How to Take a Sample of Thermoplastic Floor Tiles – A Step-by-Step Guide

Thermoplastic floor tiles were widely used between the 1950s and 1980s in the UK, particularly in social housing due to their low cost and excellent durability. These tiles had a higher concentration of asbestos and were often fixed to the floor with asbestos adhesive too making them particularly dangerous.

Although asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999[1], there is still a chance that your property could contain thermoplastic floor tiles therefore, we have provided an extensive step-by-step guide on how to obtain samples below.

Advised Personal Protective Equipment 

When taking asbestos samples, protection should be your number one priority and this is why we provide all the relevant PPE in your sampling kit. This includes:

  • Powder free nitrile gloves
  • FFP3 respirator mask
  • Type 5/6 coveralls
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Waste bags

The respirator mask has enough protection for light asbestos work, and the 5/6 coveralls are category 3 which means they use higher-grade materials for maximum protection. If you are unsure of how any of the PPE fits then don’t worry as there are clear instructions included too in the sampling kit. 

Unless your thermoplastic tiles are already broken, you have to physically cut a piece of the tile to obtain a sample. This is why it’s important to follow the below instructions, act responsibly, and do everything carefully.

Step 1 – The duty holder must cordon off the area and inform people on the premises 

If you are taking a sample from a non-domestic property, the duty holder must make everyone aware of the sampling process and that there could be ACM on the premises. They must also make notes of the location and condition of the suspected ACM.

For residential properties, we still advise being responsible and making sure the room is cordoned off and that everyone in the house knows what you are doing.

Step 2 – Gear up with the included PPE

Take everything you need into the room (PPE, tools, sample bags, waste disposal bags). Next, put on all the required PPE including your gloves, respirator mask, and coveralls. Make sure everything fits tightly and that there are no gaps between the edges such as your gloves and coverall arms.


Step 3 – Cut a piece of the Thermoplastic floor tile

Removing a piece of thermoplastic floor tile can be tricky. Depending on how strong the adhesive is, and the quality of the tiles, you can either try and prise an entire tile free or cut a sample from a tile still in-situ. 

If the tiles feel loose, you can use a knife or wallpaper remover to prise between two tile joints and hopefully push under to lift one of them. If you successfully remove a tile, only lift it a little – enough so that you can then break a small corner off using pliers. 

If the tiles won’t budget, you will have to cut a section from a corner. A Stanley knife or chisel and hammer can work. The key is to work slowly and not just start smashing and slicing the tiles. It may take some time, but you essentially just need to cut a small corner of the tile around the size of a 50p coin. 

Step 4 – Place in the sample bags and label appropriately

The provided sample bags have labels on and these must be completed once the samples are safely stored and sealed inside. Make sure you write the unique sample reference number on (this should be provided with each kit), the date the sample was taken, and a description of the location such as “asbestos thermoplastic floor tile sample from kitchen”. 

If you have samples from multiple rooms, place them in separate bags! Just because one room may contain thermoplastic floor tiles, it doesn’t mean all your tiles do. 

Step 6 – Dampen and dispose of your PPE        

Hopefully, there should be minimum mess on the floor and around the tile that you took the sample from. Regardless, if you lifted the tile, make sure it is push back down into place. Next, use the antibacterial wipes to clean the area and remove/dampen any dust.

Your PPE must now be disposed of properly and you must first wipe it with the antibacterial wipes to dampen any dust and stop it from escaping. Next, place your PPE together with the antibacterial wipes in the red bag. This red bag then goes inside the clear bag. Asbestos waste disposal procedures should then be followed.


Safety Advice for Taking Thermoplastic Floor Tile Samples 

  • Where possible, it is important to include any backing of the thermoplastic floor tile such as the adhesive as the lab can then identify if this contains asbestos too.
  • Ideally, take the thermoplastic floor tile from a corner of the floor that is rarely trodden as this greatly reduces the chance that anyone will disturb it and cause more damage afterwards.
  • Make sure any tools you used are also wiped with the antibacterial wipes and that they are thoroughly cleaned afterwards.


[1] – GOV UK – Asbestos: General Information

The content on this page/article was last updated on the 6th December 2023 by our team and was reviewed and fact checked by William Wright, DipNEBOSH on the 6th December 2023.

William is a qualified health & safety consultant who holds NEBOSH & IOSH certifications.