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One of my smaller hallways is carpeted, for no highly obvious reason. That carpet is on its last legs, and I'd prefer a wood floor anyway.

Taking a peek under the carpet, it looks like the surface is flooring squares... which, given the age of the house, are almost certainly asbestos linoleum.

I didn't see any obvious fraying of the linoleum. But I still hesitate to tamper with it, even just to take up the carpet and put down hardwood over it.

Is there a good way to approach this? Or should I just treat it as a hazmat and call my favorite contractor?

(The most important skill in DIY is how to recognize when you're in over your head. Preferably before you need rescuing.)

EDIT: Took another look, and it's the same linoleum as the bathroom floor next to it. So either there's no problem, or I have a larger problem.

EDIT 2: Contractor looked at it.

"In that pattern, I'm guessing 1970's. Asbestos is not likely, but not impossible either in the tile or in the adhesive. Typical installation was adhesive, tar paper (as a water seal), more adhesive and the tile.

"The best way to remove these tiles is to use a heat gun to soften the adhesive and lift them up gently with a flat scraper. Homeowners are allowed to DIY even if you suspect asbestos, and if you're careful it shouldn't be a problem... but that still leaves you with the question of whether the adhesive residue will be a hazard.

"I'd suggest taking up one tile and some of the adhesive, putting each in a ziplock bag, and asking the local lab to test both. That'll cost you about $50 total, and you'll know how careful you have to be with the rest. After all, you might be lucky enough that there's a decent hardwood floor under there."

(I doubt the hardwood floor, but one can always hope.)

So: I have a Plan Of Action, and it's probably less of a problem than I feared. That's about what I expected, but... "Better to ask, and be thought a fool, than to not ask and remove all doubt."

Thanks for the sanity check, folks.

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You should definitely contact someone that can test it to see if it is asbestos. Then you should go from there. If you notice any dust coming up when moving anything before you are certain if it is asbestos or not spray a light mist of water on the areas you think may be asbestos. The light mist keeps the dust down along with the possible asbestos particles. This is just a precautionary measure until it can be tested / removed if needed. –  deathismyfriend May 27 at 1:56
    
If I was planning to sell the house any time soon, I'd probably stop right here and decide I didn't want to know whether there was asbestos or not, since what you don't know you don't have to disclose to possible buyers... just assume and encapsulate. But since I don't plan to move again in the foreseeable future, I think I want to know what I've got, and I've asked a contractor to come in and tell me whether a test is needed and what the best workarounds/precautions are. –  keshlam May 28 at 23:13

2 Answers 2

You should be able to remove the carpet and padding without disturbing the tile. Then you can install a floating laminate wood floor without any concern.

A hardwood floor that requires nailing would be a bigger concern.

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Would you use the approach offered by @DA01 for DIY removal? –  scrowler May 27 at 20:59
    
If you suspect that the tiles are asbestos, I would not mess with them. If you intend to replace carpet with laminate, the tile underneath will do no harm, so why mess? –  The Evil Greebo May 28 at 11:37
    
I hadn't considered a floating floor; good suggestion! And yes, if the tiles are asbestos I'm inclined to just encapsulate them. –  keshlam May 28 at 23:08

Asbestos tiles can be dangerous but only if they crumble and the asbestos becomes airborne.

I'd suggest trying to remove one tile and see how it goes. The process I've used:

  • spray area with water from a mister (keeps dust down)
  • get a tile remover (essentially a large, flat blade on a handle that you can use to pry up the tile)
  • at a low angle, thrust the remover into the side of the tile and see how well it pops up.

If the tile pops up in one entire piece (or even two) you can likely DIY.

If it comes up in a shattered mess of fragments, then some options:

  • decide you want to outsource it all and bring in the abatement crew.
  • DIY. Get a good mask. Seal off other rooms. Get a couple box fans to vent the workspace well. Continue with the wetting and scraping.
  • Do nothing. Just add new flooring on top (likely a floating engineered floor).

Asbestos isn't a good thing, but remember it's not Cyanide, either. Harm from asbestos comes from a) prolonged exposure and b) time.

In the grand scheme of things, taking out a small hallway of asbestos tile yourself--if done carefully--is likely waaayyyyy down the list of things to worry much about. :)

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Venting the workspace to the open air exposes anyone in the surrounding vicinity potential exposure to asbestos particles. Proper asbestos abatement requires HEPA filtration using positive pressure in a sealed environment. –  The Evil Greebo May 28 at 11:38
    
@TheEvilGreebo true, though it really does depend on scope of the project. Many jurisdictions allow for home owners to remove limited amounts of asbestos themselves. A small hallway of tile isn't a huge concern. But yes, do be aware of what you are venting out too (don't use the window facing your neighbor's front porch, for example...). An asbestos-rated filter in a shop-vac is certainly a good idea, though. –  DA01 May 28 at 15:24
    
I'm old enough to remember the days when small asbestos squares were commonly used as fireproof work surfaces for soldering and the like ... shedding fibers all over the place ... and a piece of native asbestos was a common component of kid's "interesting minerals" kits. So as with many hazmats, I'm not paranoid about the stuff but I do try to treat it with the respect it deserves. And I try not to leave traps for whoever may own the place after me. –  keshlam May 28 at 23:18
    
@keshlam it may vary by region, but in my last house, once we found Asbestos tile in it, we were legally obligated to note that when it came time to sell. –  DA01 May 28 at 23:57
    
@DA01: That's true in my area. Ditto for lead. But since I don't plan to sell any time soon -- and I bought the house to live in, not as an investment -- that really isn't an issue for me. And with a house this age, one simply assumes that both lead and asbestos are present somewhere and tries to take appropriate precautions to keep them encapsulated. –  keshlam May 29 at 0:07

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