In my laundry room, I've got asbestos floor tile. (The house was built in 1967.) The tile is laid on the concrete slab. Is it possible to lay ceramic penny tile over the asbestos tile if I put down cement backerboard first? I'd like to avoid pulling up the asbestos tile.

  • 4
    If you don't want to do it right the first time, what are your thoughts about doing it right the second time?
    – BMitch
    Dec 6, 2012 at 18:33
  • 1
    Don't do it. If only from the perspective of not wanting the next owner to be pissed off at you for doing something that he/she considers so brain-dead. I'm having to clean up an absolute mess in my basement from a previous owner's doing things quick rather than right, and it's annoying me to no end.
    – John
    Dec 6, 2012 at 19:26
  • More info: The old tile is linoleum tile, which contains asbestos. They don't have beveled edges. They're not ceramic.
    – Laxmidi
    Dec 7, 2012 at 15:08

5 Answers 5


As long as you do not disturb the asbestos you're fine. Asbestos is dangerous only when inhaled, which only happens if its airborne.

Take care when you lay down the backer board to not damage the asbestos. Glue and screw it down (as screwing it down with cement on top isn't going to risk creating airborne asbestos fibers) and tile away to your hearts content.

  • Thanks very much for the comment. What type of screws should I use? Will a standard drill be able to screw the backerboard into concrete? Secondily, will I have problems with the new tiles cracking if I lay it over the old tile?
    – Laxmidi
    Dec 3, 2012 at 20:04
  • 1
    These are all very good questions which should be asked as separate questions, because the comment format we're in now is not conductive for this. Dec 3, 2012 at 20:08

Don't disturb the asbestos if you can avoid it.

Check with your town to see if there are special rules, but in general the process will be: clean the existing tiles thoroughly, with something that will remove grease and dirt. If any old tiles are loose, nail them in place with 6D nails, then use a nail set to countersink the nail heads. Use a thin coat of floor leveler on the old tile to fill the seams between tiles and level off any dents and depressions that have formed over time. When it cures, lay down plywood as a new subfloor.

Check the directions for the new tile to see what they recommend for thickness and type of subfloor, as well as the recommended gap between sheets of plywood, and the number and type of fasteners to use to attach the subfloor. Be sure your fasteners are long enough to get all the way into the original subfloor, under the asbestos floor (unless you're really fond of squeaky floors and popped tiles).

Sweep the subfloor, then use a thin coat of floor leveler to fill the gaps between the plywood sheets as well as the dimples created by the fasteners. When it cures, clean the subfloor thoroughly, then lay your new floor. If you leveled things well, and fastened the new subfloor properly, your new floor should be fine.

I think most people picture ceramic tiles with curved edges when you say "tiled floor" rather than flat linoleum tile, which is what I'm guessing is actually there. Trying to put a new floor over ceramic tile would be a recipe for failure, but putting it over linoleum would be fine.

  • Yup: when you say "old tile", absolutely nobody is going to picture anything with asbestos in it. "Tile" is equivalent to "ceramic tile", pretty much.
    – Martha
    Dec 7, 2012 at 2:47
  • 1
    Thank you very much for the message...Yes, I should have been more clear. The old asbestos tile is linoleum, so the edges aren't beveled. How would I drive the nails into the old tile? The old tile are glued directly to the concrete with some sort of black adhesive. There's no underlayment. Do I need some sort of special drill for concrete?
    – Laxmidi
    Dec 7, 2012 at 14:49

I'd hire some professionals and have them remove the asbestos tile. If you tile over it, then when someone does have to remove the asbestos tile, everything has to come up and be specially treated. They can't just remove your layer of tile on top, it will likely be considered hazardous waste because of what it's attached to. So the costs and effort of fixing it will significantly increase if you don't do this right the first time.


You may get by and not have cracks doing this, or you might not. There's no way to know for sure. Given the cost in material and labor (and occupant inconvenience) of new tile, it's not worth the risk. You want any tile work to be as reliable as possible. This means removing any old material down to a solid substrate and starting fresh and doing it right. When you think of all involved, and how problems crop up even in "good" installations, there's really no other option.

Removing old tile is hard work, but it's not really that bad, and it's better than tearing out two layers to do it right the third time.

EDIT 12/7

Hehe. I thought you meant existing ceramic tile. Asbestos containing linoleum tile! Ick! Never mind! Bury that stuff under layers so no one ever need encounter it again!

  • Thanks for the comment. The problem is that the old tile is asbestos, and that's why I don't want to pull it up.
    – Laxmidi
    Dec 6, 2012 at 23:56

I've been laying tile for over 30 years. Yes its always good to do it right the first time, all things being equal that is. Until like I have come across these asbestos seeking rip off lawyers who want you to hire them because of the asbestos in your flooring, whether it be in the linoleum tile or what ever. They want you to sue so and so landlord or homeowner for infecting you with their asbestos.

Anyway just so you know, some one mentioned, if you do not want to lift the tile because of the asbestos in it. It is perfectly fine to lay your ceramic tile over the linoleum tile, if its on concrete slab etc. Make sure the lose tiles are removed and or secured. Level the dips and the risers where ever they might be. If you take all these steps prior to laying your ceramic tile over the linoleum(that's linoleum on concrete). You have to make sure the tile are laid over a firm foundation, the concrete is that. I have done it this way for over 30 years and never had an issue with it.A Lot of nuckle heads make a big issue over asbestos, when all they really want is attention and money, if they can get it. If the asbestos in your linoleum becomes an issue later when the house is sold, the house is probably tooo old and is ready for demolition.(which(demolition) I have done for the past 30 years)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.