are we worried about asbestos exposure?

So, we told you last week that we called in the professionals to whip our hardwood floors into shape.

The timing actually worked out perfect since we had a friend come to visit for the week.  So I could do some gallivanting around Key West and still feel like things were happening around the house.  Extra points to me for slacking off and still ending up with floors that look like this right now.  :)  (And if you like gallivanting pictures, they all go down on Instagram, I’m @thespacebetweenblog.)

hardwood floor restoration - sanded

Beautiful, right?!?!  They are the perfect shade of Marley.  :)  This picture makes me so happy!  It is beginning to start to feel like a real room … one where we can live in, with furniture and artwork … we’resoclose.

The guy we hired to do all of the sanding just needs to finish up around all of the edges and then a final full sand with a finer grit sand paper and then we are going to be talking stain.  We haven’t settled on a color yet, we haven’t even really settled on the light, medium or dark debate.  Which makes me a little nervous, but the floor guy said he has some suggestions that he’s seen work well with our type of flooring (the now extinct Dade County Pine) so I’m hoping to see some samples this week and get that all figured out.

Then the weekend agenda has been designated to staining.  The plan is for Joel and I to tackle the staining and finishing work.

I sure do hope it goes well.

But before we can get to all that, for everyone who asked about what we discovered regarding the potentially asbestos vinyl tiles, and our thoughts on asbestos exposure, here’s the skinny from our reputable ‘floor guy’ himself.
asbestos exposure remediation

  • the tiles were most likely made with asbestos, but we did not have them tested
  • the tar paper and adhesive was not made of asbestos and is the same kind of adhesive used today
    preparing for hardwood floor restoration
  • unless the tiles were crumbly to the touch asbestos was not being released into the air (ours were not crumbly to the touch)
    hardwood floor restoration - removing asbestos tiles
  • the easiest, and most recommended online, option would have been to just cover them up (we were determined to rescue the original, Dade County Pine hardwood floors underneath … and we’re so glad we did)
    hardwood floor restoration - removing asbestos tiles
  • we found many resources that were encouraging and informative, telling us different variations of “Flooring that contains asbestos, when intact and in good condition, is generally considered nonfriable and is not hazardous.”  Quote from here.

Now, I’m not even remotely suggesting that everyone should go out and find some asbestos floor tiles to play with.  I’m merely ‘splainin’ why we felt comfortable tackling this part of the process on our own.

A few other noteworthy points:

  • we don’t have any kids so we didn’t have that concern to consider
  • we broke the whole room down into 3 sections and tackled them over 3 weeks
  • I did the first section when I was alone in the house and Joel did the other 2 sections while I took the dogs to the dog park and shopping … ’cause dogs are welcome pretty much everywhere around here which is handy.
  • we covered up all access points to other parts of the house and opened the two windows in the dining room and pointed fans out the windows when at work
    removing vinyl tiles with asbestos exposure
  • we wore a respirator and disposed of the tiles in sealed bags as soon as they were removed
  • we did what we could to keep the area contained – we cleaned everything thoroughly after each session, tossed the work clothes right into the washing machine and wiped down all tools, etc when we were done
  • there are always more precautions that could be taken, and because of that, there’s this

There are so many different resources online, it’s just a matter of finding one that says what you want is clear to you.  I found the articles here and here informative.

And then there’s the fact that we were reassured by the ‘floor guy’ who has been uncovering and removing this kind of flooring for more than 20 years and seems totally normal … other than that twitch. Just kidding.

We ended up using a few different techniques, but the one I found the most effective was to use the same angled scraper we used to remove the glued down carpet pad.  The process was simple, if not repetitive and oft-times painfully boring.

  • keep area damp as a wet area would prevent any asbestos dust from releasing into the air
  • wedge angled scraper under one corner of a tile
  • hammer the handle end of the scraper to pry up the tile
  • move the scraper from corner to corner around the tile
  • repeat until tile is released
  • repeat
  • repeat
  • repeat

Some tiles were more stubborn than others, and a gauge I read was to try to not break one tile more than 4 times.  Sure, there were times the ‘4 breaks’ rule was broken.  Such is DIY.

I did take the time to video tape me removing just one tile so all of the visual learners can see the approach in action.  If only I had chosen a more agreeable tile to video.  :)

Doing this part of the floor preparation saved us $2 a square foot, just one of the determining factors for us.  That, and we’re just suckers for a new kind of DIY.  :)

Remember when we hadn’t even removed the carpet yet?
living room and original patio beforeAnd we might have furniture by next week … say it ain’t so.  :)

To see a little bit more of the journey these floors have taken check it out here and here.  And weigh in on the debate here.

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  1. says

    gallivanting! GOOD FOR YOU! hopefully gallivanting included a margarita or two and a visit to the polydactyl kitties. *LOVE* Key West! ~ you lucky girl. And of course *LOVE* your blog!!!!

  2. says

    I haven’t commented in a while, but I have been enjoying the journey! You and your husband are my DIY heros. We ripped up all the carpet on our stairs and upstairs hall this weekend, and now are planning to finish the subflooring. Either we are very ambitious, or really stupid, or both. Your home will look so amazing when it is all done! And the biggest sense of accomplishment!

  3. says

    You are making so much progress. You must be tired all the time. Love that the unstained floor is the same color as your sweet dog.

    • says

      hahaha, I love that they matched, too!! some days are more tiring than others, we really are trying to keep the balance as we go, no need to get burned out before the finish line. :)

  4. says

    we had to do the same thing. we actually found a site that talked about keeping them saturated and sing soapy water so the surfactants in the soap help catch any fibers. it’s amazing what is asbestos that people don’t even realize. not only do did they make asbestos tiles into the 1980’s in the us, but they still do in Canada.

  5. Gerard says

    Asbestosis and all the other lung problems takes10-30 years to show up after you have been in contact with asbestos. Vct tiles or any sheet goods flooring with asbestos in it it are concidered high risk removal up here in Canada and the black mastic that they where glued down with is more then likely to contain asbestos as well . This job should have been conducted with a full nagitve air containment and with full face resporator and throw away tavak suit gloves ……you get the picture . I would have my lungs checked every five years now not that they can do anything for you if you have been exposed and Jennifer Canada does not make asbestos products haven’t since the 80s .

  6. says

    Gerard, we do still make asbestos up here in Canada. Unfortunately we ship it overseas now for others to “enjoy”. It is absolutely scandelous that this is still be done.

  7. Kristen says

    Where did you dispose of the tiles? We are having carpeting laid next weeks but there are loose tiles in our basement (we discovered the asbestos tile after a basement flood and the flooring had to be removed revaling the revolting asbestos tile! We just bought and moved into this house so this was a huge disappointment to find!) The flooring business we are using wants us to remove and dispose of the loose tiles but we don’t know where to do that!! Thank you.

    • says

      Sorry for my delay, Kristen. I thought I had replied but it looks like I must not have submitted it. :/ The guy we hired to refinish our floor handled that so I unfortunately can’t help you. Sorry!


Let me know what you think!