Our house has two bedrooms in which the previous owners installed vinyl tile over wood flooring (how ironic is this: it's wood-grained pattern tile over beautiful, real wood). We want to remove the vinyl tile, then refinish the floors. The tile itself comes up without any effort at all, but there is residual adhesive still attached to the wood. I'm concerned it may contain asbestos. Assuming it does, what's the proper method for removing the residual adhesive from the wood before I refinish the floor? The Residual Flooring Covering Institute's (RFCI) guide for removing residual adhesive from wood is to remove the wood - not my preferred option.

  • Is it that black tar stuff? There's a specialty product for that (and it still sucks).
    – Mazura
    Oct 6, 2014 at 6:52
  • What makes you think it may contain asbestos?
    – bib
    Oct 6, 2014 at 11:49
  • It's more likely that the tile contains asbestos than the adhesive. Oct 6, 2014 at 19:27
  • Totally legal for a homeowner to remove asbestos here in WA, but I'm sure the majority of homeowners don't even think of asbestos when tearing out flooring. Oct 6, 2014 at 22:12
  • My original question about asbestos is because I haven't read how to prepare a sample of just the adhesive, and not the adhesive/tile combined. The adhesive doesn't seem to be cutback, however. I'm guessing this install was a hack job by the previous homeowner. The hardwood underneath was not prepped beforehand - it wasn't sanded, and the varnish is still intact for the most part. I'm honestly wondering if they put this stuff down with wood glue - seriously! That would be awesome, but until I can say "this doesn't contain asbestos," I'll assume it does. Oct 6, 2014 at 22:16

3 Answers 3


First, test the adhesive. If it does have asbestos, you are stuck. If it doesn't your life is going to be easy.

Here is the reason why they recommend complete removal of the wood. Asbestos removal requires two things: Enveloping the entire area, basically making a sealed air tight work area that can be removed once work is done. This would be walls and ceilings covered in plastic, all seams tapped. Double sealed barrier for your one entrance/exit. This really isn't the deal breaker. The next requirement is... Wetting.

Any time asbestos fibers have the possibility of becoming airborne, the entire work area needs to be wetted to prevent this from happening. Can you imagine using a power sander on soaking wet wood floors? One, the wood would be destroyed. Second, you might never get to see those destroyed floors because you're dead from electrocution.

If you truly do have asbestos in the adhesive your two options are removal of the wood or encapsulating it (lay another floor on top).


First, I agree with diceless, it is probably perfectly legal for the homeowner, to deal with this problem himself (assuming no part of the house is rented to a third party).

On the other hand, I agree with Mazura, you may be opening a huge can of worms here. Since we are only talking about 2 bedrooms, I have to question the cost and time effectiveness of trying to rehabilitate the wood if the cutback contains asbestos. I realize there may be problems matching the height of the bedrooms to the hallways or other areas, but if there is asbestos (and the floors are flat enough as is), just nail down new 3/4" hardwood or good quality 1/2" engineered hardwood over top of the existing floor. Just use a heat gun to remove the excess cutback to ensure the floor is flat enough.

If the cutback does not contain asbestos, remove excess cutback and then go at it with a drum sander (rent it at Home Depot or wherever).

If a home sale is in your future, I realize you may not really want to know whether the cutback has asbestos since if you do, you'd be obliged to disclose such on sale. But until you know, you can't really plan the right course. You should be able to scrape up a sample of cutback, mail it to a lab and get results in less than a week. e.g. http://www.asbestos-test.com/

  • single family homes are not regulated federally, but they are regulated locally. You need to find out what your local regulations are.
    – diceless
    Oct 6, 2014 at 19:27

Avoid the dust of sanding: use Citristrip Gel. It's an orange color in a plastic bottle.

Get a quart, an 85¢ throwaway brush, a 4 inch scraper (I prefer steel), a 1 inch putty knife, and a cheap plastic bucket. Put the gel on at least an eighth inch thick on a square foot and leave it for 18-20 hours. It should easily scrape off.

  • The citric remover will leave a permanent contamination in the floor possibly damaging future adhesives Nov 21, 2016 at 23:49

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