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To be or not to be: Asbestos tiles

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Joined: Oct 8 2003

We are in the process of picking new flooring and would like to factor in demo costs of existing tiles. How do know if I have asbestos tiles? Someone told me that Eichler asbestos tiles were usually 9 inches, not 12 inches. Is this a reliable indicator? Thanks!

Joined: Mar 20 2003

the 9 inch tiles you are referring to are the VCT (vinyl composition tile) also known as those "classroom" tiles you see in schools and large old department stores. They are usually a solid color with speckles or spots of another color. I don't know about the 12 inch tiles but if they are of the same variety they are surely to have the asbestos, too. Note, however, that the asbestos level in those tiles are extremely low (something like 4%)...There's more asbestos in your roof shingles. Also, the asbestos is not likely to be released in the air because it is bound pretty tightly into the product, even if broken up into smaller pieces. Lastly, I would avoid hiring a company to remove them because they pose little hazard to you (and they come up very easily with the large tile scraping tool) and that company will charge you an arm and a leg. My local city offers free hazardous dumping so you could save yourself quite a bit of money if your city offers the same and you can safely dispose of them yourself. In my opinion a simple mask is all that is necessary (not a respiratory mask). good luck and hopefully others will agree.

Joined: Apr 2 2003

I thought the original tiles were called vinyl asbestos tile (VAT) not VCT (vinyl composite tiles). And yes, they were normally 9" in those days. However, I'm not sure if they graduated to larger sizes while they still contained asbestos.

I hate to trot out bad news but I would beg to differ on the handling of the tiles. I err on the side of caution when it comes to health because saving a few bucks isn't worth it in my mind if there is a chance of serious consequences down the road. My brother's partner was exposed for less than 6 months when he was 19 at a site that had asbestos-related operations (he was in another area of the site/building altogether). Still, 35 years later, he suddenly developed asbestos disease (for which, there is apparently no treatment) and died a sad death. They said it was not unusual for it to turn up that many decades later. Also, work with asbestos miners apparently found their families succumbed to disease related to the fibres in the clothing spread through laundering. There was no doubt in the doctors or insurance company's mind that the partner's death was from that early asbestos exposure.

Now, that being said, it might still be reasonable for you to remove it yourself--IF you educate yourself and take appropriate precautions.

- see what the regulations are for your city on the removal of asbestos containing materials by homeowner (I think San Jose allowed up to 100 sq feet per incident)

- buy an asbestos rated respiratory mask (probably about $35, available at home depot or OSH stores)

- wear disposable overalls or at least throw-away clothes. Do not launder.

- keep the area wet to reduce dust, do *not* vaccuum the area to cleanup. Sweep gently if you must, preferably mop it up.

- dispose of tiles in small, heavy duty bags (because of weight) at your city's hazardous waste drop off

BTW, if of the asbestos area, the glue is likely to contain asbestos as well.

Not trying to offend anyone, just wouldn't feel right not raising a note of caution on this.


P.S. here's a link to an earlier posting from someone who had theirs tested and provides a link to the company that did it.

eichfan at rawbw dot com

Joined: Mar 20 2003

The asbestos rated breathing mask is absolutely worth the money. Another thing to consider is sealing off the rooms you are not working in and not to operate the forced air heating while you are working (if your radiant heat has been replaced with the latter)

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