Is there asbestos behind this sheet vinyl floor?
July 13, 2015 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm fixing up a condo that I'm going to rent from my parents in 2 weeks. The kitchen floor is sheet vinyl on a concrete slab. I think my father said it's a floating floor. It's really worn out with large gouges and it's peeling up on the edges in some places. My father and I are planning to tear out the sheet vinyl and replace the floor with nice new vinyl planks.

Photographs here here.

My concern is that there may be asbestos behind the sheet vinyl, perhaps in the paper backing or glue adhesive. My father wasn't particularly concerned about this when I asked him. He said that asbestos in flooring was more in the 1950s, and thought that the sheet vinyl was *probably* a replacement floor anyway. He thought that if I was so worried about asbestos we could at least "wear masks to avoid breathing in dust when we tear out the floor."

The condo was built in 1976 and my parents bought the place in 2000. Since my parents owned it, they've never replaced the floors. I don't know for sure if the floor was ever replaced before 2000.

My specific questions:
1. What's the likelihood of asbestos behind the sheet vinyl? Is this even an issue?

2. If this likely does have asbestos in the glue or paper backing, how worried should I be about tearing out the sheet vinyl? I understand that breathing in asbestos is dangerous, which is why I'm writing this question in the first place, but from my reading online it seems like most people with asbestos-related diseases got them from prolonged, occupational exposure as opposed to something like my one-time flooring project.

3. If it's likely asbestos and way too dangerous for us to handle, what other options do I have here? We can't afford professional asbestos removal. Can I put vinyl plank on top of such a heavily gouged floor?

Thanks for reading.
posted by FelineoidEntity to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
1) Vinyl flooring installed between the 50s and the 90s has a possibility of containing asbestos. The only way to know for sure is to do a test, scraping some pieces off and sending them to a lab for testing - around $30 per sample.

2) I don't know if this is something that anyone can really answer, but it's pretty clear that asbestos is dangerous when friable (crumbling) and floats in the air.

3) Google 'asbestos encapsulation' or entombment.

Personally, I would definitely not tear it out myself. I'd either get it professionally abated, or would seal it in by installing a new plywood subfloor over the existing vinyl, then installing the new vinyl plank on top. You could also pour a self-leveling cement or gypsum underlayment.

You'd have to deal with the increased inch or so of floor height around the doors, but I think that's vastly preferable than tearing up the floors yourself and adding a lot of particulate matter into the air for you (or your family, neighbors, kids, etc) to breathe in.
posted by suedehead at 11:58 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

1. I can't speak for the odds of there being asbestos, but yes. Yes it is an issue if you're going to do a poor, undocumented job of abatement and plan on reselling the place at any point in time. Asbestos isn't the end of the world, but it is a very big issue.

2. This depends on your jurisdiction. In some places, if you know about asbestos's existance, you must hire professionals to take care of it right away. You really ought to use a professional abatement company to take care of it if it is asbestos, and again, your jurisdiction might require it and you can be fined a ton of money if you don't take care of it appropriately. If you can't afford a pro, I wouldn't even deal with it. Knowledge of this particular problem is what starts the process. This is one of the rare instances of 'ignorance is bliss' unless you've got the money to fix it ASAP. Also, I would call around for quotes on the abatment; in some areas it really isn't that expensive.

3. You can most probably just throw down new vinyl over top of it. There are products to fill in the gouges.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:58 AM on July 13, 2015

My take is that the likelihood that this flooring contains asbestos is relatively low. I would likely remove it myself taking care to wear a good dust mask and gloves, etc. However, WalMart online has a diy asbestos test kit for $10.12. That would be much more prudent.
posted by txmon at 11:59 AM on July 13, 2015

Also - I wouldn't wear anything less than a full-face respirator with asbestos-rated filters - those 3M paper masks won't cut it.

In terms of DIY asbestos kits - the test kits usually just contain a plastic baggie and an envelope, and you have to pay a lab anyways. Google "Western Analytical" for a more direct way to send your samples and save the $10.
posted by suedehead at 12:02 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

My sister-in-law is reading over my shoulder and wants me to chime in to tell you that her 1978 condo has asbestos lino/vinyl tile and also had asbestos on the electrical outlets, light switch plates, drywall mud, drywall tape, drywall, internal plumbing, popcorn ceiling and more. She was relieved to find out her carpet was from 1991, as carpet up to 1990 can contain asbestos. She ended up just laying flooring over the asbestos lino/vinyl tile.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 3:02 PM on July 13, 2015

That looks very much like the backing/underlayment on my bathroom vinyl, which as it turns out does contain asbestos. We had it tested by a local lab for like $25-30. Surprisingly, our ancient kitchen linoleum with black mastic tested negative, so we just ripped that shit out. But it goes to show that no one can look at your photos and tell you; you need to get it tested.

We haven't touched our bathroom vinyl flooring yet, but do plan to remodel it in the near future. The two contractors I've had come give bids (one sketchy, one extremely conscientious and reputable) both seemed to feel like it wouldn't be a big deal to remove it in a relatively "safe" manner. I'm not exactly sure what that means, or how they plan to do it.

I bet you could put vinyl planking like "Click Tiles" or something down on that floor with no problem, although I have never personally worked with those products. It doesn't seem that badly gouged and you could probably level those gouged areas if you wanted.
posted by bennett being thrown at 9:59 AM on July 14, 2015

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