Removing Nails From Linoleum Containing Asbestos

Annie_HNovember 17, 2012

I have some flooring in my basement that presumably contains asbestos, that was likely installed when the house was built in 1939. There's a small section about 5' x 3' from which we need to remove shelving that was nailed into the tile. The tile itself looks like old red and blue slate pieces cut like angled brick. It's very thin, and not square pieces or sheets, fitting together like a garden path. Very pretty. It feels like stone, but I guess old-school lino has a similar heft.

Some of the pieces have broken because the previous owner nailed wood shelving and some studs directly into the tile. I see a black underlay between the bottom of the tile and the concrete where a tile came up.

Do you think I can safely remove these nails just by keeping the floor wet? I won't be sanding, but there may be some breakage. Also, it should be noted that I only think it has asbestos because that's what the home inspector said when he saw the tiles poking out from under the vinyl stick-on tile which covers most of the floor.

Thank you so much for your help!

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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

Just pull them out, you are not going to be causing clouds of dust pulling nails

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:25PM
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Thank you, christophern.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 9:36AM
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Linoleum is a heavy duty sheet flooring made of linseed oil and ground cork with a burlap backing that is still sold by Armstrong. It is highly unlikely that this material would have asbestos in it because it was thick, flexible and relied on the organic backing for reinforcing instead of asbestos fibers.

Unfortunately, many people, even home inspectors, don't feel the need to refer to materials by their true names and that makes it difficult to discuss the subject on the internet without a photo. The generic name for these materials has been "resilient flooring" since the 60's.

Possible asbestos-containing materials are pre-1950 9x9 asphalt-asbestos tiles in dark colors (often cut and used to make mosaic patterns) and the vinyl-asbestos (PVC) tile and sheet flooring made between 1950 and 1985. The vinyl part of these materials is "nonfriable" meaning fibers do not easily get into the air.

Damaging the paper-like backing of vinyl-asbestos sheet flooring or sanding the face of any asbestos containing tile is about the only way to get asbestos fibers into the air so pulling nails should not be a problem ... but it can't hurt to wear a good particulate mask and clean up afterward.

Until you know otherwise you should assume the flooring is asphalt-asbestos tile cut in an easily recognized mosaic pattern. Linoleum can also be cut into mosaic patterns and is also easily recognized.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:39AM
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