Removing asbestos floor tiles – How to do it

removing asbestos floor tiles

Asbestos floor tiles can be a hassle to get rid of. Your primary concern might be regarding safety. Asbestos sometimes gets a bad reputation. This is because asbestos does have a potentiality to become dangerous if not treated the proper way.

Asbestos is composed of long and thin fibrous crystals. Under certain circumstances, asbestos can act as a health hazard if it is not controlled properly. This concern, combined with the hassle of removing floor tiles can make for a lengthy and exhausting process.

The procedure itself can be confusing especially if you have no experience of removing floor tiles in general. Fortunately, we have outlined a step by step process on how exactly to get rid of asbestos floor tiles along with extra tips that you should know of while dealing with any type of safety procedure.

Knowing your floor

Before you can even think about removing asbestos floor tiles, or even preparing your workplace, you should be aware of what type of tiles you have and the asbestos in it. For example, sheet vinyl, floor tiles or any paper-like backing can contain asbestos. The reason asbestos is so common is that it increases durability and strengthens materials.

Vinyl asbestos flooring is generally safe to be around until you have to remove the flooring itself. By working with floor tiles containing asbestos, you can end up exposing yourself to toxic dust from asbestos fibers. Inhaling this dust can lead to several terrible diseases such as asbestosis or mesothelioma. You should also have a general knowledge of your floor before attempting to remove any tiles.

Removing asbestos floor tiles
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Heat and water damage can make the floor friable. If your floor is friable, it has a bigger chance of releasing asbestos in the air. By knowing the damage of the floor, you can gauge just how dangerous removing it may be. All safety precautions need to be considered. When working with asbestos flooring, it is important to determine if your flooring is friable or nonfriable.

Friable Materials

These materials are incredibly easy to break or crumble by hand. Because they are so easy to break, friable materials are the most dangerous when it comes to asbestos. Be aware of this before attempting to lift friable flooring.

Nonfriable Materials

These materials are much more durable. As long as the materials are not damaged, asbestos fibers are safely contained in the product. However, if a nonfriable material is crumbled or damaged, it is considered friable. In this case, caution for safety is incredibly important.

In many cases, people opt for putting a new layer of flooring on top of nonfriable asbestos flooring instead of removing the old flooring. However, this keeps asbestos trapped deep in the floor so it is important to be aware of this when it comes to construction in the future.


The first thing you need to do when preparing your workplace for removing asbestos floor tiles is to remove all movable objects from the work area. This will ultimately reduce clean-up time and prevent contamination of these objects. If you are unable to remove certain objects, cover them with poly and seal them with duct tape.

After this, it is important to isolate the work area. Turn off the air conditioning system and heat. If there are any vents in the area, cover them and seal them with poly and duct tape. You should also consider limiting access to the work area. There should only be one doorway through which anyone can enter the work area.

The only access to the work area should be covered with a poly flap and duct tape. This should limit air movement in the work area, making sure asbestos fibers do not spread. All other doorways should be sealed with poly.

You will also need several specific tools to remove asbestos flooring as safely as possible. Use the following tools for the process:

  • Utility knife – needed for cutting any material.
  • Metal putty knife – takes flooring off of flat surfaces.
  • Razor scraper – helps for removing glue
  • Abrasive scrub pads – helps get rid of residual floor backing
  • Spray bottle – for holding any needed water.
  • Water – stops asbestos from spreading in the air.
  • Disposable towels – for cleaning up afterward
  • Duct tape – used for sealing and opening
  • Polyethylene sheeting (poly) – used for sealing and isolating the work area
  • Boxes – for disposing of floor tiles
  • Respirator with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter – dust masks are not enough to protect you from microscopic asbestos fibers.
  • Air Purifier with HEPA filter – setting up a purifier reduces the risk of contamination.
  • Disposable coveralls and gloves – asbestos can be hard to wash away. This is why you should wear overalls and gloves over anything you might not intend on throwing out.
  • HEPA vacuum – to trap dry dust, a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter is the best way to clean all asbestos fibers up. All tools should be cleaned just as well.

Removing asbestos floor tiles

Now that we have cleared up all the tools, equipment and safety precautions you will need for the process of removing asbestos floor tiles, we can get into the actual activity of removing asbestos floor tiles. Make sure all your tools are in the room and at arm’s length. You should also put on the protective overalls, gloves, and masks that have been mentioned previously as important tools for the process.

Once removing the flooring begins, limit the number of times you go in and out of the room. You should keep in mind that this spreads asbestos particles and you can risk contaminating other rooms and areas. Firstly, you should wet all flooring waters before you begin the process of removing tiles as this will keep asbestos from getting into the air.

Begin removing the floor sheeting simply by cutting the material with a utility knife.  You can cut the material into sections that are 6” wide running the length of the room. For the most part, the flooring should come up easily when using a razor scraper or a metal putty knife. Use this to get under the floor sheeting and pull it up.

Make sure to constantly wet the material as you pull it up. During the removal, certain parts may stay intact. For example, the floor backing may separate from floor sheeting, remaining stuck to the floor. In this case, wet the extra debris with water and scrape it off with a razor scraper.

Be sure to take the floor tiles and waste materials you have separated and place them into a box that you will seal with duct tape. By doing this, you will be able to surely prevent tiles from poking through the waste bag and releasing asbestos. It is important to seal anything containing the tiles with duct tape. Also, wipe down the boxes and bags just for a precautionary measure.

There is also a chance that after this process, you will need to remove some of the adhesives that hold the floor down. Usually, this is done with chemical solvents or even just ordinary water. Because adhesives may contain asbestos, you should not grind them as this can lead to asbestos spreading into the air.

The Clean-up

The clean-up and disposal phase of the whole process is just as important for safety as lifting the floor itself. This is because being careless with asbestos after you remove floor tiles can lead to contamination of other areas.

You should first remove any extra glue or debris from the floor tiles with a wet towel or rag. This includes the remaining dust that has asbestos itself. Consider using liquid detergent to clean the area more thoroughly. Afterward, you should also wipe down the whole work area along with all the tools that were exposed to asbestos. This includes absolutely every material as well and this step is vital to safety.

Make sure to double-check for any signs of asbestos either through dust leftover from the process or any area of the room that had not been wiped down and dry. Rinse whichever material you use to clean the roam constantly and change the water frequently to prevent the risk of contamination.

Removing asbestos floor tiles
Photo by from Pexels

After this is done, you can take down all of the poly sheeting placed earlier and place it into waste bags. You should also discard any disposable gloves, masks, and overalls in the waste bag as well. Seal the bags and boxes with duct tape. After doing this, double-check all areas for anything you might have missed before taking a shower to remove any persistent fibers of asbestos that may cling to your body or hair.

If you really want to keep your floor tiles safe and clean for as long as possible, you might want to consider purchasing a tile floor scrubber to assure max hygiene and maintenance (you can check our guide if you want a budget-friendly option).

When it comes to disposing of asbestos-contaminated material, you need to be careful. This is because this type of waste has to be disposed of in a landfill that accepts asbestos waste. The best way to do this is by contacting your local waste hauler or taking the waste to a landfill yourself.

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