an asbestos fibre viewed under a microscope

The floor tiles on average consist of about 10% of asbestos but it can be as much as 25%. However, the asbestos floor tiles are low risk material so long as they stay in a good condition and undamaged.

Once the tiles are damaged, then there is a higher risk of the fibres being released into the air and inhaled by residents of the property.

It is vital that the asbestos floor tiles are safely removed by professionals who are fully trained and wearing the full PPE as stated in guidelines to protect the workers during the process.



How Much Does it Cost to Remove Asbestos Floor Tiles?


On average asbestos floor tile removal can cost from £22 up to £40 per metre squared depending on which company you choose.

The cost of the asbestos floor tile removal depends on the size of the area, the current condition of the floor tiles and how many layers of asbestos there are. The cost may also increase if the floor tiles have been built on such as with kitchen units. There are also additional costs for labour and equipment.

Encapsulation or sealing the asbestos floor tiles is a cheaper alternative that can be performed if the tiles are still in perfect condition. Many companies will offer a free quote in which they will visit your property and assess the situation before providing you with a reasonable pricing for the job.



In Summary


Asbestos is a highly hazardous material that can cause serious health problems if not dealt with correctly. If your property contains asbestos floor tiles, you can either remove the tiles or cover them to prevent the risk of inhaling the fibres.

If there is a chance you or your team might come into contact with asbestos at work we recommend they take asbestos awareness training in order to help them identify asbestos and avoid it when at work.


asbestos awareness course card




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