How can I identify asbestos in an old floor and what can I do about it?

For many decades asbestos was considered to be a useful versatile material that had many benefits for use in buildings, insulation, fireproofing and even floor tiles. That was until the 1960s when evidence started to emerge of its deadly effects.

In 1985 the most deadly type of asbestos was banned in the UK and all types have been banned since 1999. It was so popular though that there is an enormous amount of legacy material still existing and in use in buildings. It is quite safe unless it is disturbed or damaged but in areas where it may be damaged it should be removed or covered up. Floors are one area where damage is most likely because they are intended to be walked upon and can be damaged by footwear or dropped items

Asbestos containing floor tiles, courtesy of the HSE

Any vinyl or bitumen flooring laid before 2000 could potentially contain asbestos and unfortunately it is not easy to identify if it does or not. The average length of home ownership in the UK is 21 years, meaning that more than 50% of homeowners were not in the same property when asbestos was banned so are unlikely to know the history of any existing materials.

Testing the material to confirm the presence of asbestos can cost hundreds of pounds and the subsequent removal if it is present can cost thousands. The best solution in most cases is to enclose the asbestos flooring in another material and ceramic or porcelain tiles are an ideal solution as it will be impossible for the asbestos fibres to escape while the floor is down. It can be made safer still by the use of an uncoupling mat which does not need to be bonded to the substrate, the mat can be laid gently on top of the old floor at the start of the process and then work can commence as normal on top of the mat.

If you have concerns about the potential presence of asbestos in your floor we will be able to help you make the most suitable choice for your situation.

Asbestos containing floor tiles, courtesy of the HSE