Asbestos tile...maybe? Please help!

Nick711August 21, 2012

I'm pretty worried about my home's kitchen & basement flooring being VAT.

I know it's not a big deal as long as you don't sand or scrape it or otherwise pulverize it into a fine dust, but my wife is still worried sick because we've got small children, and with all the worrying, she's got me worried now, too.

We just moved into a rental house that was built sometime in the 1930s. Our whole neighborhood is full of nice, old houses. Since we're not the owners, we don't have a huge history on the house. We did ask the owner we rent from and he says the tile has been in since he bought the house 10 years ago (2001 or so), but he doesn't think it's "that" old.

We probably will go ahead and do a lab test for peace of mind, but until then...here are a bunch of random questions we have come up with regarding these floors. Answers to any or all are very much appreciated.

1. Does this stuff hold up this many years? To contain asbestos, that means the vinyl tiles were installed in 1980 or earlier. I didn't even think vinyl tiles would last 30 years. Is that a bad assumption? Wife thinks so.

2. I will say, it does look that old as far as style goes. It's got that "marbly" kind of look to it...not solid colors, but like another shade of the same color streaked in it. They are individual tiles, checked black and white in the kitchen. Solid creamish color in the basement. Looks a lot like the photos that pop up when image searching "VAT" After asbestos was no longer used, did flooring companies keep that same look around for a while longer? Or does the speckled/marbled style scream VAT?

3. This might be a dumb question, but none of my previous residences had this kind of suspect flooring, so I really don't know. Do VAT floors feel like actual tile? The floors in the kitchen and basement actually feel cold, like real tile. I don't know why, but I imagine vinyl flooring to feel room temp, like linoleum? Am I off? Is the asbestos stuff cold to the touch? I'm pretty sure this stuff can't be real tile because it's pretty thin.

4. In the kitchen, there appears to be a thin, black grout between tiles. Thoughts? Does this mean we're safe & it's actually real tile? Or does this black stuff mean even more asbestos in the form of adhesive or something else?

5. We would never disturb the tiles, but there are old-looking nicks in some of the tiles in both the kitchen (rather small, but somewhat deep) and the basement (larger, deeper gouges surrounding the water heater and laundry hookups). Supposing these are VAT, should we worry about these gouges in the flooring? They look to be rather old, probably happened when new appliances were fitted. We haven't messed with these gouges. Supposing there was a dust emitted long ago, we should be safe, right? Would long-standing gouges continue to produce dangerous dust, or should it be gone by now?

6. Last question, maybe, for now haha. The rest of the house is hardwood flooring. It feels as if there was originally hardwood flooring in the kitchen too. If these are VAT and they are installed on hardwood floors, is there a greater risk of stirring up dust over time? The tiles move individually (only a few here and there) when we walk on them. When I say they "move," I really mean they just "give" a bit when we walk on them, as if they were creaking along with a piece of the original hardwood floor. Would having them installed long ago on hardwood flooring and having them constantly creak in sync with the wood break up some dust? Along those same lines, there appear to be small cracks in some tiles. Not gaping, just hairline fractures here and there. Could dust escape from there?

I realize I just wrote a book and I apologize. Thanks for reading. Any input is greatly appreciated. We just moved into this rental and are committed to a lease, so peace of mind is much needed. Obviously our kids' longterm health is much more important than a lease. We also considered covering the existing tile with new vinyl self-adhesive flooring, but again, we are not the owners and not sure if he'll go along with it or not. If you know of some sort of invisible sealant, that would be perfect. Any other temporary sealing method is more than welcome! Thank you again.

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glennsfc

1. If installed by the book, VAT tiles can last almost indefinitely in a residential setting. Same with a quality vinyl tile.

2. Flooring manufacturers kept the look when doing the change from VAT to VCT.

3. Both VAT and VCT tiles are cold to the touch. Both are in the hard surface flooring category.

4. Perhaps the tiles in the kitchen have shrunk a little and the grout you are seeing is actually adhesive residue between the tiles (BTW, the shrink...if that is what it is...is a good sign that this is VCT and not VAT, as VAT is very dimensionally stable).

5. A gouge here and there should be no problem whatsoever.

6. The hairline fractures also should not be a problem, so long as the product doesn't crumble over time. Any acrylic floor dressing or polish will seal the tile surface and fill the little fissures, nicks, gouges and joints between the tiles to the point where nothing is going to escape from the product. About 5 thin coats of acrylic floor polish ought to do it. These polishes are self-dissolving, so you only need to apply them to worn areas to keep the surface film intact and looking good.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 5:41PM
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Nick711

Thank you so much for the input. And kudos for having the patience to have read such a lengthy post. We really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:06PM
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