What non-toxic finish can I use on old vinyl/asbestos floor tiles? Two nine-month-olds arriving in two weeks.

Asked by sally
Schenectady, NY

This is holiday apt. Would prefer a water based finish, no smell.


Answered by Doug Garrett

Jarrell, TX

Building Performance & Comfort, Inc.

February 22, 2013

I'm not sure what is being protected here.

  • If you think that the kids are going to hurt the floor, you can relax. V/A tile floors are almost indestructible.
  • If you think the floor is going to hurt the kids, you can still relax. The only way that vinyl/asbestos floors can become harmful is if the flooring is abraded, cut, scrapped or in some other way made friable.
  • That's a fancy way of saying that the asbestos fibers get into the air and are then respired into your lungs.

IF the tiles are intact and unbroken, then the asbestos can't get into the air and there is no health danger. Simply walking, crawling or using V/A tile floors is in no way dangerous to one's health.

In fact, if you do want to do anything to them, do not remove it yourself!

  • The recommended action is to floor over it and leave it in place, or
  • coat and encapsulate it with a low/no VOC floor sealant like RedMax.

The act of removing it will get dangerous, messy and create a big health issue. If you want to look this process up we call it "encapsulation." It is how we often deal with asbestos materials from tiles to duct insulation.


For more information:

Read "What do I do if I think my linoleum might have asbestos?" a Q&A answered by Olga Alvarez.

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