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Asbestos Floor Tiles

Why to leave them alone, and how to cover them

Ask This Old House Crew
Photo by Matt Kalinowski

I'm told that the old vinyl floor tiles in the basement of our 1950 house contain asbestos and that I should not try to remove the tiles but cover them with wall-to-wall carpeting. Is this the best approach, and if so, should the flooring be sealed somehow before the carpet is installed?

— Lori, Newtown, CT


Tom Silva replies: The advice you received is correct: The best way to deal with old asbestos floor tiles is to cover them up. That's enough to prevent the damage and wear that can release fibers into the air; no sealer is needed. Carpeting and a suitable pad will do the trick. In a basement I'd suggest a rubber-based carpet pad rather than a fiber pad. You could also cover the tiles with new vinyl flooring, linoleum, or even ceramic tiles. However, as a favor to future owners of your house, make some note of the fact that asbestos tiles are under the new flooring. That way, no one will be endangered years from now when they start to rip up the new flooring and find asbestos tiles beneath.


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