Asbestos Floor Tiles

Asbestos floor tiles where used extensively throughout 1900-1999. It's important you know how to identify asbestos containing floor tiles & bitumen to prevent exposure to asbestos fibres. Check out our guide on how to spot them!
Test My Floor Tiles

Written by Tom Yates . Edited 8th December 2023

Fact Checked by William Wright, NEBOSH


Overview

Asbestos floor tiles were once highly favoured in the UK and were used extensively in homes and commercial properties throughout the 19th century. Though no longer in use (Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999) they might still be concealed beneath carpets today. These tiles were commonly composed of asbestos bonded with materials such as asphalt or vinyl, presenting a variety of patterns and styles.The incorporation of asbestos in these materials offered numerous advantages at an economical price, offering qualities such as thermal resistance (for fire protection), soundproofing, and resistance to chemicals/corrosion, rendering them exceptionally durable

What do asbestos floor tiles look like?

Identifying asbestos floor tiles through a visual inspection alone is nearly impossible. Asbestos fibres are microscopic and the asbestos was often combined with other flooring materials like vinyl, making it indistinguishable from non-asbestos tiles.The only reliable method to confirm the presence of asbestos in a tile is to have it tested in a laboratory. If your property was constructed before 1999 and you come across floor tiles, it is advisable to assume that they could potentially contain asbestos.

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Fact Sheet

Definition
Answer
Known names
Thermoplastic Tiles, Marley Tiles, Asbestos Floor Tiles, ACM tiles
% of asbestos
11-25% [2]
Colours
Any
Product Types
Flooring
Asbestos Minerals Used
Typically Chrysotile
Risk Level
Low Risk- Non-Friable - Bonded Material
Removal Cost
Dates Used
1900s

Identifying Asbestos Floor Tiles

Here are some commonly asked questions regarding identifying asbestos floor tiles, if you have any questions which aren't mentioned in this article please contact us and one of our asbestos specialists will respond to your question.

How thick are asbestos floor tiles? + -

They are usually thin and brittle. They are usually removed by scraping them up. You will be able to easily break the tile in half using your hands. (Do not attempt to break the tile without wearing appropriate PPE

What size are asbestos floor tiles? + -

The tiles can come in many shapes and sizes, however, the most common sizes are  9 x 9",  12 x 12" or  18 x 18"

How are they affixed? + -

Asbestos floor tiles are usually stuck down using a bitumen or glue/mastic adhesive. This adhesive commonly contains asbestos too so this should be treated as the same.

Where are they commonly found?

Asbestos floor tiles can be found throughout many properties. There are no hard and fast rules as to where they could have been used. In general, they where used anywhere you would expect to find floor tiles, such as in kitchens, bathrooms and hallways. It's worth checking under carpets and newer floor coverings as the previous building owner may have left them in situ and simply laid flooring over them.

Tom Yates
03/01/2023

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How Dangerous Are Asbestos Floor Tiles?

Floor tiles are considered a relatively low-risk asbestos-containing product. This is due to the material makeup. With the material being heavily bonded and non-friable (Friability is the tendency to break down, chip or crumble under pressure or as a result of abrasion) this means when the product is disturbed or broken there is a minimal release of asbestos fibres. Whilst considered low-risk by the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) [1] this doesn't mean that the product isn't harmful and certainly doesn't mean it is safe to remove without protection. If you intend to work on asbestos floor tiles then ensure you wear appropriate RPE & PPE.

Is a license required for removal?

According to the HSE an asbestos license is not required to remove asbestos floor tiles. Removal of floor tiles with an asbestos-paper backing will be notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW) - This means the contractor carrying out the work may need to let the HSE know about the removal works before starting.


Asbestos Floor Tile Statistics in The UK

We carry out 1000s of asbestos tests per year, and due to this, we have accumulated an extensive data set that we can call upon. According to our data around 10% of the samples we test are floor tile samples - This makes floor tiles the 3rd most tested material. Of those tested, a staggering 43% of floor tiles came back with a positive result (containing asbestos). If we are to generalise this data we could assume that if you find a floor tile in your property there is a 43% chance that it contains asbestos


Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need A License To Remove Asbestos Floor Tiles + -

No, A license is not required to removal asbestos floor tiles - However, the works may be notifiable to the HSE.

Can I Remove Them Myself? + -

If you are the owner of the property and it is classed as a domestic dwelling then there are no laws preventing you from removing the floor tiles yourself, however, we would always recommend instructing professionals to carry out any removal works for you to protect your health.If you are an employee or the property is classed as non-domestic or commercial then you are bound by the laws of the HSE. You may be able to remove them yourself providing you have relevant training and experience in doing so. It's worth checking the HSE guidance on this to ensure you're not contravening any health & safety laws.

Can You Cover Over Asbestos Floor Tiles? + -

Yes, this is an option. Whilst we would always recommend having them removed by professionals, some property owners would prefer to save the expense and simply cover the flooring up with a new material. If you are having the new flooring fitted by a tradesman it's important to let them know that the floor tiles contain asbestos so they can assess the risk to themselves and include any measures in their risk assessment.

How To Seal / Encapsulate Asbestos Floor Tiles? + -

The common method of encapsulation of floor tiles by asbestos removal companies involves coating several layers of PVA glue over the tiles. This method is only used when the tiles are in good condition.Sealing in the tiles using this method helps prevent any further dust from the tiles from being released into the air.

How To Dispose Of Asbestos Floor Tiles? + -

To dispose of asbestos floor tiles in line with legislation the tiles should be bagged up using UN-certified asbestos waste bags. The material should be first put into the red bag which is then sealed using heavy-duty tape to create an air-tight seal. The clear bag should then be placed inside the red bag and again sealed with tape. This technique is called double-bagging. These bags can then be taken to the hazardous waste skip at a local waste recycling facility.


References / Citations

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