What to Know About Asbestos Floor Tile

For decades, American homes have been built using asbestos as insulation for floors, walls, and ceilings. While this material was once touted for its heat-resistant and insulation properties, it was eventually discovered that asbestos posed a significant health risk to anyone who was directly exposed to it. However, as any experienced home inspector will tell you, the presence of asbestos in a home is not always a reason to panic or overlook an otherwise great house for sale.

The dangers presented by asbestos are often misrepresented or misunderstood. Many homeowners don’t need to worry about asbestos at all, as it’s use in the home building process has been largely prohibited since the 1980s. In older homes where asbestos is present, the level of danger it presents largely depends on how it was used and the state it is in.

After a brief overview of what asbestos is and why it is dangerous, this article will provide readers with information on how to best deal with home flooring that contains asbestos. If you are looking to buy or sell a home with asbestos and have questions or concerns, contact experienced historic Milwaukee home inspector Towne & Country.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural mineral that is composed of flexible fibers that do not break down. These fibers, which are resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion, made asbestos an attractive material for various home insulation projects throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In addition to insulation, asbestos was also added to cloth, cement, mortar, and various other materials to make them stronger. In fact, it was even used as fake snow on many early movie sets, including The Wizard of Oz.

Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

The same indestructible properties of asbestos that made them an appealing construction material are also the primary reason why it is so dangerous to humans. When asbestos is inhaled or ingested, the fibers can be trapped permanently within a person’s body. Over time, repeated or intense exposures to asbestos can lead to significant accumulation within the body that leads to inflammation, scarring, and even genetic damage.

A major asbestos-related disease is mesothelioma, a kind of cancer that is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. Lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer have also been shown to bear a relationship to asbestos exposure.

Asbestos and Floor Tile

Square floor tiles installed between 1920 and 1980 are likely to contain asbestos. When conducting a home inspection, an experienced Milwaukee historic home inspector will likely be able to spot tile flooring that contains asbestos. While the presence of this dangerous material may initially turn prospective buyers away, it should be known that the presence of asbestos in floor tile is only cause for concern if the fibers are disturbed and sent airborne.

If there are no signs of damage to the tiles, removing them may be an unnecessarily complicated and dangerous endeavor. Instead, homeowners can go the simpler and cheaper route of installing a new layer of flooring, such as carpeting, on top of the floor that contains asbestos. New vinyl tile or plank, linoleum, or ceramic tile are other examples of suitable flooring to lay on top of existing flooring that contains asbestos.

By attending the home inspection and consulting with the inspector, potential buyers are given the opportunity to see the state of any asbestos flooring first-hand. Because of the significant costs and dangers involved in removing asbestos flooring, it is somewhat rare to expect these kinds of repairs to be included in an inspection amendment, which requires the seller to take care of the mitigation at their expense before closing.

Leave Asbestos Removal to the Experts

Homeowners may be tempted to remove asbestos flooring on their own, but this is a task that is best left to professionally licensed asbestos mitigation experts. Any asbestos fibers that are sent airborne during an amateur attempt at removal are at risk of being inhaled or landing somewhere else in the home, where future exposure is likely to occur.

In the event that flooring containing asbestos is damaged due to flooding, fire, or some other disaster, it is important that professional asbestos removal and mitigation is factored into any claims submitted to insurance adjusters as well.

If you are looking to buy or sell an historic home in Milwaukee, you may have questions about asbestos. To get your questions answered and schedule your expert home inspection, contact Towne & Country Building Inspectors today.