DISCLAIMER NOTE: Coming in contact with asbestos is very dangerous and can be life threatening. Regulations on its removal and disposal change on a regular basis so inform yourself of the current regulations in your area before doing any work. If you are not sure, call a professional abatement company. The information in this article does not suggest or recommend that this is a DIY job.
Summary of OSHA Asbestos Standard 29CFR1926.1101
This is where government regulations spell out the requirements (in gov-speak) for removal of Class II asbestos work. It states:
7. Work practices and engineering controls for Class II work
i. All work shall be supervised by a competent person.
ii. For all indoor Class II jobs without a negative exposure assessment, or
where conditions changed during the job in such a way that the PEL/EL
may be exceeded, or where the material is not removed in a substantially
intact state, the employer shall use one of the following methods:
A. critical barriers shall be used.
B. alternative barrier or isolation methods are allowed as verified by
perimeter area monitoring or clearance monitoring.
C. impermeable drop cloths shall be placed beneath all removal activity.
iv. applicable work practices and requirements shall be followed.
8. Additional controls for Class II work
i. For removing vinyl and asphalt flooring materials containing ACM/PACM,
the following practices apply...
A. flooring or its backing shall not be sanded.
B. vacuums equipped with HEPA filter, disposable dust bag, and metal floor tool (no brush) shall be used to clean floors.
C. resilient sheeting shall be removed by cutting with wet methods, ripup methods are prohibited.
D. all scraping of residual adhesive and/or backing shall be done using wet methods.
E. dry sweeping is prohibited.
F. mechanical chipping is prohibited unless done in a negative pressure enclosure.
G. tiles shall be removed intact, unless employer demonstrates that intact removal is not possible.
H. when tiles are heated and can be removed intact, wetting may be omitted.
I. resilient flooring material including its mastic and backing shall be assumed to be an ACM unless proven otherwise by an industrial hygienist.
A Brief History of Asbestos Use
Information often takes a little bit of time to catch up with technology, as in the well-known case of asbestos. After its development, this material was commonly used in construction and plumbing for a number of years.
Why? Many reasons; primarily because it is an inexpensive mineral, boasts impressive fire-retarding properties, and of course it is an excellent insulator.
From the early 1950s to the mid-70s, asbestos filled thousands of homes and offices in a variety of building materials until its eventual ban when experts realized that it posed serious health risks to humans, particularly lung cancer and mesothelioma.
If your house was built between the 50s and 70s, there is a good chance that you have asbestos somewhere in your home. Vinyl floor tiles are a common spot for asbestos to hide, and many people dont even realize it.
Can You Do Your Own Asbestos Abatement?
Site Disclaimer: The first thing to do is to investigate whether your local codes and regulations even allow you to perform this job yourself. It is likely that you will be required to find a dependable and licensed contractor through a service.
Do you even have this material? Unless you can readily identify it, consulting with an independent testing lab is the only way to be sure. These are the same folks that test for leaded paint. The problem is that in order to tell, you have to disturb it someway, such as removing, chipping, or scraping. Asbestos is a friable mineral, meaning that it generally fine undisturbed but if disturbed, bits of fiber become airborne an may potentially be inhaled.
Be Safe with Personal Protective Gear
To start removing asbestos from your home (and only if regulations permit), youll need to take significant safety measures. Asbestos moves through the air undetected, so youll need to protect yourself, your co-workers, and your family by insuring that no asbestos gets into the air or anyones lungs.
Dress yourself and anyone who will be working in the area in protective clothing. Hazmat suits are ideal, and they are well worth the investment.
Head coverage is very important here, as is breathing apparatus. Obtain high-quality respirators or gas masks for yourself and assistants. Wear goggles as well. In short, full body coverage is the goal.
The work area itself should also be protected. Block off the perimeter of your work area and limit traffic through the affected rooms until the job is totally finished.
Use heavy plastic to hang from doorways and windows to keep any airborne asbestos confined to one area. If you have any pets or children, keep them out of the house until the job is complete.
This should be a one-shot deal; remove all the tiles in a single work session for best results. Otherwise, you risk spreading asbestos through the entire house.
Floor Tile Removal
To remove the asbestos tiles, start by moistening the tiled area with a mix of warm water and dish detergent. This will help you to weaken the adhesive used to bond the tiles onto your floor, making for easier removal. In many cases a citrus-based solvent yields better results. There are no hard and fast rules; much is dependent on the mastic used during construction.
After this has been done, use a floor scraper to remove the tiles. The scraper acts as a wedge that youre driving between the tiles and the floor to pry them up.
Dispose of all tiles in heavy plastic garbage bags. Many locales require double bagging and disposal only in approved areas. In some municipalities, the disposer remains responsible for the debris in perpetuity.
Use a chemical solvent and scouring pads to scrub away any remaining adhesive on the floors where asbestos fibers can still linger, and clean the floor thoroughly afterward. Dispose of all trash and work clothes according to local code immediately.
Learning how to remove asbestos floor tiles is the easy part. The hard part can come from many things -- complying with regulations, getting up stubborn adhesive/mastic, and more. Laying the new floor over the old is sometimes a better option and should certainly be considered.